Love Across The Miles
HOLLY STEVENSON investigates the ‘interesting’ methods people use to keep their long-distance relationships alive.
There is a scene in the chick-flick ‘How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days’, in which the protagonist Andie Anderson (played by the irritating but mercifully flat-chested Kate Hudson), in an effort to drive her boyfriend away in the name of journalistic research, produces a photo album of their ‘children’. “Look Benny Boo”, she squeals, “I got a friend from work to use Photoshop to composite our faces together to see what our kids will look like.”
I thought this was just a hilarious moment in a movie. Wrong. It’s a terrifying reality. The website is called makemebabies.com, and it’s aimed primarily at a) impressionable teenage girls, b) Bridget Jones-esque women who are terrified of dying alone, c) people in long-distance relationships.
It’s the latter category I would like to concentrate on. Our high-speed, 21st century lifestyle makes cheap flights, career relocations and more students going to university inevitable. As a result of their education, career, or that drunken night in Shagaluf, a significant proportion of people (4.5 million in America alone) are in long-distance relationships. It is, therefore, no wonder that these loved-up couples are becoming cash cows for people clever enough to exploit the other great innovation of our age: the Internet. After all, it makes excellent business sense. What better prey to leap upon and extract obscene amounts of money from than the lonely, paranoid people who also happen to be madly in love? Especially with all that long-distance postage and packing…
Internet businesses preying on vulnerable saps means there are entire websites dedicated to sending ‘unique’ gifts to your absent beau. There are thousands of ways you can try to keep your relationship alive: from designing your own M&Ms, to ordering personalised fortune cookies the size of footballs, or even ‘Clone-a-willy’ (I’m not making the last one up. Your loved one inserts their appendage into a tube filled with a paste. You have a choice of a rubber, soap, candle, or, if you like the idea of your partner’s penis lighting up your home, there are also glow-in-the-dark types). Flowers are just so 2009.
Not everyone is trying to make money out of your misery, though. There are some websites dedicated to giving advice and inspiration to people in LDRs. My favourite was called lovingfromadistance.com, and was set up by a couple called Frank and Michelle: a couple which I can only conclude that, after four years radiation from long calls on mobiles and after being hypnotised by staring at webcams, are a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Browsing through their website, I built up a picture of people in LDRs as being clingy, a bit peculiar, and with interesting sexual habits. Their ’89 things for LDR couples to do’ was simply inspired. They suggested things like ‘watch a movie together’ – i.e., watch the same movie simultaneously, by yourselves, while on the phone; or get a ‘Kissphone’, a device which can apparently detect the length, pressure and moistness (!) of your phone smooches. Try explaining THAT one to your staircase.
One of their ideas, ‘learn new things about each other’, seemed a good way of filling those inevitable gaps in phone conversations. But, then I realised that all their suggested questions were designed to start arguments. The list consisted of gems such as ‘tell me how you describe me to other people’ or ‘do you masturbate?’. Some of them were just creepy. Try asking your boyfriend; ‘how do I smell?’, or ‘were you ever emotionally, verbally or sexually abused as a child?’ when there is a lull in conversation. I suspect he will be mysteriously ‘out’ the next time you call.
But now, it’s confession time. The reason I was surfing through all these websites was because it was October 2009, and I was, with some trepidation and not a few tears, about to embark on my own LDR. And so, in my vulnerable and lonely state, I decided to break a habit of a lifetime and, despite all the warning signs, take advice from the Internet. Namely, concerning phone sex.
American Pie had done it, Belle du Jour had done it, and, to be honest, Facebook was starting to grind as a form of procrastination. So, the next time my other half picked up the phone, I pouted and whispered in my most seductive voice, “Do you think I’m a bad girl?” To which he replied, in a somewhat bewildered voice, “No, you’re not. You’re a nice girl.”
But, this allows me to make an important point. The people who create these websites are generally bored, American, and attempting to make money fast. It’s you that will make or break your relationship; not personalised biscuits or underwear that smells of you. An LDR is, believe it or not, a great opportunity to lead an independent life, knowing that someone out there really cares for you. Sometimes, it does hurt. Seeing your lover and then leaving them again is a bit like ripping off a plaster, putting it back on and then ripping it off again. Although this plaster ripping may seem like a silly, and somewhat monotonous, idea; LDRs do have their perks. And, if it all goes tits up, you can reassure yourself that it wasn’t because you didn’t ask him the names of his childhood pets, or forget to write him a letter on ‘Love Letter Day.’
And, don’t worry: not all of us LDR couples are like Andie Anderson. Despite never really getting the hang of phone sex, we’ve been going for nearly 10 months. No virtual babies or glow-in-the-dark willies in sight. Not yet, anyway.