Many years ago, when Missed Connections, the creepy/romantic online personal ads, still felt like a big deal, one friend of mine claimed he had received not one, not two, but three such Craigslist missives from enamored young ladies. The guy in question was attractive enough, but even by the notoriously unequal standards of New York City mating culture, this did seem excessive. What’s more, as I pointed out, he was obviously poring over “New York City/W4M” every day in hopes of said ego boosts.
“Not at all,” he said. “Every time, I’d had a hunch.”
He went on a date with one of them—a girl with whom he’d made intense eye contact on the F train following a Cyclones game—and it didn’t really go anywhere. But that’s okay because now he’s happily married to a lovely woman, and they have two adorable children.
Around this period, I was working in a clothing store in south Brooklyn, and when things were slow and the store free of customers, sometimes we would idly surf Missed Connections. By sometimes, I obviously mean daily, and by idly, I obviously mean “M4W,” “Glasses,” “Big Glasses,” “Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop tote bag,” “Tyrolean hat,” the titles of whatever books we were reading at the time, and, of course, our respective train lines and neighborhoods. Although disappointment was inevitable, we saw many fascinating things in our online travels, and our literal commutes took on new purpose.
“No dice,” I said sadly to my ex-boyfriend one day while we were eating panelle specials at Ferdinando’s. “I just don’t think it’s meant to be.”
The next day, I found the following: “SPLEEN, M4W, Brooklyn. You: Bespectacled Moomintroll in moth-eaten sweater. Furious. Eating panelle special.”
“Thx,” I texted my ex-boyfriend.
The next time I saw him, I learned that three women had responded to his ad. One had included a photograph of her Moomin figurine collection.
Not long after, I met a nice guy at a neighborhood bar, who talked about Here Is New York and asked if he could get my number.
“Only if you send me a missed connection,” I declared, because these were the depths to which I had sunk.
Sure enough, there it was: “E. B. White,” ran the title. And then, “Still eighteen inches,” which sounds kind of lewd but is, in fact, a line from a rather romantic part of the book.
“I guess I have to go out with him now, huh?” I said to my coworker. She said I did. And then we dated for seven years.
It has been many years since I checked Missed Connections. Today, for some reason, I did. I clicked on “girl with limp at hana deli—m4w 36 (bushwick),” “New Years Infected Mushroom-Best Buy Theatre—m4w 27 (Midtown),” and “Planned Parenthood Nurse—1/10—Mott street—m4w 28 (East Village),” but not because I was looking for myself. I suppose I figured if I wanted online love, there were less mystical ways to go about it. And, whatever the the appeal of starstruck urban love in a hopeless place, I had long since given up on catching a mysterious stranger’s eye.
A few months ago I was crying on the subway, which is always embarrassing, and I am an ugly crier at the best of times.
I had sort of forgotten about the crying jag until last week, when I heard footsteps approaching me rapidly, as if to catch up, and someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a guy I didn’t know.
“Hey,” he said. “I saw you crying on the subway a few weeks ago.”
“Oh,” I said. “Yeah. That wasn’t a great day.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It didn’t look like it. So, um … are you okay?”
I stared at him blankly. “Now?” I said. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
“Because you seemed … upset,” he trailed off lamely.
“Well, it’s very nice of you to check in,” I said. “That means a lot.” And then I left, because I had somewhere to be. I am not sure the encounter was what either of us would have hoped.