The night I met my husband in the bar on 15th street, back in 2001, I was ready and eager to punch his phone number into whatever Palm Pilot-like object was trendy and in my bag.
He wouldn’t give it to me.
Instead, he wrote my first name on a napkin, slipped it in his pocket, and asked me to meet him, same time, same place, four days later. I did. He did. No texts, alerts or mobile carriers required.
At the end of our first date I asked for his email address. Again, he declined. He said he didn’t want to get to know me on the computer, through grammatically sub-par notes sent during office breaks or business meetings. He wanted to get to know me, in real-time and in real life.
This all seemed highly suspect. Who was this guy? Was he on the lam? Married? Why so cagey? I couldn’t get it into my head that his avoidance of technology might have motives based in anything but malice.
But he was charming, handsome and had a cute Australian accent, so I took my chances. And following his lead, kept meeting him in person. Almost daily. We talked and talked and talked. Told animated stories, revealed our flaws, confessed things in a week that took months to unearth in past relationships. No games, no need to decipher the tone of an email or the significance of a random text. And, thankfully, it turned out he was not running from the law – he was just a hopeless romantic.
His no-tech ways got to me. I married him one year later.
So go figure, then, that in the years that would follow, his refusal to embrace technology would start driving me nuts.
Not that I am tech-obsessed, but, like most, I’ve given in to the idea that more information, faster, is somehow making my life better. That Google is my brain’s external hard drive. That emoji really do express my feelings perfectly.
But my husband? Not so much. His 39 neglected Facebook friends have me to thank for that – I convinced him to set up an account a few years back thinking reconnecting with old pals and getting stalked by a few exes might be good for him. He never looks at it. Ever. Twitter? Instagram? Oh, please. My husband, for a living, uses his hands to design things and build them, not add filters to photos. He is a masterful conversationalist, too, but prefers one to one talks, not one to 500.
He also, unapologetically, prints out maps (forgoing the GPS), makes lists of tax deductions in a spiral binder (instead of Excel), and watches TV shows at their network-scheduled times (honey, meet the DVR).
And he’s perfectly happy. Totally functional. Who am I to coax this blissfully less-connected man into a world of non-privacy and Flappy Bird? I actually get where he’s coming from completely, and have plenty of analog habits of my own, but I guess I just wanted him to play along. To join me in all the virtual places I was living, as an added gesture of togetherness.
But coax I have done. With a degree of success, too. Gift a guy enough Apple products over the years and he will use them. The iPad, for example — he claimed to not want one, but now it’s hard to pry it out of his hands. Hooray, a win for me! Right? Sort of.
Because, not so long ago, I made an observation: “Together” we sat in bed the one night, like many nights before it, side by side with our iPads propped and headphones on, watching House of Cards and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, respectively. Laughing and gasping in staccato intervals, but only to ourselves. Sharing a love of our iPads, but not of each other’s company. And I thought about that.
Being alone, together, is not a bad thing; in fact, it’s a requirement in a long relationship. Except in this particular moment I realized we’d been alone, together a few too many nights in a row. Technology was making it too easy to for us disengage from each other; I was nostalgic for our analog courtship.
So that night, I turned off the iPad, waited for his show to end, then asked him to tell me more about his day. We talked and talked. It was a nice, in-the-moment moment, and I didn’t take a picture of it for Instagram.
Being connected digitally is great, but being connected in real-time and in real life is greater.
Seems that analog guy I fell for 12 years ago may have been on to something. Or it’s time to buy a headphone splitter.