Ten days with a U.K. “pen pal.” What would you do?
On the heels of returning from a winter holiday houseswap in Stockholm, I began plotting my next home exchange, destination: London.
Since I was traveling abroad alone for the first time, I decided meeting some women in the U.K. online to see what I could conjure as tour guides was a scathingly brilliant idea. Really, I simply was trying to obtain reliable information on lesbian clubs, special tips about London for dykes in particular and women in general. I struck up conversations on Curve Personals with several women in London. Most dropped off my radar screen as often happens in the online chat world.
However, by the time I landed at Heathrow Airport on a warm summer Friday night, I had secured an incredible apartment on the Piccadilly Line, changed 1,800 bucks for approximately 972 British pound sterling, left all thoughts of my corporate day job, U.S. presidential politics and my local gal pal behind and had a date for drinks lined up for Sunday afternoon.
The house swap was easy: I am experienced, with four exchanges under my belt. The money was quite hard. The R&R from the daily corporate grind was badly needed. And, the East Coast girlfriend knew the London date was scheduled from the get-go.
One particularly attractive and intelligent gal from the personals site stuck around from our introduction in March through my visit in August. She was the London bird (English parlance for “chick”) who met me for Sunday drinks in Camden (Amy Winehouse territory) at the Black Cap a popular gay drag bar.
Early on, this lovely Welsh lass offered to take me to City Pink, a monthly lesbian party at a posh private club in Central London and to a “proper English pub in the countryside with cricket on the lawn.” With ever-increasing and bolder email correspondence and regular and more insinuating phone calls, my U.K. pen pal and I grew that much closer. We were both single and playing the field in our respective countries and cites and the 3,470 mile gap between New York City and London rendered any type of real relationship improbable. We gossiped about our lives, jobs, expectations, creative and other endeavors, exes…and ohs.
I was in London for 10 days, seven evenings of which I spent with my online gal pal. A torrid affair does not fully describe the intense nature of our local connection and the pressure my impending departure put on us to live in and for the moment.
The virtual world often imbues people, places and things with incredible immediacy as well as an intimacy that does not necessarily carry over into sentient existence. I was lucky: My London bird and I had a moment in time, crystallized in person, in the flesh. Crystalline moments are all we can really expect in the twilight zone of the online personals dating scene. Anything else is icing, or gravy, depending on whether you prefer sweet or savory.