London's Lonely Hearts
And this week's cover, I was surprised to see, is devoted to the U.S. export, Second Life, "an on-line society within a 3D world, where users can explore, build, socialize, and participate in their own economy." In Second Life you can buy and sell things, sleep around, start a business, walk, fly; and most peculiar of all - it has its own official currency. Not to mention that there are over 1 million inhabitants. I will refrain from a tempting 'Bowling Alone' tirade about how modern society must have denied these people a first life, because I am sufficiently ignorant and may decide to be the next member. But suffice it to say, suspicions are cast.
Suitably unnerved, I next cast my eye to an article discussing a different craze, the West Hampstead-based 'Cuddle Party.' Another illustrious U.S. creation maintained as 'structured, safe non-sexual workshops" which have attracted 10,000 people. The FT journo revealed them to involve Twister-style romps where you end up on a pile in the floor, while massaging each other, holding hands and eating grapes. I don't know about you, but if I want to simulate Ancient Rome I watch Russell Crowe in Gladiator. And for the other bits there is always Eyes Wide Shut.
Sufficiently disturbed by the time I got home; I took to The New York Times, hoping that maybe 2,000 miles away life was more familiar. And sure enough was yet another article about London's emotional deprivation as evidenced by the personal columns in the London Review of Books. The article reveals how the ads present applicants' warts and all; from drug addiction to incontinence. My favourite starts,"a self destructive, jacked up on Viagra." I suppose the motto being that nested in the peculiarly English tradition of ironic sentiment we may find that elusive 'someone for everyone'. And that, to me, is a better rush of Oxytocin than any stranger's cuddle on-line or in-person.
For a compilation of some of the best ads check out, "They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books." Perfect for that passing-time-in-the-loo book present at Christmas.