Are we erasing humanity? I hope not.

Image via iStockphoto 4I wrote this blog post last year when I watched the three time Oscar nominated film Her. Her is a film in which Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a shy and lonely man who, due to his impending divorce, purchases a computer with a  talking operating system (OS). The OS is equipped with artificial intelligence, designed to progressively become more human-like. As time progresses Theodore becomes mesmerized by the OS’s ability (who he has taken to calling Samantha) to mimic human behavior, to the point where the two have deep discussions about life. He and Samantha fall in love.  As the relationship progresses, both he and Samantha develop feelings beyond primary emotions—they experience jealousy, and Theodore at one point even becomes upset when she goes “offline” with another OS to be upgraded. Upon Samantha’s return, he learns that she is not only the OS for thousands of other people, but has also fallen in love with hundreds of other humans. In the end, she leaves him to do her own thing in cyberspace. Lonely and sad again, Theodore goes to his friend Amy’s apartment to talk to her and finds that she, too is upset as her own OS has left her as well. The movie ends with the two sitting together on the roof of the apartment, smiling at each other, getting closer, and admiring the city lights.

My curiosity with this movie was to see how the director would address this need for people today to replace real human interactions with technology. Like everything else, technology hast both positive and negative effects. Technology makes our lives easier—more effective and convenient—that much is true. But I believe it has no place in replacing human interactions and that’s where our society will be headed if we don’t start making changes real soon.

Her’s premise is reminiscent of Internet dating. There are certainly some success stories (I personally know three couples who met on dating websites and ended up happily married), but most of the time, it seems like a disaster. Everyone I personally know who posted Internet dating profiles told me stories that were sad and sometimes astonishing. Throughout the years, I have interviewed many people who were involved with Internet dating, and conducted an informal online survey regarding participant satisfaction with the medium. The results I gathered indicated that, overall, 85 percent of the people participating in online dating were dissatisfied, 10 percent were somewhat satisfied, and 3 percent were satisfied or happy with their experience. Though this survey was informal, the results are still pretty telling.

I will state right now that I never particularly cared for Internet dating. I feel it erases humanity. I’m all for face-to-face contact. We live in an age where people have forgotten how to relate to each other, especially with this juvenile, texting crap. Everyone is wired to their iPhone®, Android®, or other device and it seems they can’t go anywhere without constantly peeking at it during meals, personal conversations, even while out on dates. So annoying! People are unable to resist checking in at the trendiest locations in town, or looking at their device to see if any new email has arrived or if anyone has responded to their Facebook® or Twitter® status. People are personally disconnected despite being electronically over-connected. It also seems as if there are more posers, players, and liars.  People on dating sites lie about everything: age, weight, location, even their profession. Or they massage it to make themselves look better. People also lie about their life in an attempt to create a certain impression. They’re all creating a world behind that computer wall where they have the original starring role and are mostly a façade.  There are even professional profile writers (like Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore) who will make sure that your profile makes you sound like someone everyone will want to meet.

I hear complaints from some women in my talks that men they are interested in no longer call—they text. The men also have their own complaints about finding it hard to get some women to commit to a real conversation. It can be challenging. It’s all about emails or texting. Then there are the people who say they’re “too busy”, so texting is convenient. If you’re answering the text then you’re not that busy and it doesn’t take too many seconds to pick up the phone to make a phone call and leave a message. Later on, the person on the other end can return the call. Since when have we become a society that can’t wait a few hours to have a phone call returned? What’s up with all this anxiety that needs an immediate response? In the olden days, people would leave a message at the person’s home answering machine and later in the day when that person arrived home, that’s when all the phone calls were returned.

Let’s rediscover the beauty of human interactions; let’s stop with all this fakery and hiding behind a technological wall. Let’s get back to basics and re-start truly reconnecting and behaving like the wonderful human beings we are supposed to be. Eye contact, face-to-face dialogue, exchanging of ideas in real time—these are all supremely important to human connections. Let’s nurture that and translate it into our romantic lives. I like to think that when Amy laid her head on Theodore’s shoulder in the film as they both admired the view, they finally realized that they were happy that they found each other: two human beings.

 

 

Can you recognize when a beloved is leading a double life?

*Lupe in San José has been living with her boyfriend for three years and sharing the same household for two of those years. They now have a one-year-old little girl. Lupe describes her boyfriend in the beginning of their courtship as sweet, kind, loving, attentive, and a perfect gentleman. However, she only saw him two times a week. The rest of the time he would disappear for short stretches at a time; and when he was away, he never called to say where he was. If she pressed him about it, he would say he was working. Then on the next disappearance act, he would give her a very quick phone call. Sometimes he did tell her that he had to go on a trip for work, but he never told her where he was going and never called her while on a trip. When Lupe contacted him, his cell would always go straight to voice mail.

This pattern of behavior continued when they started sharing a household. Once Lupe had the baby, it worsened to the point that he simply refuses when she asks him to go out to a restaurant, take a walk, or go out on a date. He basically doesn’t want to leave the house for any reason including her birthday, his birthday, or their anniversary. The only time he leaves the house is when he disappears to go on a work trip. Then, he does not make contact with her for days until he gets home, and once home, he doesn’t want to leave the house until the next work trip.

Lupe thinks he’s very depressed and she doesn’t understand why, especially when she’s trying everything to make his life better. She doesn’t know what she’s doing wrong and she would like to know what she can say for him to be more communicative.

Answer: I think Lupe has more problems than she’s willing to acknowledge. I don’t think depression is his problem, either. Correct me if I am wrong here, but I smell a rat. How? Let’s go by the parts.

