I am the “25-year-old dude who loathes online dating.” The reader’s response to my email is interesting. I rather enjoyed it (especially the Tevye reference!) and it made me have to really think about my position.
I want to emphasize that I was not “effortlessly social” prior to my month-long stay in the hospital. In fact, I was very much an introvert. It took a long glance over the precipice of my existence to come to the conclusion that I applied too much pressure to my social interactions. I would sweat over dates; I would stutter and fidget. I was a wreck when it came to interacting with women or even male acquaintances.
After a brush with death, I realized that not only had I secluded myself, but I had gone about interacting with others the wrong way: I would put enormous amounts of pressure on myself to impress or to avoid embarrassment. I decided then, as I limped around the hospital with a tube 12 centimeters into my chest and emptying my inner fluids into a box that I held like a purse, that I wanted to meet people.
I know this sounds unbelievably simple; it is! But although meeting people was really difficult for me to do, I decided that it was not as hard as what I had just gone through. My experience grounded me, and it bestowed clarity. My original post implored others to not be shy, to not apply so much pressure, because life is short. I’m really concerned that the more reliant on technology we are, the less human we become—especially when it comes to meeting other humans!
I do not partake in online dating because I enjoy the moment I meet someone and we reveal ourselves to one another (with conversation, of course). I can gauge how friendly, how kind, how outgoing one is speaking to them for the first time in person, as opposed to online messages that are not limited by time constraints and facial gestures. Some like to skip that part: whatever, that’s fine. With this method, I have made many guy friends as well, usually guys who frequent the bar I go to. They introduce me to their friends, and before I know it, I have made five new acquaintances.
Or, as a dating approach, you could send a letter to the 500-year-old oak tree featured in the above film:
In June 1891, a young couple married under an oak tree in Germany’s Dodauer Forest. The newlyweds and the tree shared an undeniably romantic bond; during their courtship, they exchanged secret letters by dropping them into a knothole on the tree's trunk. Their story spread by word of mouth, and within decades, others began sending letters too. In 1927, Germany assigned the tree its own postal code. The legend of the “Bridegroom's Oak” was born.
Filmmaker Claudia Bracholdt’s utterly charming documentary considers the role of Bridegroom's Oak as both fairy tale and matchmaker. She interviews Karl Heinz Martens, a retired postal worker who delivered mail to the tree for more than 20 years. (“Usually, you have five to six letters a day,” he says. “But when the media reported on it, you easily had 40 to 50.”) He even has a love story of his own: he met his wife after she wrote him a letter—mailed to the Oak, of course—and he replied. They’ve been married ever since.
Here are two remaining emails from readers, the second one shaking his fist at the Internet cloud:
Great thread! Online dating, while I haven’t always relied on it, has for me been a net positive. Of the four serious relationships I’ve had in my life, two of them have been initiated online in some form. (One person I met on OKCupid and dated for nearly a year; the other was a friend of a friend who I had originally been “introduced” to on Facebook and whom I later ended up dating for three years after we found ourselves living in the same city.) The two initiated offline were typical younger person romances: high school and college, forced together by proximity with all the success that generally entails.
First, it has allowed me to met people on my terms. I’m friendly, talkative and outgoing, but I don’t open up that readily and therefore having the ability to pre-screen dates for some level of comfort and compatibility before I subject them to my Scandinavian-by-way-of-New-England manners and the obvious series of long pause-filled conversations that will ensue. In other words, I can appear aloof and standoffish if I don’t know you well. I don’t do first dates well (though I’m told I’m a fantastic second date) and I get along better with people who I already have some sort of comfort level with, which is why I often end up dating friends of friends. Online dating allows me to build rapport BEFORE the date and therefore not seem so damn boring.
Second, the first phase of my career had me moving around, a lot—like 20 addresses in eight years. If it weren't for craigslist, OKCupid, Tinder and the like, I would have spent a significant portion of that time lonely, horny, and just plain bored.
Online dating can be depressing and disappointing, but overall I’d say the experience has allowed me to open up to and connect with far more people than I would have if left to my wits. I’m happy for it and plan to keep it a part of my social strategy until I meet that special someone.
