In three days, Graham and I will have been together for seven years. Apologies to my high school sweetheart friends, but this seems like an incredible amount of time to me, and I’m both amazed that the time has gone so fast and sometimes exhausted at the mileage it implies. Because Graham works partly in a pastry chef capacity, any ideas about going out on our actual anniversary (Valentine’s Day, but by random drunkenness instead of by design) would be insane. Instead, we’re going out to dinner tomorrow night, and Graham has already informed me that if I am not willing to go halfsies on the item of his dreams, then he will just eat the 72-day dry-aged ribeye for two by himself.
This is how I know I’m with a real man.
I’ve been trying to come up with answers for how I’ve managed to be in this relationship with one person for seven years, an amount of time that was once unfathomable to me. I don’t think I came into this relationship as the same person I am now, meaning I’d like to think that I’ve learned a few things along the way. One of these things is probably not to take the other person for granted. I know that at any time and for any reason, this relationship could end, and that puts the present into perspective for me. I am not typically a person who focuses on the present – I prefer to worry obsessively over future events that are highly unlikely but could still happen, and this is why everyone should watch disaster programs and maybe learn some things while also laughing at the lunatics featured on them – so it’s a good lesson, and one I try to work on every day.
I’ve got nothing against being single on principle, it’s just that I would make a terrible single person.
I was once a great single person. For several years, I happily did whatever I wanted with whomever I wanted, and for very long stretches at times, that meant no one but me. I lived in a tiny apartment with two cats and I was a slob and I only used social networking for part of that time so this was way before I knew anything about stalking people on the Internet. I recall being a little bit lonely sometimes, but overall and with total honesty, I really liked the way I lived, and I had a good time.
But the thought of being single now fills me with dread. A lot has happened in the past seven years. With technology, I mean. There were camera phones when I was single, but they were shit. iPhones weren’t ubiquitous yet (can you even wrap your head around that? That seven years ago, no one I knew had an iPhone???). If you wanted to send nudes, you had to use regular e-mail on, like, your home computer. Grindr wasn’t even introduced yet, so forget about Tinder. There was an entirely different protocol concerning how much you showed to which people, and the ease with which you could not only share it, but also lose your inhibitions about sharing it.
Simply put, the rapid pace at which communication technology has advanced has made the Internet and its connected phones (ahem, all of the phones) into one big whore. I didn’t even know it was happening at first. I was just living along, minding my own and sometimes Graham’s business, and then one day, my sister sent me a dick pic.
Right. My sister sent me a dick pic.
It wasn’t her dick, obviously. It was someone else’s dick, and that someone else had sent it to her. Un-requested, I should add for anyone who has also seen Aziz Ansari’s “Buried Alive,” as most dick pics are. She got a text and it happened to contain a picture of someone’s dick. And then she sent it to me.
I also did not request this dick pic. Before this, I’d only received one other picture of a dick, also un-requested, and this was before the advent of high quality cameraphones so it doesn’t really count. Could have been a dick, could have been a beigy-colored model of a building constructed by a clumsy child (it was totally a dick, though).
My sister – who was single at the time – told me that dick pics were pretty regular, and that most everyone just received them. It was as natural as someone texting you to say “hey” or “want to come over and watch a movie,” which we all know isn’t really about watching a movie, just as a dick pic isn’t really about showing someone the way your dick looks. It’s a preamble to fucking, preferably immediately, and to hell with any of that old-fashioned nonsense like constructing an inquiring sentence, even via text.
And this is what terrifies me about being single. You guys, I am not prepared for dick pics. I mean, first of all, and you should know that this is coming from one of the most inherently non-romantic people in the world, but where’s the romance? Where’s the mystery? Where’s that moment when you’re about to be intimate with someone for the first time and you get a little catch in your throat because you know you’re either going to be impressed, let down, or weirded out (it’s the same feeling you get about a millisecond before you kiss someone for the first time, btw)? Where’s the thrill of gambling your time and attention on someone in order to really get to know what’s apparently being photographed and sent around for free?
More than being terrified of dick pics, I’m terrified about the expectations put upon me in a world where dick pics are commonplace. I mean, I’m aware that pictures of dicks are not the only images trafficking around on people’s phones. I once walked in on a friend taking a picture of her tits in a bar bathroom to send to some Mormon she was trying to de-spiritualize. I am not prepared for the obligation of sending photos of my parts to people I barely even know. I’m not even about to send those photos to Graham and we’ve been together for seven years. He knows what I look like. He’s had enough time to commit that to memory. And honestly, I really doubt that in one of those moments, I’m the first photo he’d check. I’m not suffering from an absence of self-esteem, but I am a realist and know about the Internet. If you know what I mean.
And it’s really not about confidence, or dignity, or any of the other words that someone more puritanical would tack to the subject. It’s really about culture and the way it’s changed since I was single, much like the culture changed between the time my grandmother was being courted and the time I was sleeping with dudes I met in bars (“I don’t know how you do that,” she said, “but I wish I’d been able to do the same.”). The culture is just more accelerated now, is all, and while I do reap all the other benefits of a relationship (companionship, someone to make dinner reservations, he does the laundry, etc.), thankfully, I’ve also been sheltered from this development that freaks me the fuck out.