– A man who only sees the woman he’s dating twice a week and on the weekends is “unavailable.” It’s a sign of a man who is either dating someone else or who has intimacy problems and doesn’t want to get close to others. Why a woman would date a man like that is incomprehensible to me. When a guy behaves that way in the courtship, it’s a clear sign that it will go nowhere.

– A man who is living with his woman and their baby but doesn’t tell her where he is going for days at a time while being unreachable in case of an emergency, is a man who is living a double life. Maybe he has another family. Maybe he has been in a long-term relationship with someone else. Maybe he’s gay; but to me it is very clear that he is living a double life.

Lupe, it’s time to start taking some action and stop the “what am I doing wrong” frame of mind because I believe you know very well that you are not doing anything wrong. I understand your thinking because if you keep thinking that you are the one doing something wrong then you can fix it. Sorry, but in this case you can’t fix it and there is nothing you can say to him that will change his mind. You have been trying for three years to get him to be more communicative and no change has been forthcoming; therefore it’s now time to take some concrete action.

It would be very useful for you to hire a private investigator and find out what the real truth is because the truth won’t come from your boyfriend. If finances are hard, save some money, borrow from your parents, or have a garage sale. Do whatever you can to gather some extra money so you can contact a private investigator as soon as possible. You brought another human being into this fragile situation and you will have to protect and provide for your little daughter. Once you know what the real story is, you will be better equipped to make decisions; and don’t be afraid to find out what the truth is.

Remember that a boyfriend who is “a perfect gentleman“ doesn’t disappear for days at a time not saying where he’s going and then remains incommunicado. He’s leading a double life and I don’t believe he’s a secret agent, either.

 

*Name has been changed to protect her privacy.

 

 

When, if ever, should a former stripper tell her boyfriend about her past?

*Rhonda in San José, was a stripper for nine years. That’s how she funded her education and made some extra money afterward. Today she works in marketing and hasn’t stripped for the past six. She wants to know when, or if, she should ever tell the man she’s dating, that she used to strip. Her experience has been that she goes on a date, then by the third date she tells them, then they disappear or tell her they’re no longer interested. Her company is moving her to another state and she is contemplating never telling about it.

Answer: I think this is a private part of your life that you should keep to yourself. BUT if you ever meet someone that you’re dating for a while (you know that he’s serious about you, both of you are in love, you see that the relationship is going somewhere) then by all means, tell him.

This world has become too small, and information like this needs to be shared at some point because it can come back to visit you. If the person you are with doesn’t know and finds out, then it can become something bigger than it is because he may feel duped or embarrassed. Whatever his feelings are, he may think that a fraud was perpetrated on him and that may be the end of things.

Don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s not as if you are a married woman having an affair with him or hiding a criminal past. This is just stripping. There’s no reason to carry the letter “S” on your chest. Simply tell him that you did it in order to fund your education and once you found a better job, you stopped. Period. If he asks why you didn’t tell him in the beginning, you tell him that is a private matter and is only to be shared with the man who is serious about you and not just anyone you started dating.

*for privacy purposes, name was changed

How to discern the man who wants to play from the one who wants to commit to something more serious?

Disappointed Again in Corte Madera asked me how she can determine if the men she goes out on dates are dating for marriage or for fun. For the past year she has been involved with three men and none of them wanted a serious relationship. It has always been about “fun” for the guys.

Very easily DA, when you go on dates, right on the first date, playfully, using humor, you open your mouth and say it very clear “I’m not dating so I can have someone to go out with, I have girlfriends for that. I am dating to settled down, with marriage in mind. I’m not saying you are it but I can tell you that I do not do hooking up. Men looking for a hook up, will not find it here”, then smile gracefully and see what he says. Also, worth mentioning during drinks is that “you only sleep with boyfriends, fiancés and husbands”, that will put him on notice that you are not a “good time” girl.

Continue to be polite, cute and adorable during the date, nothing too heavy and at the end of the date, go home … ALONE! You will have your answer in a few days if your date is a “good time Charlie” or if he’s actually looking for a keeper-kind-of-girl. And stick to it, if you hold yourself in high regard, men will do too.

You also told me you slept with all of them. That’s bad for “business” if your intention is to get married. Clearly theirs wasn’t. The truth is, what real men don’t work hard for, they don’t value. You don’t sleep with a guy if he hasn’t given you commitment and acknowledgment as his “woman/girlfriend” unless you’re horny and all you want is to have fun which is fine by me, if that’s your intentions. I personally would rather satisfy my own urges …. you know what I mean? It’s essential, it’s like having my own car, I don’t have to rely on others to go where I want to go and have fun, besides it’s much safer, I’m on the driver seat.

You see, even though men say out loud that they don’t mind that the women sleep around, privately, I was told otherwise, one man said it best “Feminism was the best thing that ever happened to men. Today we can have all the sex we want with them, without having to commit to them”. I was livid when I heard that but I had no argument. Being readily available to have sex at anytime, have made men crass about women, they don’t value us as much, they no longer put us on a pedestal because we made it too easy for them, by being easily accessible for them when they want to “play”.

There are wonderful men out there and you will find the one who’s going to be the love of your life if you become smarter in weeding out the “players” from the true gems. Patience is a must and I promise you if you explain right in the beginning your intentions, the ones who are serious will call you back and the ones who are not serious, won’t because they will have other women who will be much easier for them to have fun with.

For your friends who will tell you “if you make your intentions about marriage known right in the beginning, you may scary off a guy who may be interested” – WRONG! I’ll tell you this: a man who is interested will not run away because you gave him information. If he is scared and will not call you back because he may think that you are “too intense”, I’ll say, pray he doesn’t ever call you because you need a man who’s made of sturdier stuff, one who can handle life not a spineless wimp. Good luck!!