When love troubles and fears of inevitable spinsterhood hit hard for Vv Magazine’s resident #Tinderella, Vicki Hogarth, the 30-something-year-old “sorta-kinda single lady” turns to an unlikely online source for her latest round of digital age dating adventures: dating advice from @RogersHelps on Twitter. Yes, sometimes your Internet supplier can also supply you with life-changing wisdom when it comes to your love life.
I barrel around the corner from the elevator careening, surfer girl-style, into the lobby. My socked-feet slide to a halt like they’ve trained for years at pro level for this very specific sport of my own invention. It doesn’t occur to me that my slightly chocolate-stained sweatsuit will strike anyone as strange in my Queen West building, but my dramatic entrance at least surprises the good-looking guy in business-appropriate “casual Friday” attire. He stops, mid-sentence, while speaking with Roy, the building’s most beloved doorman. He gestures for me to take my turn. Clearly, something must be incredibly important — or why else would I race into the lobby like I’d been caught half-dressed in a fire drill?
“Oh,” I say excitedly, failing to project non-chalance. “Roy knows why I’m here,” I continue, and the good-looking man waits to hear more, assuming it must be urgent. “I just wanted to check if the people who reserved the party room cancelled.”
“No, they’re in there right now,” Roy smirks, because I was already down here two hours ago, inquiring about the room’s availability.
“Gaaaaaaaawhhhh!” I scream dramatically, mostly to entertain Roy, because I pretend that he loves that I watch TV in the party room without a gaggle of friends to make it an actual party. “What kind of loser books the party room on a Friday night… besides me?!”
Roy laughs, and I tell him it’s okay. I’ll illegally stream what I want to watch on my computer later.
“What do you want to watch on TV so badly?” asks the good-looking guy in the elevator as we head to the same floor. Apparently he is my neighbour.
“America’s Next Top Model,” I say, raising my eyebrows and smiling, like that must be obvious.
“Obviously,” he says, without me saying it.
“It’s the finale, which I guess doesn’t make this any less sad, does it?”
“You could watch it in the exercise room,” he suggests. A man who will entertain my ridiculousness with an actual good idea? Who is this dreamboat?
“Is there a TV in there? I never go in there.”
“Would it be weird if I brought snacks in there?”
“I don’t see why not,” he confirms. “And I doubt anyone would be in there on a Friday night.”
“Only losers,” I declare, and he laughs.
We part ways at the opening of the elevator, as he takes out keys to open a door five feet away while I careen down another hallway. I know where he lives now, but I will never use this information to borrow a cup of sugar or whatever people do to flirt because I’m not that kind of girl. I’ve never had the balls to be that forward, and never had the confidence to believe someone might be interested in me if he didn’t make some kind of grand and obvious first gesture himself.
Pushing open the door to my own apartment, I blurt out the bad news to my roommate: that we’ll have to wait a few hours to illegally stream our show. But I insist there’s good news too — that the neighbour down the hall is dreamy, and he was sweet enough to suggest the building gym as a back-up plan.
“You should invite him to join us,” Kevin says.
“Oh, I couldn’t do that,” I say, like it’s a fact.
“But you should,” he insists. “Sounds like he was fishing for an invite.”
“I don’t think he wants to watch Top Model in the gym on a Friday night with the girl down the hall who doesn’t wear shoes.”
“I’m sure he thinks you’re cute.”
“At most, I amused him as an eccentric oddity, the same way you’d ask someone wearing a metallic body suit and tinfoil hat where she was headed for the evening.”
I never know if people are flirting with me, often because I’m never comfortable flirting in an obvious way myself. When I talk to strangers in cliché “pick-up” settings, I’m more likely to ask them their opinions on conspiracy theories than I am to tell them they have nice eyes or something that sounds too close to “please take me home with you” — even though that’s sometimes what I mean when I say, “What do you really think happened during 9/11?”
Instead, I will stay in and watch Top Model, streamed however questionably via “WatchItSeries.it.” After all, I already “see” someone in a “sort of, kind of… Well, we get together maybe every four weeks” kind of way. This is enough to convince me I’m not totally repulsive to the opposite sex. He is, after all, a sexy businessman who is legitimately busy all the time. That’s how I justify the infrequency of our meet-ups… It’s also how I justify calling them “meet-ups,” because he’s too busy for a relationship of any kind, let alone an actual “date.” He reminds me, even though I never inquire, that he’s “emotionally unavailable” almost every time we see each other. I’m okay with this because I’m busy too, but I’m not okay with him saying it out loud — because he should like me enough not to need to voice it. It makes me hate myself a little bit — because I like him enough to like the time we spend together.
