I have a friend named . . . actually, “friend” is a substantial word, with robust implications. I save that word for just a few people. I have an acquaintance . . . but “acquaintance” means you know someone well. That would be stepping off the path of veracity here. There is someone whose existence I’m aware of, named Lester Ray, who comes to my house sometimes and sits on my porch. If I give him a beer or two or four, eventually he goes away. So we have our relationship.
I have never been able to verify whether Lester Ray has told me anything that would not hold up in court on a busy day. Thus the story I tell here has some statistical chance of truth. I would not condescend to pass on this parable except as it was related to me. I do not fabricate.
Lester Ray, that is, had reached the grievous conclusion that the romantic part of his life had ceased to entirely meet his needs, consisting, as it did, only of himself. He decided to participate in internet dating. People, I know, you are asking “Why would anyone do that?” I condescend to tell you only what I know. As I mentioned, I seldom fabricate.
Lester Ray, that is, signed up for an internet dating service. It required a profile. He created a profile. It required a statement of interests. He described his interests. It asked for a photo. Lester Ray, that is, did not include a photo. “My physiognomy is more revelatory in real life, in terms of my qualities,” he said. Who could deny such precision? I have known photographs that frightened small children, whereas the actual person only made them wary.
Women, that is, did not reply to the profile. Oh, people, the superficiality of this shallow world. I know you agree with me. Lester Ray decided that perhaps the description of his interests needed the piquant stimulus of visuality, so he posted a photo of his truck, a red Ford with a small green air freshener in the shape of a Christmas tree, hanging gladly from the rear view mirror. “Ladies,” that little tree promised, “here is where it smells good.”
Women, that is, still did not reply. Lester Ray had a brief sojourn in the vale of perplexity. Women like good smells, and they like a man with property, and he had illustrated both, so what was the impediment to romantic vivacity? Then Lester Ray remembered that of course, women love animals. So he added a picture of his dog, Jimgoober, a brilliant hound of grace and poise known by every mailman in the county. That is, Jimgoober had known his day, and the fact that his day was slightly expired was not the dog’s fault. If he still had hair, he would have been handsome.
Women, that is, grew even less interested, and one woman who had looked at Lester Ray’s profile wrote him to say that just in case he was thinking of it, she wanted to make sure he never contacted her. “You’re not the sort of man I would want to date,” she wrote, “or know casually, or see on the street, or be aware of in any way.” Some women don’t like dogs.
Lester Ray, in his observations of the human condition, had also noticed how much people are drawn to mysteries, so he decided to post a photo of himself with the added allure of enigma. The photo showed him standing somewhere that wasn’t clear, and in light that was not very bright, so it wasn’t possible to be certain that he had all the standard facial features. Which I happen to know he mostly does.
Women, by God, did not respond.
Lester Ray looked carefully over his profile, wondering where the deficit was most acute. Perhaps, he thought, it was the listing of his interests, insufficient in detail. He was fond of movies, for instance, but was that fact entirely clear? He took down all the other photos and posted a picture of the actor Brad Pitt, to show how much he enjoyed movies.
Women, that is, began to write him, and he would give them opportunities to observe his physiognomy in person. “But every woman who I set up a meeting with,” Lester Ray said, “would walk in, and before she said a word, she would turn around and leave.” It turns out none of them liked movies after all.
People, what would you do when faced with such a great riddle? Lester Ray and I both drank another beer.