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ROSE NOLEN: Technology thrives, but real relationships suffocate

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

About 25 years ago, my pastor asked me whatever happened to courtship. He meant the old-fashioned kind, where a suitor asked for the parents' permission and announced his intentions before dating. Later on, at the appropriate time, the man would propose on bended knee.

I told my pastor that for the most part all that had disappeared, along with other qualities such as self-restraint, accountability and good manners. He went on to recite to me all the thrills of anticipation he experienced in the long months he courted his wife. His quaint memories reminded me of one of the tales from "Arabian Nights."

Romance has taken quite a few twists since then, though sex outside of marriage had already become the rule rather than the exception at that time. Still, people were being introduced to each other by other acquaintances, meeting each other in bars or at other social gatherings.

But as television became more popular and social gatherings began to diminish, many people found they had fewer opportunities to meet Ms. or Mr. Right, and that ushered in a the day of the social ad. You could turn to the advertisement section of your local newspaper to read what a single male or female was seeking. Social ads gave way to websites willing, for a for a fee, to reveal members who might be available to fulfill dreams of wedded bliss. And then there are always chat rooms and social networks where people can meet potential mates.

Love, or at least lust, is constantly blooming all over the place. And, of course, some are cutting directly to the chase. Last week a friend of mine received a webcam as a birthday gift. She has a new grandchild who lives far away, and so she was delighted that she would be able to watch him grow up. Delighted, that is, until she learned from more electronically sophisticated people that that particular device was also popularly used for cybersex.

Unfortunately, no electronic instrument has been invented to decrease the divorce rate. Apparently, all the new avenues opened for the pursuit of romance have not led to more perfect unions. It would appear that the problems with troubled male-female relationships lie somewhere beyond the opportunities to meet one another. Too many people, I believe, are trying to live their lives the way they see life lived on television. Their entire concept of romance and marriage is based on scripts conceived in the minds of scriptwriters. Many people have shaped their needs, desires and dreams according to the fictitious characters portrayed by actors and actresses on the television screen.

Perhaps with all the television, cell phones, iPods, computers and other devices some of us are listening to, there are so many voices that we don't have time to search our own brains long enough to figure out who we really are. Maybe the person we're presenting to other people is not the real us at all. By the time a person takes care of her personal business, performs her job duties and relates to thousands of "friends" on her social network, there would seem to be little time to spend with herself.

In any case, if my old pastor were still around today, I doubt he could comprehend what passes for the romantic lives of many of his parishioners. I'm sure he would be horrified at the idea of people developing personal relationships with total strangers by way of something as impersonal as cyberspace. I'm certain he wouldn't be surprised about the quality of the acquaintance, though. But, on the other hand, the same conditions seem to prevail among some people who have known each other all their lives or at least thought they did.

With so much going on in many of our lives today, it's difficult to stay on our own tracks. When individuals have mates, families and sometimes elderly parents, multitasking would seem to be the only way to get anything done. Nevertheless, we all owe it to ourselves to spend as much time as we can examining our beliefs, testing our value systems, exploring our imaginations, learning more about the world we live in, discovering new possibilities and trying to expose the best of ourselves to each other.

Let's just consider it the rent we pay for the time we get to share with each other.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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Comments

Michael Williams March 29, 2011 | 11:13 a.m.

Excellent column...with which I agree completely.

I've often marveled at how we got from the twin beds in the Dick Van Dyke show to the stuff we get nowadays. I'm pretty sure Ms Nolen's pastor could answer that question accurately; given his profession, I'm betting he would be spot-on.

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