The phone is handed over.
“I don’t know what to write back,” your friend says.
You stare at the phone. You have been in a committed relationship for a hundred Scaramuccis, and so this is how you live now. You have forgotten what it’s like to have to persuade someone who has never met you to like you, but you imagine it cannot be that difficult. (Sometimes you wonder that if all dating-app conversations were mapped out, it would be revealed that every relationship that started online was initially between the married friends of the two parties.)
“I like beans and museums,” this person has written on their dating-app profile.
“HA HA THE BEANUS DE MILO,” you would say, if this were yourself, but this is not yourself. Your friend does not deserve this.
“I WENT TO A MUSEUM ONCE,” you type. Now you understand how Cyrano de Bergerac’s life went south so quickly. Suppose this person writes back and you tell them more about the museum, and you build up a whole vocabulary of in-jokes about your trip to the Barnes Museum, and that room full of nude bathers, and romance blossoms between you, and then your friend shows up to the date in person with no ability to reference what has become the lexicon of your love? Chaos will inevitably ensue.
You erase what you have written. Perhaps a compliment.
“You look like someone who would like museums.”
Is this a compliment? How have you survived the past several decades of life if this is what you think a compliment sounds like?
“I’d like to see YOU in a museum.”
This sounds like you might think they are a dinosaur skeleton. You add an emoji to the end to make things clearer.
“What do you have so far?” your friend asks.
“I’d like to see YOU in a museum, wink emoji, female zombie emoji,” you say.
“Give me back the phone,” she says.
“Wait,” you say, “I almost have it.”
“YOU BELONG IN A MUSEUM! BECAUSE, I SHOULD CLARIFY, YOU ARE A MUSEUM APPRECIATOR AND/OR RESEMBLE A BEAUTIFUL ART OBJECT, NOT BECAUSE I THINK YOU COULD BE MISTAKEN FOR A DINOSAUR SKELETON, IN CASE YOU WERE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT, ALTHOUGH YOU SHOULD NOT BE, BECAUSE YOUR ARMS APPEAR TO BE AN AVERAGE LENGTH AND YOUR FACE IS GOOD, AND I DON’T THINK YOU ARE A REPTILE, OBVIOUSLY NOT, YOU’RE A MAMMAL!”
How did you ever persuade anyone to like you, let alone love you, if this is your idea of a thing to say to another human being? No, better try again. Your friend deserves only the best things. Is this person one of the best things? You scrutinize the profile again. They like hikes. You know who else liked hikes? Napoleon. What if this person tries to get your friend to invade Russia in winter?
Wait, what does your friend claim to like? You flip to her profile.
Who, you wonder, is this person? Her profile features a quote from a movie you didn’t know she had seen, much less internalized to this degree. She likes hiking, too, it says, and small dogs. Does she? She claims to “Live And Breathe Fondue.”
Is it possible you haven’t actually been paying attention to anything your friend said for the past 20 years? Maybe this profile is just aspirational. Or can it be that she possesses a life separate from you that you only glimpse in fragments, that she really does like fondue that much and you just never had it together?
Maybe she has a separate coterie of friends you know nothing about. They all get fondue together and laugh. They will be her bridesmaids in the wedding to this person who loves beans and museums that will inevitably result when you compose this message, and you will be lucky to get invited. They will walk down the aisle in matching hiking boots with matching museum tote bags and the hashtag will be #SayFonDo. It won’t be a very good hashtag, at least. You cling to that.
“You know,” you say, “I didn’t know you liked fondue?”
“Oh,” she says. “No, my married friend put this entire profile together. Does it say I like fondue?”
Other friends, though. So the fondue and laughing thing might still be happening.
“I also like museums!” you type. “What’s your favorite exhibit you’ve seen recently?” It has taken six hours.
Somewhere, many living rooms away, over another bottle of wine, this message appears on another phone with three people gathered around it.
“What did she say?” they want to know.
“She wants to know what my favorite exhibit is that I’ve seen recently.”
“Give me the phone,” someone says.
The phone is handed over.