As I set up my computer to watch the show an hour after it actually aired, the internet is down. “There’s no internet!” I yell, with the same urgency people most people would reserve for “The oven is on fire!”
“Tweet at Rogers!” insists Kevin, while looking up the right Twitter tag. “…it’s @RogersHelps — they’ll get scared if you do it… because you’re a journalist.”
Yes, this is my power, I remember. I can rant in online stories like nobody’s business; my writer status scares companies into thinking I’m the kind of person who vengefully ruins restaurants, businesses, and people when they upset me just because I can. I’ve even had boyfriends say, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?” after we’ve broken up. I always say no, and they always look a little disappointed. Everybody wants to inspire stories, even when they’re done being the story, even though it never really was a story to me. It was/is my life.
I tweet at @RogersHelps begging them to fix the Internet, insisting my Friday night will be so sad otherwise. I hear back almost right away, minutes after the Internet returns. I don’t know if my tweet help fixed the problem that’s clearly devastated my hipster-meets-yuppie neighbourhood for the last 30 minutes, but I thank Rogers anyway. I get to talking — tweeting, actually — with a person who signs the Rogers tweets with the initials “^am.” I’m still waiting for Top Model to be available online, so I’m suddenly trying to distract myself from thinking about my life, in the hours I now have available for thoughts I’d rather not be having.
“Does Rogers Helps also give life advice (or would your boss get mad? Your boss should NOT get mad. I would encourage it!)” I eventually tweet, when our Twitter conversation has rolled past the 24-hour time frame. Do I want to be in a more real relationship? Am I lonely? I’m too shy to bring up my feelings with my quasi-love interest, so I decide maybe I can ask this “^am” fella for love advice instead.
“Sometimes :)” replies ^am.
“If someone says he’s ’emotionally unavailable, does that mean he just doesn’t like you? You are my new Magic 8 Ball, by the way,” I tweet back.
“Tough one. Could be a quick cop out, or just their attempt to spare you their baggage. Were it me, it would be the latter,” says ^am.
I don’t know why, but ^am’s response makes me feel better… about myself, my life, about all the confusing thoughts I’ve had lately about romance but haven’t said out loud — in part because I truly don’t know what I think about love and dating anymore. I’m old enough to have had my heart broken about as many times as I’ve broken other people’s — old enough to know you can always love again; old enough to know that the cheesy song “The First Cut is the Deepest” is sadly true because it never hurts the same, and that thought alone is really upsetting when you think about it. Once an ex told me that he started dealing with breakups better after he’d studied family law and learned how to deal with a client’s grief over an impending divorce in the stages that psychological studies reveal feelings of broken heart-related despair chronologically occur — from denial to rage to eventual acceptance. He insisted this helped him deal with his own heartaches of the past, knowing that none of us are particularly unique. All the pangs and sorrows he’d experienced were literally textbook, and he wasn’t going through anything special to his circumstances that other people hadn’t felt for generations and ages before divorce was even a thing. This made him feel better, and him telling me this made me feel better too, and it also made me sad.
I’m also old enough to also know the window’s already closed for me in terms of accomplishing love-related things like having a family on a traditional schedule. And I’m old enough to unwittingly become a pessimist masquerading as a realist and yet still young enough — though barely — to secretly hope maybe I’ll still grow old with someone one day.
I tweet back to ^am in the less than 140 characters available to me on Twitter to sum up my feelings — feelings that I guess, in some ways, a stranger on Twitter at @RogersHelps helped me have when the Internet was down.
“I feel like everyone should have some baggage after a certain age – enough for a bellboy but not a storage unit ;)” I say.
Maybe I should take my own advice in the end and do a little house cleaning, so I can have the right amount of baggage along with me to still be an optimistic traveler in the world of love. I don’t want to be burdened by my past, just as much as I don’t want the people I date or even “kinda-sorta see” to use scar tissues as an excuse not to get to know me better. So for that, I thank you, ^am at @RogersHelps. I hope my Internet goes down again one day soon, so I can get back to remembering, and admitting to, the things that actually matter to me.