I imagine that, even with proper introductions in comfortable surroundings,
the absense of facial expressions and body language (not to mention
simple eye contact) would seriously hamper getting to know someone.
It certainly does. I've managed to make a few good friendships in
recent years, but "few" is the operative word. For me to feel engaged,
attracted (generally speaking, not just romantically), and appreciated
for myself, now requires really clicking with someone at a high level
of verbal agility and congeniality. I've always relied on words more
than some people would think enlightened, been the Wally Shawn side
of My Dinner With Andre, and been able to live with it. But now I've
completely lost the leavening, enriching counterpoint of seeing the
subtleties of response flicker in a person's eyes, in the shift of
facial expression. I may meet and chat with someone at a party, quite
pleasantly, and yet be left feeling as if I hadn't really met them
any more than if we'd talked on the phone. I still wonder, as it were,
who they are.
I want to step into more intimate territory, if that's okay. In my
memory, you were until fairly recently always married, or in a relationship,
or dating pretty actively. For the last several years you've lived
alone and, while I know you still have close women friends, there
doesn't seem to be a lot of romance in your life these days. Your
observations about the difficulties of communicating and connecting
with people you can barely see must apply in spades when it comes
to meeting a prospective sweetheart.
It wreaks havoc. As I said in my story on "blind" dating, every
romance in my life has begun with vision. Seeing someone generally,
then the face particularly, then the eyes even more particularly,
then the response of her eyes to mine. For example, I met S. at
the laundromat on a foggy night on Irving Street, with a glance
over the clothes we were folding, and five years of our futures
were decided, before much conversation, before a single touch. I
hooked up with V. at C.'s birthday party because her eyes flashed
with intelligence, general life passion and a particular, personal
interest in me that I chose, without choosing, to reciprocate, and
there was another lap of this journey, shared. And though I first
encountered L. on the telephone, it was her face that won my heart.
Now, the streets seem changed, the signals all shut off.