A very different view comes from a “25-year-old dude who absolutely loathes online dating”:
I have been called a Luddite many times in my life, but I consider myself a cultural savior for my stances. Online dating, in my opinion, mocks our very humanity and creates misanthropes, incapable of social interactions.
I made this opinion some time ago, when I was stuck in the hospital for a month after undergoing multiple procedures on my lung. For the first three weeks, I was confined to the floor my room was on. However, my doctor was generous, noticing my cabin fever, and allowed me to travel throughout the hospital for the last week. Mind you, I had not taken a proper shower in weeks, but due to the existential crises I had undergone in that time, I surmised I would not dither when I saw an attractive woman (one who was unoccupied, of course).
With a tube in my chest, trailing under my sweater, hospital socks with boat shoes, and soccer shorts, I approached one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen as she ate lunch with two of her girlfriends. My stench was palpable, my hair greasy, but no matter. Long story short, I hit it off with all three; we had a blast. I exchanged numbers with the girl and went on a few dates.
In conclusion, I want my generation, the Millennial generation, to realize we are not all that different. We are all insecure in some fashion, but we all want to interact with each other; we all want connections. If we didn’t, we wouldn't be making online dating profiles, would we?
So, when you are sitting at the coffee shop this afternoon, by yourself, and you see someone else, why not approach them, introduce yourself, and talk to each other? It doesn’t have to end with an exchange of phone numbers or a promise of future encounters. Don’t be like me, where it takes a life threatening moment to realize that staying to yourself is rather boring.
Keep me anonymous, please. And thanks for the Notes section!
Update from the first reader:
Just as an aside, I take issue with reader whose email followed mine. I find it offensive and othering that people who are for whatever reason effortlessly social (or, as we used to call them, glib) are somehow better or more deserving of relationships and that those of us who use some form of mediation are less than. Online dating is merely a digital variant of a singles scene that’s existed at least as long as traditional routes to marriage have been in decline. You might even argue that having a service that relies on an algorithm that puts people together in some way is in essence only little different from a matchmaker. Would that reader have been running around Anatevka pissing and moaning that none of Tevye’s daughters have earned it? (actually...)
The tendency to look down one’s nose at people who use online dating and color it with that broad-brush argument that digital mediation is killing the art of conversation would be offensive if it weren't so, you know, wrong. It’s a specious and fundamentally conservative argument that seeks to preserve the social primacy of the extroverted.
It’s a popular topic among readers, unsurprisingly, and many of them continue to have interesting insights. This Millennial reader certainly reflects her generation:
I’m a 32-year-old woman who has never have a long-term, committed, relationship initiated offline. My first real boyfriend was with another teenager whom I met in an AOL chatroom in 1998. My second serious relationship was started after responding to a Craigslist ad that a friend saw. Last year, after living traveling abroad and having flings and cross-cultural mis-relationships, I started using OKCupid, where I met someone I dated for a year. Then I got on Tinder, and after having a few flings, I met someone who I’ve been dating for a few months.
For most of my adult dating life, I’ve felt conflicted about my inability to have more serious relationships that start in other venues than online. I’ve spent some time thinking about this, but I hit the crux of why this works for me: 1) I’m shy; 2) with online dating, people are (usually) upfront about what they are looking for; and, 3) I have time to spool out the “getting-to-know-you” phase.
Another young woman with lots of experience dating online shares her lessons:
Hi Chris! Your reader’s note feels a little like the story of my life right now. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that love is so much more than and nowhere close to a fairy tale.
In short, I’ve been on 45 first dates in six months (not including second or more dates, or the hundreds of messages exchanged), and I’ve learned more about myself than I could ever imagine. More importantly, though, I learned what love should be. It’s not algorithmic, sure, but it’s also not a flash in the pan and all Cinderella-like where you look across the room and you see the person and fall madly in love with one life-changing look.
Online dating has taught me that love isn’t something that comes out of nowhere; it grows and it changes and it is, most importantly, a CHOICE. You choose the person you like being around the most and you make a choice to grow and learn and fight it out with someone. In a world (and especially a city!) where we constantly have what Barry Schwartz terms “the paradox of choice,” love is something that is special because it’s a choice to commit, and that’s hard to find.
