'Fake Missed Connections' A Genre Of Its Own
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There's no way to get around it; online dating is work. And some people are more skilled at this kind of communication than others, knowing how to divulge enough information to seem like you're sharing without actually divulging anything of substance, alternating gracefully between ironic texts and earnest GChats, caring but not caring. Brett Fletcher Lauer got pretty good at this kind of repartee, first for fun and then for love. His new memoir is called "Fake Missed Connections: Divorce, Online Dating And Other Failures." He joins us now from our studios in New York. Brett, welcome to the show.
BRETT FLETCHER LAUER: Thanks so much for having me.
MARTIN: You went through a pretty horrible divorce. Your wife had been cheating on you, and it was not an amicable break. Your friends convinced you to go online. What was that first profile like? What did you say about yourself?
LAUER: So I was sitting in my - in an apartment with my friends. And you know, they had the computer in their lap. And they were just reading me the questions. And I just didn't want to answer them. I thought that, you know, summarizing your entire life in a sentence or a phrase of my likes and dislikes was a little bit disingenuous. So we just actually took some poetry books down off the shelf. And they would ask a question. And I'd open it at random and then give a line of poetry. I'm a poet myself. So I felt like that poetic line would be kind of representative of a sensibility that maybe I had. So there was definitely a feeling of it being sort of a joke. And you know, I should also mention one of my profile pics was of me in a Halloween costume of a horse head. So I wasn't - I wasn't really trying to put myself out there in the best way. But people did reply.
MARTIN: This started out, as you say, kind of as a little tongue-in-cheek joke thing, a little performance art. And you took it to another level - not just filling out an online dating profile but creating fake missed connections. Most of us will know that missed connections, these are these - I find them very romantic. You read them in Craigslist. They're the whole, you know, I saw you on the subway platform, but then the doors shut, and we - I thought we had something. You know, email me if you were wearing a blue sweater under a full moon on Tuesday or something. And you decided that you were going to write fake missed connections. Why?
LAUER: Yes, it sounds kind of cruel a little bit, now that I'm hearing it.
MARTIN: That is literally the word that I have written down here. That sounds really cruel (laughter).
LAUER: Yeah, I mean, I was obsessed with missed connections. And I do think they're completely romantic. But there also is a sense that there is a little bit of loneliness and desperation there because the probability of finding someone that way is a small probability compared to other ways of tracking someone down. And so when I was reading them, there's a language to them that is very familiar. I mean, I saw you is probably how most of them start. And so I just kind of started thinking of them as a genre and wanted to see what would happen if I put one up. And when I put one up, people responded.
MARTIN: I mean, I'm snickering because while I found offense at this, I also found them to be really entertaining. I'd love if you would read one of them.
LAUER: Of course. (Reading) Subject, L train this morning, man for woman, Brooklyn. You were on the L train wearing skinny jeans and an expression of doubt. I share that doubt and wanted to share my thoughts on podcasting, 19th century Russian novels and French pressed coffee. Your body language implied you were interested in these things, as well as polka music, in a strangely un-ironic way, East Asian horticulture and car racing. I think that if we met, I will explode into knowing the exact way to sing in the shower and cook pasta for your tiny mouth.
LAUER: (Reading) If you felt the same way, let me know - smoke signals, etcetera.
MARTIN: I can't imagine that you could read this and think it was anything but funny. But people did reply.
LAUER: They did. And I think, you know, a lot of them start with something that is familiar, like, you were on the train, and you were wearing skinny jeans. And so some people would respond and just say, I was on the L train this morning. But also, some people would respond and say, I've been reading missed connections myself, and I wish I was that person. Or, you know, to just express that same feeling of longing that I think the post expressed itself. And so there was kind of a little bit of a back-and-forth community and acknowledging what was happening but also acknowledging that possibility for romance.
MARTIN: This is a spoiler alert. I'm just going to give it anyway because you did fall in love through this process - not the missed connections, but online dating.
LAUER: Yes. I could not be happier. Ultimately, I found the person who I married and who I'm spending the rest of my life with.
MARTIN: I did too, by the way.
LAUER: Oh, you did?
MARTIN: I did. You're a poet, and you were clearly engaged in all of this as a kind of experiment in language and social interaction. What did you learn, when you look back?
LAUER: You know, it's - I was thinking about that on the way in. And I think I'm still learning it, you know, 'cause so much of it was about writing the book. And now so much of it is the anxiety of all of my secrets being out in the world. And so I think in a year, I'll have a very good answer for that. But, I mean, I think it is about, you know, regaining a kind of faith in other people and being able to love again.
MARTIN: Brett Fletcher Lauer's new memoir is called "Fake Missed Connections: Divorce, Online Dating And Other Failures." It was great to talk to you, Brett.
LAUER: Thanks so much.
MARTIN: And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
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