Who hasn’t been in a long distance relationship? Skype, FaceTime, whatsapp, imessage, viber—the list goes on (and the apps continue to taunt)—have all made global rendezvousing possible. Legit. Fashionable in fact. You’d be hard pressed to attend a dinner party these days where someone wasn’t dutifully (and delightfully) messaging food pics, smiley faces, and up-to-the-minute commentaries to his sweetheart in New York, Los Angeles, London, Budapest, hell, even Sydney! Later into the evening, when tiddly, he might FaceTime her and playfully insist on handing his iphone around the party for each guest to coo at. We all go along with the theatrics, it’s become part of our culture. I once turned up to a TV episode screening at a co-star’s house, at which the boyfriend of the host attended the event (the entire 4.5 hours) on a laptop nested on the coffee table!
But what’s it actually like to live in this kind of abstained romance day in and day out? HORRIBLE. I’ve done three of them. Unfortunately the nature of my work dictates where I live and when (yes, I’m an actress). And against my mothers advise, I seem to have proven the theory that you don’t choose who you fall in love with (if I could choose, my lover would be wonderfully compliant to line learning sessions and small enough to fit in my suitcase).
Reflecting on my most recent android-romance, my day would play out a little like this: At 6.48am (or there abouts), I am woken to the sound of my 3.5 month old puppy, Harriet, whining in her crate. Sweet as all hell, she’d be sweeter if she were male and human and in my bed. Determined to get at least another 20 minutes of sleep, I roll over and bury my face into my turtle teddy, Sheldon, who was given to me by my boyfriend about nine months earlier as a boyfriend substitute in between visits (yep, it’s come to that).
Whilst munching on toast and jam and reading the New York Times headlines on my iphone (the app my NY residing boyfriend downloaded for me), I receive my first of many messages that day from faraway beau. “Good morning sweety!” or “Good morning >insert puppy emoticon.” Living in Los Angeles meant that I’d already missed out on three hours of his day, which meant that there was a LOT to catch up on. So the messaging begins. “How are you?” “Busy! My co-worker is talking too much so I’m wearing my headphones to pretend I’m doing something important. You?” “Good. I dreamt that I was pregnant and gave birth to puppies and they were all Golden Retrievers like Harriet but suddenly they were adults and they could talk and they imparted life changing wisdom.” “You should read this NY Times article on Snowden. Epic.” “Already did.” “Oh. Miss you >insert monkey.” “Miss you more >insert kissing love-heart smiley face.”
I have an audition that day and since my roommate is away, I email my BF the sides (scenes) so we can run lines over the phone. “Ok gimme 10,” he writes. Earphones plugged in, in front of the mirror, I rehearse my lines as he delivers the other character’s part in monotone (I’m convinced he’s not as bad as he pretends to be) on the other end of the phone. He’s apparently standing in the fire-escape of his office (yes, that’s commitment!)
I meet a friend that night for a drink at a local Los Feliz bar. A group of cute boys beside us strike up conversation and wiggle their table along to join ours. Some writer/director type is being particularity attentive to me (clearly doesn’t realize I prefer the chase ;-)) and I squeeze my girlfriend’s leg while nodding politely as if to say, “how do I break it to him…?” Meanwhile, my purse erotically vibrates with, no doubt, more life and death texts from BF. We go to leave. He asks for my number. My number… aaahh… well you see… that number kinda belongs to my boyfriend. Who’s not here. ‘COS HE LIVES IN NEW YORK.
At the end of the night, my boyfriend and I would actually talk. FaceTime is a weird thing; I would hold my lover in an iphone in my palm and for that hour I’d actually have him. Nearly. We’d both lay in bed holding our phones (each other) above our faces and whisper sweet nothings. My personal fave was when he’d kiss the camera on his phone which would cause the effect of his lips to overwhelm my entire screen. Usefully you can see yourself in a little window in the corner, and since 97.5% of our relationship happened on this phone, I would make damn sure that the lighting in my room was favorable, my hair was falling just so, and that the strap of my tank top was effortlessly draped off my shoulder. These Skype calls counted!
So I guess the next question is: How often did we have sex? Well if you’re talking real life intercourse, rarely. If you’re talking cyber sex, only sometimes. Every now and then, we’d give it another whirl, hoping that maybe, just maybe, we’d actually touch this time. That the laws of nature would be superseded by our heady lust. Or that for even just a split second, I might get a whiff of his scent, a tickle of his chest hair. Unfortunately the internet has yet to deliver such sensory pleasures…
That time of the month would come round. I’m a failure. I’m fat and depressed and have no friends. I can’t stop eating. Seriously, every time I gesture towards some kind of productivity, I eat instead. I’m a useless piece of shit and I swear if I don’t see my boyfriend right now, I might die. No joke. All I need is to be held, tight, but since that’s not possible, I’ll start a fight instead. I’ve read The Power of Now, I’m half way through A New Earth, I know all about the ‘pain body,’ but fuck it, I can’t take this any longer. I NEED A FIGHT RIGHT NOW!! So I call him. Don’t care if he’s at work or with friends or trying to sleep. I’m about to die and he’s my lifeline. (Yes, if you’re a man and you’re reading this, welcome to Venus.) Damn it—he’s out drinking beers with friends. Friends? Beer? I might drop dead any second and you’re out celebrating like it’s new year’s fucking eve?! WITHOUT ME. And what was that? Did I just hear a girl laugh in the background? Who’s that girl? Is she pretty? Does she have a boyfriend?? And… We’re off. He’s stepped out in front of the bar on the sidewalk and is chain smoking cigarettes. Not happy. I’ve done it again.
So why do it to ourselves? Why endure the heartache, the imagined stories in your head, the lonely nights, the iphone love-sick affair, and the chastity belt? Am I unworthy of love and real-life intimacy? Am I afraid that if I actually share myself with someone right here right now, they’ll discover that I’m a fraud or see the depths of my vulnerabilities? (Heaven forbid being vulnerable!) Or as quantum physicists might argue, is it that I’m addicted to the emotion that I keep emoting? Buddhists talk about addiction to cravings. Wanting, wanting…
Perhaps the more pressing question is about love. Is this true love? But how does one gauge love on an iphone, a computer screen? Do the words I love you in a text message hold the same value as being spoken face to face? Is there any substance in those words at all or is it simply the feeling of the sentiment that’s important? And is the love and consequential fulfilment I get from this relationship worth it? I’m then led to ask myself: is love enough? And even further: what more is needed in life when one has love?
I certainly learned that this kind of relationship wasn’t for me. But perhaps the ultimate gift it bestowed upon me was the eventual insight into what it is I really want, and need: A human being beside me, in the flesh, to hold, and to be held by.
Beep beep. “Good night sweety. I love you >insert purple love-heart >insert moon >insert pineapple.” Well, I guess I’ll miss that.
Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com on November 7, 2013.