In that way, online dating is the answer to so many questions and concerns. Life would be great if everyone could find that one person destined to be their great love, but I don’t believe that’s how it works. One day the shiny newness will go away, and we will have to choose to still muddle through together. I’m thankful that online dating allows me to get to know someone “long distance,” even if that just means I’m in Harlem and he is in Brooklyn. We can all put our needs and wants front and center, and the anonymity of online dating makes that easier than ever.
So online dating saved me in a weird way. It made me put my priorities in line so that I could articulate them to another person and weed out those who don’t want to commit to the same choice I do. It allowed me to realize that I have control of this ship, and sometimes that’s half the battle.
That theme of “choice” is especially emphasized with Bumble, the new-ish dating app that doesn’t allow men to initiate contact; women have to send the first message. It’s a small difference from other apps like Tinder but theoretically has a profound impact on dating culture, since it both empowers women to make the first move and lets guys off the hook for once—and limits offensive messages. Kelly Diamond, a blogger at xoJane,recently tried it out:
By forcing myself to take Bumble seriously after downloading it, I realized how hard it really is to reach out first. I understand now why some guys crack and say disgusting things. Their brains are haywire from all the pressure. It doesn’t mean I excuse their behavior in any way, but I (sort of) understand it.
Another reader provides a window into the very early days of online dating:
My experience happened before the ‘net had much to offer. First I put an ad on the local cable channel, which did lead to a six-month relationship. After that I took out an ad online for a site that let scientists connect for non-science interactions. Though that didn’t lead to a romantic relationship, I did communicate for several years with a woman I met there.
I subsequently took out an ad in the newspaper that got me three responses (though one of them left a six-digit phone number, either through a brain cramp or last-moment cold feet). I married one and have stayed friendly with the other. This was 18 years ago.
To me, the takeaway from this experience is how it short-circuits the typical tentative beginnings. Because I was quite frank and open about what I had to offer and what I was looking for, my future wife and I were able to have serious discussions immediately. If I attempted to talk about marriage, children, retirement locations, etc. on a first encounter in a bar, how likely would that lead to a relationship? But because my respondents “pre-screened” themselves (meaning any other woman who read my ad and wasn’t interested simply didn’t respond), we were able to cut through the typical uncertainty when meeting in any other social situation.
I suspect that these dating sites, algorithms or no, allow for the same sort of pre-screening that happened for me. (Though I didn’t get any information on them; it was all one-way back then). If your “about” page says you are looking for casual hookups, you won’t get any attention from someone looking for a long-term committed relationship. Try and make those sorts of screening decisions in a bar!
A final reader suggests some further reading:
I just thought I’d pass along an article about how a programmer found his fiancee through gaming the online dating system: “How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love.” As if to give both the “true love” and “love is probabilistic” viewpoints support, the programmer ended up proposing to a person he had only a 92 percent match with, as opposed to those the algorithm gave much higher probabilities for.
I may be coming at this discussion from a different perspective, but I think it’s an important one. I have cerebral palsy, which made traditional dating a little tough, to say the least. I’m lucky in that my case is extremely mild. The only visible indication is that I quite noticeably walk on my toes and am pigeon toed. But I do also have to deal with muscle, hip and knee pain, plus the occasional shakes.
None of this has stopped me from living a full life. I have a BA, have traveled through quite a bit of the country (though not nearly enough of it, or the wider world), performed Moliere and Shakespeare on stage, enjoyably got my ass kicked in many a mosh pit, lived on my own, and, much like many other people, was moderately successful in a cubicle-drone type of job that I didn’t particularly enjoy.
Being the shy, introverted soul that I am, walking into a bar, club, party, or any other similar social situation was nerve wracking at best. Couple that with the fact that I naturally draw unwanted attention simply by walking into a room, and my already high amount of social anxiety shoots right off the charts.
On the few occasions where I managed to gather myself and approach someone in a setting like this—usually with the help of a not inconsequential amount of alcohol—I was generally greeted with awkwardness and embarrassment after the inevitable “so … why do you walk like that?” question. Then it usually devolved into polite disinterest from them and one or both of us walking away. There were even a few instances with some variation on “oh, I just thought you were slow or something,” which didn’t bode well for future interactions.
Workplace romances also always seemed to end particularly badly for me, so I also swore those off by my late 20s. So my teens and early 20s were, without fail, dismal failures on the dating front.
