Dateland: The Lost Art of Stalking


“I know more about you than you know yourself,” said the woman sitting across from me at the bunch. She was wearing mirrored sunglasses and had her arm casually slung around the empty chair next to her. The chair was empty because no one in their right mind would sit next to her.

“Then you must know that I am repulsed by people who wear mirrored sunglasses,” I said. I don’t like looking at myself in the lenses’ distorted reflection.  It always makes my face look like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon. This is not a good look for me.

She whipped off her glasses and stared at me with a disturbing combination of intensity and hunger. “As I’ve mentioned, I am not allowed to tell you what I do for a living. But let’s just say that I can find out anything about you in a matter of seconds.”

“Great. Tell me where I left my favorite coffee mug. It’s been lost for a week. And I’m bereft,” I said, taking a deep gulp of mimosa and using my eyebrows to frantically signal a SOS to a friend across the patio. But my friend, who was engaged in a lively debate about the pros and cons of keeping goats as pets, paid me no attention.

“How did I get stuck with this lunatic?” I thought to myself. “Why can’t I be talking to someone about goats?”

The moment I entered the party, sunglasses zeroed in on me. She glommed onto me like a barnacle and stubbornly refused my efforts to scrape her off.

“She has a crush on you,” said the hostess.

“No, she hates me,” I said. “There’s no other explanation for why she’s been torturing me for the past several hours.”

Each time I’d escape to a far corner of the party, I’d find her looming behind me, crushing ice loudly with her molars and trying to tantalize me with vague suggestions that she worked as some type of spy. However, I doubt a real CIA agent would be allowed to tell strangers she met at a brunch—and a vegan brunch at that! (this really was the worst party)—that she has “top secret clearance.”

“Top secret clearance to what?” I asked. “To the White House powder room? To Candyland? You have been saying a lot of words and not one of them makes any sense.”

I should have learned by this point that this weirdo took insults as encouragement. She pulled out her phone. It was an odd looking device—like a cross between a baby dinosaur and a helicopter. It looked like something a fictional president would use in a 1980s espionage film. She meaningfully punched at it with her thick fingers. After a few moments of making small grunting noises while reading, she looked up at me and grinned aggressively. She then proceeded to read off several nuggets of personal information about me from her James Bond phone. All of which were easily accessible because I have no idea how to set security settings on my Facebook page.

“I’m not impressed. Stalking used to be an art form,” I said, shaking my head in disgust. “In my day, you had to perform some serious gumshoeing to dig up information. I can’t tell you the number of hours I spent in libraries searching through microfilm to unearth the tiniest detail on a beloved. Microfilm! You had to make a real effort to achieve the level of creepiness you attained by simply turning on a phone. ”

I grabbed her phone and threw it into the nearby woods. Then I walked across the patio to get in on that conversation about goats.

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