“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” – Winston Churchill
I’m attracted to my barber. It’s funny how 50 years ago, a man would never have been able to say such a thing, but the last five decades have been filled with unyielding social progress, and the next five show no signs of slowing down.
Now I should clarify; I am attracted to my barber, who happens to be a woman. She does a damn good job too. That’s been one of the wonderful things about progress: gender roles that seemed arbitrary years ago are becoming just that. In the olden days, a man cut a man’s hair and a woman cut a woman’s hair. That was that. Even though a haircut is such a small detail in a much larger conversation about how far we’ve come in our society, it’s the small detail that made me think.
Fifty years ago I would have went to any barbershop and paid for the same haircut (mind you I would have paid much less for it) but I never would have enjoyed the awkward experience of trying desperately not to stare at the person providing that service. Because as we all know the person with a straight razor and scissors so close to your neck is the last person you would want to offend.
The honest truth is I’ve never in my life looked so forward to going to the barber shop. Hell, at this point I’m planning special events left and right to have an excuse to get a haircut. I think she knows as well as I do that the last two times I’ve been in, it probably could have waited. She probably realizes I was looking for another opportunity to talk with her. That’s the heart of the matter; I’m really just looking for any excuse to have another good conversation with someone that, for some reason, is very easy to talk to.
With all that being said, I cannot for the life of me find a good moment in any of these conversations to ask her to have a simple cup of coffee so I could learn if she’s really as interesting as I think she is. Why is that? There are a slew of “pickup artists” trolling the internet with their chauvinistic ideas who would say that I just have no “game.” The point they miss is that I am not on the basketball court and I’m not shooting a three pointer with half a second left on the clock to win the NCAA tournament, but I am now going to stop writing and fantasize momentarily about how awesome THAT would be.
Truth be told, I think we have to go back to progress. Progress forward has given us so much, yet we keep moving forward so fast we are forgetting to pack important items for our trip. For example, all I want to do is ask this seemingly wonderful woman to coffee. It should be simple. But it’s not. Somehow I forgot to pack my vulnerability yet still remembered to bring the crippling fear of rejection.
My generation is a generation of progress, socially and technologically. Sadly, it’s taught us to hide behind screens, cobbling together sentences with less than poor grammar and waiting for someone to reply. We are addicted to having the time to craft and rehearse what we will say, to make sure it looks perfect in a text message. The immediate elation or devastation we feel from asking a question and getting an answer in person terrifies us because we’ve never HAD to do it. Until my last haircut I refused to believe I was in that group.
Simply asking her online did cross my mind, and it shouldn’t. That’s cheap, inauthentic, and should never be the basis for any human interaction. Sadly, if I were to go that route, there is a chance she might say yes. Not because it’s a good idea, not even because it’s socially acceptable, it’s just the new normal. It’s sad that women have become used to being asked if they want to “Netflix and chill?” via some form of instant messenger. Come on men, really? Doesn’t any other man agree that we owe any woman we meet a lot more respect than that? Not to mention we owe ourselves a tiny bit more.
SIDE NOTE: After reflecting on that last paragraph I’m making a decision that the new focus of my life is to eradicate the term “Netflix and chill”. Netflix isn’t a verb, it’s a noun. Chill is what we do to beer, wine and other delicious adult beverages. The term “Netflix and chill” will henceforth never be mentioned on this blog again. Men, it’s time to grow up.
A friend recently told me about an experience he had while searching Google for a method to keep his pipes from freezing during the winter. He had typed in “How to keep…” and the most common search Google brought up for him automatically was “How to keep a conversation going.” What? Are we really so far removed that we need a how to guide on how to have a conversation? I can’t believe the first thing that we learn to do as humans is also the first thing that we forget. Why is that?
In one of our boundless leaps forward in the human experience, we forgot to bring the importance of human interaction. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen anymore; we aren’t quite yet an “idiocracy” of the living dead, but we most certainly have forgotten the value of real human connection. We don’t make phone calls when we are away, we text. We don’t write letters to loved ones, we tweet.
We are experiencing life through a series of photo-shopped pictures and status updates. For god’s sake CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have Snapchat accounts. There are people only getting their news on Snapchat. Let that sink in.
I have never thought of myself as someone who lacks confidence. There are not many things in this world that make me nervous, anxious, or scared. With the way culture is now though, it only makes sense that I would have developed fear in these situations.
“What if she says no in front of all these people?” “What if her co-worker says something?” “What if she just isn’t interested?” These are thoughts that we have had for years when approaching someone we find attractive, but before we never had an out. There wasn’t another way. What is the last thought that runs through our minds at the end of the endless slew of “what if’s” now?
“Why don’t I just ask her on Facebook?”
I’m sitting here writing, and all I can think about is how lonely we are. I’m not attracted to my barber simply because she is gorgeous, I am attracted to her because there is chemistry there (seemingly) and she is interesting. I personally spend my day working on a computer in my office and, I’m sad to admit, scrolling through Facebook every 30 minutes to see if someone has posted a funny video to distract me from my real life; it is desensitizing me to values that should matter. I don’t think I’m the only one, either.
We’re dying to connect like we used to. We are desperate for anyone anywhere to just look at us and say, “This isn’t the way it will always be.” We want someone else to say it, someone else to be the bastion of light and substance in a world that is increasingly dark and empty except for the blue light of phone screens. We don’t want to have to be the ones to say it because to say it would in turn require action. If we admit we have a problem, we would have to take steps to correct it. We would have to put the phone down, maybe even turn off Facebook and Twitter.
We want someone else to say this because we want someone else to sacrifice their luxury and make it all better for the rest of us. Not going to happen. We will never go back from this, Pandora is out of the box and she’s pissed. Even still, the values, connection, and simple love we crave aren’t gone. They’re still here. We forgot to buy them a plane ticket to the 21st Century and like a crazy ex, they’re chasing us down the runway as fast as they can, begging and crying to not be left behind. The plane is taxiing, but we haven’t taken off…yet.
Progress is good. Social media can be a wonderful thing. The fact that I can write this and potentially thousands of people (let’s be realistic, tens of people) can see it is amazing. The last time we had this much potential with technology was in the 15th Century with the invention of the printing press. Think of the incredible things that have already been done with the internet and social media. Think of the incredible things to come. Let’s just slow down, and take an inventory of the things we don’t want to completely lose as we continue forward.
The bottom line is that whether or not we are happy about it, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever your particular brand of social poisoning happens to be, it’s here to stay. So are we. So are relationships. So are real conversations. There are still real people out there that would love for you to take the chance, get out from behind the screen and simply say “Hello”.
Now I’ve rambled on for damn near three pages, and I realize that I don’t get to just sit here and complain without being willing to get off the plane, go back and pack a few things and see if I can’t catch the next flight. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to the barbershop…