Enter online dating. I initially hid my cerebral palsy from my profile and messages, fearing I would scare people off. And I assumed it would be no big deal to reveal this once we actually met. If we were already hitting it off during a date, why would it be a problem, right?
Well … after a couple awkward first dates where I was accused of lying by not disclosing this fact, I decided to put my CP front and center, recognizing the dishonesty in my thinking.
After these initial missteps, the beauty of online dating for someone in my situation really presented itself. Being able to communicate with someone who’s fully aware of who I am and everything that entails before committing to an in-person meeting made things far less intimidating and awkward when we finally did meet. We could have days or weeks of in-depth conversations, to the point that we feel like good friends before ever laying eyes on each other in real life.
I had my first real, serious relationships with women I met online, and while obviously not all of them turn out perfectly, I did eventually strike gold. I met my wife online and am now more in love than I ever thought I would be. We met shortly after exchanging a few messages and have never looked back. (And yes, like your other reader, we were matched by the OKCupid algorithm.) I enthusiastically followed her across the country so she could follow her career, and now I get to stay home and spend all day taking care of our 18-month-old twin girls and their two-and-a-half-year-old big sister. I couldn’t be happier.
I’m certain there are others out there with CP or a different condition who can light up a room with their raw animal magnetism and have no problem finding dates and relationships. I was not one of those people. For this shy, nerdy kid with CP, online dating really did save me. I have no doubt that I’d still be single if not for OKC, and for this I thank Mr. Rudder. I obviously can’t speak for everyone with disabilities or severe social anxiety, but I imagine that others in similar situations have had similar experiences.
I just read your very interesting post about online dating. After a long string of failed conventional relationships, all of them with women I met in college courses or extracurricular activity groups, after graduation I shifted over to online dating. I had just broken up with the last girlfriend I knew from my college years and was working very long hours in my new career. That mixture of a much busier schedule and being completely severed from my college network of friends really did a number on my social life.
So online dating was actually a bit of a last-ditch measure at the time. But long-term, it turned out to be for the best, and I think I was “Saved” in exactly the manner your reader describes. After something like 200 messages sent out over multiple sites and 20 or so face-to-face meetings, I met my future wife via OKCupid in 2009 and got married the following year. Five years later, things are as good as ever.
The biggest benefit of online dating to me was that it exponentially increased my pool of potential mates, far beyond the choices available during any of my years in school. I grew up in a small town in rural northern Pennsylvania and was completely miserable around the opposite gender in high school.
College started out the same way, but after making a few lifestyle adjustments two years in, I was at least able to have meaningful—though over-dramatically dysfunctional—romantic relationships. If online dating had not existed, I think I would have had no choice but to “settle” for one of these women I met in college, due of a lack of other options. But I know I would not have been completely happy long-term being with someone with whom I wasn’t 100 percent compatible, setting myself up for affairs, divorces, or other nasty events later in marriage.
It’s important to note that my wife and I met on an algorithm-based dating site like OKCupid, and not the shallow “meat markets” like Tinder that have become more popular since we met. My wife and I are both techie/intellectual types, and while we’re not ugly, we’re not the type of people likely to prosper in an environment like Tinder where looks are everything and words are meaningless.
So I hope despite controversies such as the OKCupid founder playing “mad scientist” with his matching algorithms, that there will still be a place out there for other dating sites used by ordinary-looking people who want to connect on an intellectual level.
Another reader makes an interesting connection:
I haven’t read Dataclysm, and since I’ve been married 35 years, I’m not dating off or online. But your reader made a perceptive comment about algorithms that made me think of matchmakers and arranged marriages.
I live in China, where the title of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” describes a surprisingly common attitude towards marriage. Stable job, house, car, status, future, health—those are the things that count. Maybe you love, maybe you don’t. A rather objective consideration of financial prospects carries more weight.
Except in some remote areas, matchmakers are uncommon, and arranged marriages have all but disappeared. But I think the algorithms of online dating are emerging as fair substitutes.
