One-Night (Produce) Stand?

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Dear Sara,

A stranger asked me out, in the produce section of real life, and I
more or less ran away from him. My friend then made fun of me, but I
didn’t know what to do. I just feel more safe and comfortable meeting
new people online. Weird? Probably. I feel bad about it. He was kinda
cute too. I felt like I had to make a decision right then.

Dear In-Headlights,

One of the oft-overlooked little beauties of the internet is that in a
sense, it is a slow-life movement even as it speeds so much else up.
Yes, new social acronyms are born there every day and Urban Dictionary
dutifully keeps track. But it has also given us something back that
we’d culturally lost. It is a place of pen pals and waiting several
days to hear back from a thoughtfully composed email. The comfort
level you’re describing comes from the power of being able to think
about and compose a response on your own terms. Yes, few people
utilize this power when engaged in a heated political argument on
Facebook, but nevertheless, it is an option, and speaking as one who likes
to write, I prefer it to the feeling of being put on the spot that
happens often enough in real life.

What you really wanted was to experience your grocery store moment slowed-down, long enough to have a chance to think about how to respond. The internet is The Neutral Zone and you’re the captain of your personal spaceship. Not so in the real world, where apparently a cute guy who had the balls to talk to a strange girl in the first place, makes you feel like you’d have to marry him or something if you gave him your email address. Decide in advance what information you feel safest giving bold strangers and stick to it. For some, it’s a phone number. For others, it’s the email address they use for coupons but not the one tied to
their Facebook account. And remember that the internet feels safer in part because it’s full of so much fiction (where anonymous authors feel safer inventing new MLK quotes than they do owning up to their own words, for instance). Any safe “feeling” is very rarely grounded in anything real. I mean watching Robert Redford in Out of Africa makes me feel VERY safe. Real safety has nothing to do with a feeling or a fantasy. It comes from good choices and proper safety nets in place. You know, stuff like a really long password containing numbers and special characters. Now that you’ve had this experience, you’ll know what to do next time. In the meantime, this is why Craigslist has a Missed Connections section.

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