Amid the Throng

The Carmena Waltz, composed in 1902, features a smitten girl caught up in delirious infatuation. The song is staged at a soiree where music and moon beams intoxicate.

Amid the throng,
many, many are fair.
Bright flowerets twined in raven hair!
Dark eyes sparkle and gleam,
soft lips breath tender sighs…

We imagine ourselves swooning in chorus amid the lush pageantry; the plot thickens.

Ah! Now rings a voice I know from every voice apart!
Through the orange grove he hastens, he is coming…
O, my heart!

I have a friend who’s been seeking a lover. She utilizes dating sites and does a certain amount of Facebook stalking. Often our conversations meander to the next step in her mission to retrieve a lover. True to our culture of immediate satisfaction, she wants the dirt tout suite. Even before the first date, when she’s merely examining prospects, she seeks the richest caches of information. Who are they? What are their goals? How much investment are they willing to put into a relationship? What are their insecurities?

One can so quickly discern multiple layers of a person’s personality in today’s digital representation of societal networks. The weeks, months, or even years-long work of asking around with the barkeep, your mother’s cousin, your neighbors, or the town gossip has taken a back seat to the digital gossip reel. When my friend signs in, she reacts to these potential lovers’ images, statistics, general outlook, sense of humor. At once you can see several styles of a person’s two dimensional facsimile, their body and gestural stance in photo. You can see the intertwined streams of their histories: employment, family ties, unnamed relationships. You’ll see towns they visit, hobbies they pursue. Some list pockets of information as teases, while others still inflate their positive traits with bias. Some chose to reveal the very crux of their personalities: their hubris, their deepest desires.

It’s not that the majority of humanity now starts the great romances of their lives digitally, but the internet is a tool we now use for love among so many other interactions. We talk, plan, and scope each other out via the internet. We have the option to see our social network through a filtered view unavailable to our lady in Carmena. If she did filter out people in her community (he should love the smell of orange blossoms, adore my sparkling eyes, be between the ages of 23 and 35, identify as a ‘casual social drinker’ and non-smoker, have no children, and live within 100 — no, no — 150 miles of zip code 98501) would she have had anybody left? How many people did she have to look through to find love? How many different partners and cities did she live in as a single independent woman? Could her choices have included four hundred new “friends” she made after attending a year at a university?

When I sing the waltz, my senses volunteer themselves to interpret the lyrics. I am excited by the sensual fragrance of the orange grove, my eyes delight in thinking of ornately styled black locks. I imagine the moon’s beams seeming to highlight the elegant designs of human faces. When I am using all of my senses to be present in a moment, my emotions swell and it seems natural that love would follow, or so we are told in songs like Carmena. But through the advent of dating websites and digital society I have to wonder: is it antiquated to have to be physically present with someone to have the biochemical interchange of falling in love? Will we even will judge our next mates with the physical world as primary criteria?

Ultimately it takes a mix of every sensual and logical interpretation mechanism working in a mad frenzy to fall in love as humans. We know that soft lips breathing tender sighs are infinitely more swaying than a poke, an email, or a sext. But the digital society and our digital presence allows us to flirt and showcase our charms like no other species or generation of human has ever been able to.