A reader just stumbled upon a piece Jim Kozube wrote for us last year, “Love Is Not Algorithmic,” which is deeply skeptical of online dating:
As a pure coincidence, I’m actually reading Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm right now and enjoying it. I think Kozube is taking a bit too harsh a view on this book, but I might also be misreading his intentions. As a software engineer, I’m enjoying Dataclysm because I spend every day thinking about the best ways to manage large volumes of online data. I think it’s important for us, in this age of “big data,” to understand what kinds of data are being collected, how this pool of data is currently being analyzed, and what the future applications for it might be.
So I don’t see Dataclysm as some sort of futuristic “turning love into equations” robo-pick-up-artist manual. I think it’s supposed to be more of a “hey, look at the trends that are appearing in this staggeringly huge pool of data we’ve collected over the years. Isn’t this neat?”
I also wish that people wouldn’t keep getting so worked up about technology replacing love. It’s possible that I’m just speaking from the viewpoint of the single (as a 25-year-old woman with no long-lasting relationships since high school). I mean, yes, love is obviously this great and amazing thing. But love can also be horrible, especially when it’s not working out for us.
When I was a depressed 19-23 year old, one of the largest contributing factors to feeling I’d never do anything worthwhile with my life was the fact that I couldn’t get any of my relationships to stick. I fell hard for a lot of people, and they were just never as interested in me. You know how I got over that cycle? Online dating.
Online dating made me realize you can have casual relationships, then they can end, and the world doesn’t end with them. It made me realize that when relationships don’t work out, it’s almost never the fault of one person. Sometimes people just don’t get along, and that’s completely normal, because some people are just not your type, or you aren’t theirs—and that doesn’t mean anyone is a bad person.
It made me realize that, yes, love is great and amazing and whatever, but you can survive without romantic love. And I think it’s good to, at times, be able to apply that more scientific, algorithmic representation to love, because then you can take a step back from it and survey it objectively when your idealization of it, and your painful awareness of your imagined failure to achieve it, might be destroying you.
Kozube also makes a point that he would overall rather stick with Badiou than read Dataclysm. That’s perfectly valid. However, I just want to counter: why not both? Reading things we might not agree with or enjoy is how we challenge our own opinions and strengthen our convictions. I’m enjoying Dataclysm. I’ve also read, in full, such books as Moby-Dick, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Blood Meridian, so I feel like my lit cred can’t be questioned here. Don’t be like this about literature. Not all literature needs to be serious and full of lofty ideals.
Sometimes the loftiest of ideals are disguised in the simplest of language. Sometimes it’s much harder to make a truly universal, meaningful point in words that everyone can understand.
If you had a big breakthrough with online dating you want to share, drop me an email.
In the United States, this pandemic could be almost over by now. The reasons it’s still going are pretty clear.
In the United States, this pandemic could’ve been over by now, and certainly would’ve been by Labor Day. If the pace of vaccination through the summer had been anything like the pace in April and May, the country would be nearing herd immunity. With most adults immunized, new and more infectious coronavirus variants would have nowhere to spread. Life could return nearly to normal.
Experts list many reasons for the vaccine slump, but one big reason stands out: vaccine resistance among conservative, evangelical, and rural Americans. Pro-Trump America has decided that vaccine refusal is a statement of identity and a test of loyalty.
In April, people in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020 were two points more likely to be fully vaccinated than people in counties that Donald Trump won: 22.8 percent were fully vaccinated in Biden counties; 20.6 percent were fully vaccinated in Trump counties. By early July, the vaccination gap had widened to almost 12 points: 46.7 percent were fully vaccinated in Biden counties, 35 percent in Trump counties. When pollsters ask about vaccine intentions, they record a 30-point gap: 88 percent of Democrats, but only 54 percent of Republicans, want to be vaccinated as soon as possible. All told, Trump support predicts a state’s vaccine refusal better than average income or education level.
The once-dynamic state is closing the door on economic opportunity.
Behold California, colossus of the West Coast: the most populous American state; the world’s fifth-largest economy; and arguably the most culturally influential, exporting Google searches and Instagram feeds and iPhones and Teslas and Netflix Originals and kimchi quesadillas. This place inspires awe. If I close my eyes I can see silhouettes of Joshua trees against a desert sunrise; seals playing in La Jolla’s craggy coves of sun-spangled, emerald seawater; fog rolling over the rugged Sonoma County coast at sunset into primeval groves of redwoods that John Steinbeck called “ambassadors from another time.”
