I, Vanessa, was recently in a traffic accident. I’m well, but I had to spend some time in bed with bags of frozen vegetables weighing down my arms and legs, lest I rise from the dead and seek revenge on the driver of the offending van. My time on the bench was embarrassing, awkward and, finally, boring. It’s not the boredom of pausing between capers to catch your breath and hatch new schemes, it’s mental claustrophobia. It’s fascist bedrest, forced on an alert, freedom-cherishing person. Blogs don’t update, engaging articles aren’t written and news doesn’t happen fast enough to give a person the friendly assist to keep it together under house arrest.
When my appetite for entertainment outpaces dynamic content, online research is my first line of defence, and I store this boredom salve in a tin labelled “Wikipedia.” After a bit of exploration, however, I usually find that I already know everything I want to know for the time being. It’s a common complaint amongst my set of witty, monocle-wearing geniuses. My attempts to disguise orderly self-improvement as entertainment mostly bomb like a big fat bomb; besides, I can see it all coming from miles away through my monocle. All this hippy collaboration and online community by-and-for-the-White-Man crap is clearly at a disadvantage when matched against my rampaging, neck-breaking attention span.
Online shopping always brings up the rear during any computing expedition I undertake. Let’s just see what bluefly.com is peddling this week. What’s new at semcoop.com? By mid-September, all family holiday presents have been well researched and purchased at Amazon, and I’ve run out of justifiable things to buy online. The essence of consumerism, though, is advertising-induced anxiety about meeting potential situations with success. And, as we’ve already established, I am incredibly successful! There’s only so much consuming a genius need do. Also, it doesn’t help that I earn Canadian dollars and am thus poorer than many other nerds, which limits the feats of shopping I’m able to accomplish. Where to further misplace all that social anxiety, when your ass is busted and laid up in bed? One good place for you to shove it (that’s right) is the online-shopping-based mail-order-bride role-playing game that I invented. It’s like shopping plus characters minus purchasing.
First, select a jerk from the Craigslist personals. Being hetero and American, I tend to choose from the men seeking women and will use the corresponding pronouns, since I am a majority-culture oppressor and the agents involved in my quest tend to privilege this arrangement. If you’re Canadian, you’re free to select from any of the other “seeking” categories in the Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver Craigslist personals, since Immigration Canada gets down like that. But if it’s boys you like, I apologize on behalf of the Internet and the dumb world it reflects: You’ll have to content yourself with this parody. No sticky rice for you. If the situational restrictions are objectionable to you and you’re an American, you should consider acquiring another citizenship or else organizing your quest as critique in a way that makes sense to you. And whatever your orientation, you’re welcome to shut up and play my brilliant game or blow me.
All will be made clear, just choose your loser. This might help move your elimination process along. Next, carefully select a job for your chosen seeker from the listings in his locale, based on the clues to his personality provided in his personals ad. Google “cost of living” + your seeker’s city to help estimate his expenses, and perform another search to find him an apartment. Outfit your seeker with the appropriate furnishings and clothing, filling up online shopping carts and closing browser windows in the moment before checkout. Now you have completed your training, and are ready to begin questing.
The set-up: Our seeker has become frustrated in his attempts to attract a marriageable partner. Perhaps it is because his room looks like this (cheers, Andrew!). Whatever the reason, the chosen seeker has grown weary of dating without success and longs for stability. He journeys many long days and nights, back and forth between his place of employment and his peasant home, in order to acquire the gold necessary to enlist the help of a wizard in finding a mate. The wizard you’re allowed to use is determined by the occupation and income level of your seeker. For example, if he works at a Radio Shack in Oakland, you’re going to have to go with a wizard whose Web page features typos and animated gifs or else journey many more days and nights to afford a better wizard. When you’re satisfied with your choice in wizards, you may then buy from him the spell—okay, the username and password—that will unlock the heart of a princess in a far-off land. Select your princess from the online catalogue and level up to begin the second stage of your quest: winning her heart! Letters, red roses and cash money are your weapons. If you gain her heart, you proceed to the final stage of the game: the boss-battle to secure a visa for your princess from your fickle king!
Actually, no. Not really.
Is it problematic that a person can order up a spouse (or, in my home state, a child) via an Internet catalogue like a takeout dinner? Without neatly reducing this to a discussion of theoretical optics and power, or a slogan of protest, is there any way that this is not weird? The catalogues are most likely not populated by Oryx-like women who will teach us lessons of Asian wisdom about the self-centred folly of our “First World” assumptions of victimhood, however much we may need to be taught. I’m not a knee-jerk moralist, although I have to concede that from second-hand accounts, being a mail-order bride would appear to ride the Dick Train Express. Even the act of “just looking,” of hitting such a business’ server, increases that site’s ability to draw advertising sponsorship, to rise in rank in search-engine results and to gain memetic consumer credibility. But you know, it’s a pretty bitchin’ party trick for me to suggest that these human transactions are equivalent to my usual impersonal transactions completed between the Visa corporation and vendors, with my limited involvement. Like wives and children, yarn, dark chocolate bars or cute winter boots can be shopped for online, but I didn’t have to fly to their country of origin to persuade my boots to come to live on my feet. When the real money’s spent, I’ll stick to doing online theoretical shopping for the would-be brides themselves.
By the time I reached Level 2, I was mostly healed up. I turned off my laptop and went outside. My seeker was simultaneously killed in a traffic accident involving this vehicle, on his way to open the Oakland Radio Shack.
David and Vanessa currently live and toil in Toronto--for a large technology corporation and a non-profit, respectively. They met via their blogs, and were married in the winter of 2002. They have a hamster and a dog, but no yacht.