It doesn’t make me unique or special, but I have a few unexpected interests. Meaning, I have a few hobbies that, on a superficial level, don’t seem consistent with me personality. A good example would be knitting, which seems surprisingly domestic for a woman who is working in male dominated fields. For the record, I enjoy the simple geometry of the task, I like working on a simple project where I can watch myself make progress, and I find that knitting is a good way to come to terms with perfectionism. When you drop a stitch or something, sometimes you can unravel everything to go back and fix it, but sometimes you can just leave the error and it’s not the end of the world. I need more of those examples in my life. Knitting is good.
Really, the personal confession I make that surprises people is the Craigslist one.
The “for sale” section of Craigslist is like a virtual garage sale. At some level I like browsing this section so I can rummage through the junk people believe is still worth money. Occasionally, I actually find something I want, for example that little black leather jacket I bought for $20.
I was surprised to observed that there are a disproportionate number of women trying to sell wedding dresses on Craigslist. Many of these women either ended up buying a different dress, inherited the dress from a relative, or gained/lost weight and can’t wear the dress anymore.
When I started this game though, it seemed like there were a lot of women trying to dump dresses from canceled weddings. Simultaneously, there were a lot of men in the jewelry section trying to ditch wedding rings. You can see where I’m going with this right? You try to use the details in the different ads, to match up the couples because in these cases, they always have to slip in at least one sentence about that ass hole who canceled the wedding at the last minute.
Really though, it’s all about the MISSED CONNECTIONS. When I confess to checking the missed connections, people always giggle and wonder if it ever works. I have to say that, yes, it does work. I once saw a missed connection for myself, I responded, and I ended up as friends with the guy for a few months while he got set up at law school.It was not remotely sketchy or weird.
We were in line at a Starbucks. I said I liked his sunglasses and he let me try them on. We chatted for a few minutes and then went on our ways. He posted a missed connection where he included a sentence describing himself, a sentence describing me, a sentence explaining the day/time/location, and a title that said ‘You were trying on my sunglasses in line at Starbucks.” He invited me to meet him there a week later. He used complete sentences, appropriate punctuation and case, like a literate adult. Seriously, it was easy. So that’s my story.
Checking the missed connections is a habit I enjoy on multiple levels, aside from always secretly looking for myself.
First, these ads are always hilarious. The content, the grammar errors, and the blind optimism are all usually ridiculous. I think that my case with the law student was sort of an exception because most people are terribly deluded about their relative importance in the world.
The person writing the ad frequently assumes that chance meeting was significant in the life of the person his is seeking out. “Our eyes met in the parking lot and it was magical.”
The person writing the ad sometimes just describes themselves in (flattering terms). I think that this is maybe just a fishing strategy. Somewhere their mind is plotting, “Well, I know I looked hot today, I bet someone checked me out somewhere. I’ll just be vague so that this ad could be for anyone.”
The person writing the ad usually expects the target to include some detail in the response. “Tell me what type of shoes you were wearing so I know it’s you.”
I also love when the ad includes a good reason why he never approached the target. “You had a wedding ring and you were cramming your 4 children into a minivan, but DAMN I need to see your butt in yoga pants again, so I thought I would try a stupid ad.”
On another level though, there is useful information to be extracted from the missed connections. In aggregate, missed connections tell you something about the area where you’re living. The ads frequently include the popular places for locals to spend time; the best restaurants, the Sheetz gas station with the lowest prices, the trendy coffee shop where the cute art students hang out. This is all crucial information for someone new to the area.
So I played a game on there recently. I posted a generic missed connection for no one and waited to see what types of responses I might get. The message was partly inspired by frustrations with an old friend of mine, but it was really just the most generic teenage drama soap opera-y thing I could think of.
I wish that I could have a simple conversation with you.
No matter how I preface my words, you will read into everything I say too much.
You will especially read into the words I don’t say, and you will see whatever you want in the infinite unspoken possibilities.
That is the real reason that we’re never going to speak again, because you never listen.
I got about three dozen responses (so far, it’s been about a month and I’m still getting emails). I wish that I had kept some of messages, but I deleted them all almost immediately so that I wouldn’t be tempted to respond to the worst of them.
There was a lot of anger. There was a lot of irony, in responses that ignored the content of the post. There were a few thoughtful challenges.
“How can someone read into your words without hearing them?” I really like that thought, because I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about how to be a better listener. This question helped me come up the following theory.
Theory on Listening Listening to another human is a lot like being a scientist who ‘listens to the universe.’ In both cases, the point, the underlying purpose, is to uncover some truth that allows you make predictions about the future. When you listen to someone, the best way to prove that you have understood his words is to make a prediction, by saying or doing something, with the information that has been provided. If your prediction is correct, then he will be pleased with the outcome and your hypothesis will be confirmed.
So when I say that someone can read into words too deeply, what I really mean is that it’s possible to draw the wrong conclusion from the available information and to then ignore all feedback that the hypothesis was incorrect.
Stupid example. You tell a story about your DVD player breaking while you’re trying to watch your favorite movie. You complain about needing to buy a new DVD player. Your friend decides to buy you a new copy of your favorite movie. That’s really sweet and unexpected, and it proves that he heard part of the conversation, but what you really needed was a new DVD player. You explain this, but a few days later he asks if you have watched the movie yet. When you say “No I still need to get a new DVD player,” he says “I’m sorry, I thought for some reason, you really liked that movie.” Obviously, someone is hearing the words, but not listening.
Anyways, if I get anymore particularly thoughtful responses that don’t involve the c-word I might post them, but until then I’m considering my curiosity sated.