This landscape is bejeweled with engineering feats: the California Aqueduct; the Golden Gate Bridge; and the ribbon of Pacific Coast Highway that stretches south of Monterey, clings to the cliffs of Big Sur, and descends the kelp-strewn Central Coast, where William Hearst built his Xanadu on a hillside where his zebras still graze. No dreamscape better inspires dreamers. Millions still immigrate to my beloved home to improve both their prospects and ours.
Why did so many Americans receive strange packages they didn’t think they’d ordered?
Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner, sat atop his stallion Smokey and faced the camera. It was Saturday, August 1, 2020. Miller had a message to share.
“Good morning, patriots,” Miller began, raising the coiled lasso in his right hand by way of greeting. “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of all these surprises coming out of China. First it was the Chinese virus, then we had the murder hornets, then we had to close the embassy in Houston because of espionage … Now we’ve got all these mystery seeds coming in in the mail.”
It was the seeds that Miller wanted to speak about. By then, news of the seeds had been circulating for several days. Packets were turning up at homes across the United States; residents of every state would eventually report receiving them. Their address labels and Customs declarations indicated that they had been sent from China. The contents were usually described as an item of jewelry—something like “rose stud earrings”—but inside would be a small packet of unidentified seeds. There was no evident reason why particular people were receiving particular seeds, or why people were receiving seeds at all.
I carried on for more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, but I didn’t see the next plague coming.
After the end of the world, there will be birdsong. I used to imagine this when everything was going awry. I would lie in bed in my college dorm room and listen to the lone mockingbird who sang all night outside my window in the spring months. I was worried about something or other; he was getting on with things. It’s what birds do. They have a knack for it. In the Book of Genesis, after the devastation of the Earth by God’s cataclysmic flood, Noah releases from his ark a dove; he knows that the trial has ended when the bird does not return, having alighted somewhere out in the damp and dreary world, the first land-dwelling creature to begin the work of carrying on.
What else is there to do? When COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, late in the winter of 2020, I told myself as much. In plagues, as in life, there is a morally arbitrary hierarchy of luck, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that my family and I were among the lucky ones. I was in my late 20s, hale and hearty, my husband the same plus a couple of years. Our children were young—our baby was, in fact, under a year old, something I eventually mentioned in a meekly anxious aside to a doctor I was interviewing for a story on the emerging pandemic. He acknowledged certain risks in the way that doctors do, and then said: “Don’t worry. Kids are kicking ass with this thing.” I was both comforted and chastened; this wasn’t mine to panic about. The best I could do for those in peril was to carry on.
Backlash to the ice-cream maker’s decision to distinguish between Israel and the territories it occupies has shown that, for many Israelis, the distinction no longer exists.
No company does progressive politics quite like Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont-based ice-cream maker has a reputation for corporate activism, owing to its support for a wide array of left-wing causes, including marriage equality, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. But when the company announced this week that it will no longer sell its products in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, it faced an outcome that every ice-cream maker fears most: a meltdown.
The matter of Israel’s settlements, which the international community regards as illegal under international law but which the Trump administration said will need to be resolved through a political and not a judicial process, has long been a thorny issue in Israel. (The Biden administration has yet to articulate its own policy on this.) When it comes to ice cream, though, the country’s notoriously fractious political sphere is virtually unanimous. Israel’s right-wing prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said that Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as an “anti-Israel ice cream.” His centrist coalition partner, Yair Lapid, called the move a “shameful surrender to anti-Semitism.” Israeli President Isaac Herzog of the center-left, who once committed to removing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, called Ben & Jerry’s decision to shun them “a new kind of terrorism.” The newly minted opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, suggested that Israelis should boycott the brand. One centrist cabinet minister dutifully posted a TikTok of herself chucking a pint of what looked like Dulce de Leche into the trash.
They’re not all anti-vaxxers, and treating them as such is making things worse.
Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that COVID-19 is “becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” President Joe Biden said much the same shortly after. They are technically correct. Even against the fast-spreading Delta variant, the vaccines remain highly effective, and people who haven’t received them are falling sick far more often than those who have. But their vulnerability to COVID-19 is the only thing that unvaccinated people universally share. They are disparate in almost every way that matters, including why they haven’t yet been vaccinated and what it might take to persuade them. “‘The unvaccinated’ are not a monolith of defectors,” Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician and public-health advocate in the San Francisco Bay Area, tweeted on Saturday.
