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"Yeah, it looks likes a lot of craiglisters don't know the definition of 'platonic,' " I wrote (with my own typos), already wondering whether Dave was one of them. His next e-mail landed with a thud: "ok cool I night be gay but I am very masculine ... you are cool with that?"
Well, sure, of course. But this was still the Internet, and I decided to pass. Maybe Dave was just a regular guy, but Craigslist's "strictly platonic" section is, like, 40 percent creepsters unaware that they're creepsters or creepsters who know but just don't care. The job of filtering is on the user, and it's tiring.
The other 60 percent of those posts, though, show a cross-section of all the ways you can feel lonely in recession America, where having and not having a job bring on their own kinds of isolation. Typos began to take on a poignant edge.
"Hi I'm a 33 year old man married and have 4 awesome kids..." read one post. "I was laid-off due to lack of work from the carpenter's union,,, so here I am stay at home dad.... My two oldest are in school during the day and my 8 week and 2 year old boy are stuck in the house all day.. It is hard to do anything by myself so if your in the same situation we should get together for a play date."
"Working the graveyard shift andJust looking for someone who wants to chat," said another. I imagined the vampire loneliness of having to sleep while all your friends are awake and active.
The more I looked, the more it seemed that every kind of lifestyle bred its own special social vacuum.
"Im a gwm [gay white male] in need of a ballroom dance partner. Im not effeminate and no one would ever suspect Im gay. I just want a dance partner."
"Single black woman looking to meet friendly guys outside of my race. Not looking for any relationship just someone to hang out with every now and then. If you are of the same race as myself please do not reply. Looking to try something different for a change."
"Want to hit the dating Scene [with a wingman]. Looking for someone who has had more experiences than myself."
"Gay boy here in KC looking for a woman to go shopping with ... I'm learning to crossdress so looking for all those sexy women clothes and need help."
I chatted with a divorced businessman who wanted a lunch-break buddy, and with a perfectly normal-sounding guy who wanted somebody to go with him to a nudist camp. And I met up with a friendly bouncer and UMKC student named George, who hung out with his buddies regularly but had trouble convincing any of them to come smoke shisha. We went to Jaskki's, in the West Bottoms, and puffed on a hookah.
Then I met up with a woman, an introvert named Audrey, whose ad said she'd moved to Kansas City around a year ago but couldn't remember the last time she'd gone out socially with anyone. We hung out for a while in the fiction section of Barnes & Noble and talked about our favorite writers.
But I saw neither George nor Audrey again. Maybe because of the way we'd arranged our meetings, the energy in them was too low to demand follow-up. Or maybe because I hadn't been serious enough about doing it. Making friends cold turkey turns out to be oddly like dating — sometimes you're more into somebody than that person is into you, and the doubt and anxiety that come with that imbalance don't feel good. And sometimes a response I sent to an interesting Craigslist ad was met with silence, as though we'd already broken up.