Monday, 14 July 2008

The temperature is now a breath or two beneath summer´s excesses, meaning it is winter in Recife, and in winter a young man’s thoughts, or even the thoughts of a man who is no longer young, turn to love, as the saying may or may not go. A friend of mine, whom we can call Mr. X, has felt loneliness’s tug and announces to me that he intends to procure female companionship on the internet (by this he means internet dating as opposed to mail ordering prostitutes). Often repelled by the Brazilian upper middle and upper classes’ unfortunately frequent combination of smugness, paranoia and prejudice (this is a terrible generalisation, but where would we be without terrible generalisations), Mr. X has taken to spending much time in places on the lurkier side of life’s rich pageant (the sharp suited of you will have noticed that Mr. X and the writer of this piece have many things in common – which perhaps is why we are such good friends). But while Mr. X has met a great many good and interesting people in such places, he has also experienced a sense that he may not find exactly what it is that he is looking for there. What do you like to do? Mr. X asks women he meets. Dance pagode! often comes the reply, and Mr. X recognises a sinking feeling in his heart, for he does not much like to dance pagode, and surely there must be more to life than dancing pagode? Mr. X also finds, when he tries to talk to these women, that they are not as entranced by what he believes passes for witty banter as he would like, and he feels in some way that in trying to impress them he is forcing a square peg into a round space (note - such expression is not in any circumstances to be taken as beavisesque innuendo). Such travails leave him feeling as sad as a damp dog alone in a dark wet street, and he resolves that he must hope to meet someone who falls between the two worlds.

Mr. X is initially wary about the alone in bedsit land associations of internet dating, but The Ex-Girlfriend grabs his arm and forces his head over the balcony wall until he agrees to do it (this would be Mr. X’s Ex-Girlfriend - or Mr. X’s Ex. Or have I been auto-outed?). He dawdles moonily over his profile, pondering what image it is he wants to project. In the end he goes for sometimes kind hearted, materialistically unsuccessful but with a sense of humour, which he suspects to be as close to the truth as anything. He asks The Ex-Girlfriend (his) to take some photos that he can use on his page, and no doubt experiences the same ironic thoughts about the ironic nature of irony that I have come to know so well. He thinks of an amusing joke to put at the top of his profile. Or tries to. He settles for “What’s best? Fried macaxeira or French fries?” He cannot explain why he thinks this is funny, only that he does, given the context. In any case he feels it is the best he can do. He looks at the questions he must complete. Best feature? Elbows. Knuckles. Ears. He types with a growing sense of doom, and posts his profile.

Initially Mr X looks on his new direction as anthropological research. What is the nature of internet dating in Brazil during the nappy training years of the 21st century? Whither He is Sex And The City without the sex and in a city that makes New York look like Camberwick Green (provided New York’s bars, restaurants, clubs, hotels, fashion, style and culture are precluded). At first he is confused. He spends hour after groggy hour reading profiles, examining photos. He becomes disorientated. The women he sees in the street come to resemble the women he sees on the internet. He has a bad dream. He is on the bus. A woman in front of him turns and stares. It’s you! From the internet dating site! she screams. Everyone on the bus starts to laugh and point. He wakes sweating.

Though after many late nights of study he formulates the theory that, given the wolfish manners of many Brazilian men within the sexual sphere and the oh-so-romantic intermingling of jealousy and betrayal (or at least the heavy suspicion of such) that is the basic foodstuff of any healthy Brazilian relationship, many young women here have become gun shy of the traditional means of finding companionship (copious amounts of alcohol, darkness, loud music, pathological lying). In short, he notes that this has resulted in there being A Hell Of A Lot Of Fine Lookin’ Mamas on Brazilian dating websites (note to political correctivists – it is has recently been declared possible by the European Court of Human Rights to use expressions of otherwise derogatory nature such as Fine Lookin’ Mamas in an ironic, and hilarious (at least to the writer) sense, provided the writer is A Nice Person).

Furthermore, Mr. X finds he has a great talent for “chatting” on “MSN”, although he did not previously have much idea what this meant. He sends an intial flurry of emails to women he believes it might be interesting to meet. And they all email him back! Mr. X is euphoric. He exchanges email addresses with these women, and they begin to chat online. How old are you, the women ask him. 18, he answers, with daring wit (he is 18 only in the sense that someone who owns two cows claims to be the owner of one). RSRSRS, the women answer, which is Brazilian MSN speak for “smiles”. I like your photos, the women say, and he says they aren’t mine, I took them from a modelling website. KKKKKKK, the women say, which is Brazilian MSN speak for “laughs”. I love talking to you, the women say after a time, and Mr. X says me too, and thinks, I am a Shakespeare, a Donne, a Parsons of Brazilian MSN chatting! Mr. X. waits for the day when he will meet some of these women in person, and wonders will he be as charming and funny in person as he is on the internet. He suspects not, but also feels this does not matter at the moment, because for now he is omnipotent ruler of his small, imaginary monthly subscription kingdom. The number of women dazzled by his bon mots grows to a congregation, a throng, a sea. He considers selling his services to lonelier men than he (surely such a thing must exist) who lack his ready digital wit and flair. He plans a screenplay, a version of Cyrano updated for the internet age (Cyrano will be disfigured in a freak kite-flying accident but will be able to whip out one-liners on MSN on demand). In idle moments, he even thinks about the practicalities of founding a religion. All in all Mr. X announces himself pleased with his new world order and plans to explore it with gusto, and he goes to bed alone but happy every night, and I am happy for Mr. X and for all like him, and it all feels like the sonnets rewritten for the age, does it not?


Yama said...

To paraphrase Hunter Thompson "I hate to advocate copious amounts of alcohol, darkness, loud music and pathological lying to anyone, but they've always worked for me". :)

Your blog really hits home and the books are on the shopping list.

James Young said...

thank you mr/mrs yama, i liked your piece too - i hope you write more soon.