American culture still treats disinterest in sex as something that needs to be fixed. What if any amount of desire—including none—was okay?
For more than half a century, the modern industry of sex therapists, educators, and experts has been eager to tell us whether we’re having enough sex, or the right kind of sex. But this industry is, like any other, shaped by the broader culture—it took for granted that the goal was to “get everybody to the point where they have a type of desire and quality of desire that fits within the cultural norms and values,” the sex therapist and researcher Michael Berry says. Decades ago that meant: straight, monogamous, within marriage, private, nothing too kinky.
As American culture has become more expansive in its understanding of sexuality, so has sex therapy. But this kind of sex positivity often doesn’t leave room for those who don’t want sex at all. The prevailing idea remains that, as Berry puts it, “if people are coming to see a sex therapist, the intent would be to get them to have sex.”
A newish wave of sophisticated, adult board games have made exploitation part of their game mechanics. A reckoning is coming.
The board game “Puerto Rico” begins after everyone around the table receives a mat printed with the verdant interior of the game’s namesake island. Players are cast as European tycoons who have trekked across the Atlantic at the height of the Age of Exploration. “In 1493 Christopher Columbus discovered the easternmost island of the Great Antilles,” read the back of the game box that once sat on my living-room shelf. “About 50 years later, Puerto Rico began to really blossom.” To win, one must “achieve the greatest prosperity and highest respect.”
In practice, that means the mechanics of “Puerto Rico” are centered around cultivation, exploitation, and plunder. Each turn, a player takes a role—the “settler,” the “builder,” the “trader,” the “craftsman,” the “captain,” and so on—and tries to slowly transform their tropical enclave into a tidy, 16th-century imperial settlement. Perhaps they uproot the wilds and replace them with tobacco pastures or corn acreage, or maybe they outfit the rocky reefs with fishing wharfs and harbors, in order to ship those goods back across the ocean. All of this is possible only with the help of a resource that the game calls “colonists,” —represented by small, brown discs in the game’s first edition, which was published by Rio Grande Games and is available in major retailers—who arrive by ship and are sent by players to work on their plantations.
Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina hoped to be the face of a post-Trump GOP. She soon learned there is no such thing.
Nancy Mace was on a mission to find a gun that would fit inside her purse. It was the first Friday in March, and we’d come to a shooting range in North Charleston to try out the Sig Sauer P365. She strode to a shooting lane, her high-heeled leather boots clomping across the concrete, slapped a magazine into the squat black pistol, and fired a few rounds at the human outline on the paper target in front of her. Most of the bullets seemed to hit the chest area. The sound made my teeth rattle. “Whoa,” I said. Mace adjusted the earmuffs resting on her long, perfectly wavy brown hair and smiled. “I came here after my divorce,” she said. “It was like therapy.”
Mace, who is 43, has always liked shooting—the deep concentration it requires, the way it allows her to focus her thoughts. But she hadn’t wanted to carry a firearm until December, when she says she started getting death threats. She’d just been elected to represent South Carolina’s First Congressional District, narrowly defeating Joe Cunningham, a moderate Democrat who’d flipped the district in the blue tsunami of 2018. She had also made clear that she would vote to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. In response, a Republican constituent threatened on social media to shoot her. Right away, she told me, she applied for a concealed-carry permit; having a handgun handy might restore her “peace of mind.”
Only 35 percent of Arkansas is fully vaccinated, and with case rates rising, living there can feel like moving through a distorted reality.
At a county health department near my hometown in rural Arkansas, almost everyone who comes in for a COVID-19 test is congested and short of breath, with a sore throat and muscle aches. They might have the flu, except for the added telltale symptom of this coronavirus: the loss of taste and smell. Many of the patients now are younger than those in previous months; a nurse who works there told me she saw two cases of young children in one day. (The Atlantic agreed not to name the nurse, because, as a state employee, she is not authorized to speak with the media.) Even worse, though, is that almost every potential case she saw was avoidable. Almost none of the eligible adults she tested had had one of the vaccines.