The day before Ben and Kate leave for Miami Beach for our family get-together for Thanksgiving, I get this text from Ben:

Clothes for the family picture?

I answer:

Yes.

Ben:

Yes?

Me:

You would stand out were you naked, but we just want you to be comfortable.

Does Kate want to be naked also?

Ben:

That answers my second question.

~Lenore grabs my phone from me and assumes my identity.~

Black tie.

You did rent one, right? 
If you don’t have time before your flight,
we can rent you one here.

Ben:

Bah.  I demand pastels.

Lenore pretending to be me:

Dad will be going to rent his own tux tomorrow. 
He can get yours.
Need measurements, please.
Kate’s too.

Ben:

No way.  I defy you to get dad into a tux.

Lenore pretending to be me:

Lenore is mad because she wants all black,
but  you can wear pastel because
I love you more than I love her.

I love Tim more too.

Ben:

K. Three colors. 
Hat pink,
shoes purple,
jacket and pants green with orange trim.
Same palette for Kate.
Four colors.

Lenore pretending to be me:

I love Kate more than Lenore too.

Ben:

Yeah, Kate’s pretty great.


Are you taking account of how gross Lenore is though?

You clearly find that charming. (Dad)


Kate wants to know what we are supposed to wear.
You may discuss this among yourselves.

Lenore pretending to be me:

Whatever we wear,
it has to get the message across to Lenore
that we love her least of all.

Ben:

We could make her wear a tutu. 
Then we don’t need a dress code. 
Brooklyn and Kimchee too,
so it looks like we’re monsters.

Lenore pretending to be me:

God I hate her.

~I struggle with Lenore for phone.~

~Lenore is very strong.~

~Lenore won’t give it to me.~

Ben:

Oh hush.  Have fun.  It’s family week!

~Ben is the sensitive kid.~

~He’s getting rattled.~

Lenore pretending to be me:

It will be easier to have fun when she’s dead.

~Long silence ensues~
~I beg Lenore for phone~
~Lenore finally relents and returns the phone to me.~

Me:

Lenore has been writing this since I said “yes”
waty backj after you asked
whether you should wear clothes!!!!!
I didn’t say that horrible stufff!!!!!
She is so creepy weird.

~Long silence~

Ben:

I say we keep her in a tutu anyway.

Me:

Everyone just should wear what he is comfortable in.

Ben:

Cool.

Me:

I myself will probably wear a tutu. 
A pink one with greed edges.

Ben:

Sounds fancy.

Me:

Oooooooo yeah.

~Lenore is evil-giggling.~


What’s the most unconventional way you’ve met a romantic partner? See how this compares.

2 a.m., local public channel:

SUBTEXT – THE DATING SHOW

The hostess, a clear-skinned brunette of +/- 24, whose wardrobe is ostensibly provided by the Urban Outfitters sale rack, appears to have eschewed formal on-camera training. It may be that she was one of few adventurous souls who responded to what was undoubtedly a Craigslist ad in search of local on-air personalities for a unique new “cross-media dating show” but in any case it will turn out that neither training nor talent are integral to the show’s popularity.

Brunette Hostess hangs out in the small left corner of the screen on a Scandinavian sofa and greets the 2 a.m. viewing audience colloquially, heavy on the mascara and sarcasm, getting down to the business of cross-media dating within 9 seconds. Her behavior is not consistent with drug or alcohol consumption but she doesn’t seem sober, either.

Brunette Hostess’s post postmodern job description is wondrously brief: saying many times the number viewers should send a text to, reading verbatim the texts received which appear onscreen, and outrageously bad attempts at witticisms.

Actually 4 duties, if looking mall-hot counts.

Participants in Subtext text the host-recited number, reply Yes to the Terms and Conditions, get a User ID and then their message with User ID appears on screen.

Representative sample text:

Yo ladies! 26 SWM here. Hit me up!

Even if, like me, you find texting mostly feeble, Subtext is conceptually transfixing.

And the number of participants (assuming all the texts were from legit breathing people in their homes or apartments or condos or trailers) – flabbergasting.

Subtext participants incur $0.99 charge from their carrier, which effectively makes a shot at true love or at least a semi-decent hookup the same going price as a Value Menu Item at Wendy’s.

It’s hard to tell if being on at 2 a.m. means the show’s core audience is drunk people who struck out at the bar or if public television is just random like that. But by the sheer volume and speed of texts coming across the TV screen, you’d have to be pretty drunk not to perceive your own potential visibility as nil. Or you’d need to strategize and flood the screen, sending multiple messages declaring your availability, in order to get noticed and garner some sort of response. To be successful either way, you must paw the keys super fast while also giving yourself time to read the screen for possible bait and scan for responses to your messages. Like trying to man 10 slot machines at one time.

Occasionally (maybe in an attempt to heighten visibility) a participant will hit on the hostess.

Hey Candice, u lookin hot 2nite girl luv ur hair

Candice acknowledges such flirtations with deflective phrasing that’s a stark throwback to the 1950’s “you sly dog you” style of rejection so obviously incongruent with the futuristic or at least incredibly temporal nature of Subtext it almost destroys the show’s credibility.

If the maintext of Subtext is that text-dating is the best (being easiest), newest medium to meet people, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for Candice to respond directly with, “Not interested, thanks” or “Let’s meet at the Starbucks on Guadalupe” or at minimum confess she has a serious boyfriend who she gives early Sunday morning blowjobs to after getting done at the station, a serious boyfriend who she loves making buckwheat pancakes for and going running around Town Lake with? Shouldn’t she affirm the medium’s legitimacy by participating in it, or candidly divulge her inability to participate due to a present off-screen romantic involvement (which does include high numbers of off-set texts)?

Having a host on Subtext comes off as archaic and unnecessary, not to mention irritating beyond belief in Candice’s case, but not having one would render the format lifeless, little more than televised classified ads arriving on the screen in real time. The hostess’s unspoken role is to infuse the show’s digital nature with reality potential.

But perhaps unbeknownst to them, it turns out the Subtexters’ shot-in-the-dark approach to mating isn’t so stupid.

Researchers cannot identify a single attribute that distinguishes couples who stay together from couples who break up.

The ones who stay together don’t make more or less money.

They are not rated as more or less attractive.

They don’t have more or less education.

They’re not more or less religious.

They don’t have better or worse communication skills.

They don’t have sex more or less often.

They don’t fight less.

They just stay together.

For some unknowable unquantifiable reason (sure, of course, it could be some as-yet-undiscovered triangulation of factors, but let’s not distract from what we do know for the moment).

This level of simplicity frightens me. I don’t want to believe I’d be reasonably happy now if I had just battened the hatches instead of jumping ship in certain relationships. Yet that’s what the evidence shows.

Who you pick matters less, in a way, than your singular dedication to not leaving them.

When we reduce the complexity of relationship success it compels us to begin a laborious return to the truth.

Pick someone out of a crowd.

Respond to a text on a crowded TV screen.

Go meet that person at the Starbucks on Guadalupe.

Maybe that’s the subtext of Subtext: here’s a bunch of somebodies. Pick one. Stay with them. Make it work. Hold on.

Text now!