One evening, I found myself in such a place with a thirty-eight-year-old elementary-school teacher who had spent more than ten years plying Match.com and Nerve.com, as well as the analogue markets, in search of someone with whom to spend the rest of her life. She’d met dozens of men. Her mother felt that she was being too picky. In December, she started corresponding online with a man a couple of years older than she. After a week and a half, they met for drinks, which turned into dinner and more. He was clever, handsome, and capable. In their e-mails, they’d agreed that they’d reached a time and place in their lives to be less cautious and cool, in matters of the heart, so when, two days later, he sent a photograph of a caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, where he’d gone for a few weeks on business, she found herself suggesting that she join him there. He made the arrangements. Her mother approved. She flew down to Rio the next week, and he came to the airport with a driver to meet her.
Months later, she savored the memory of that moment when he greeted her with a passionate hug, and the week and who knows what else lay before them. A swirl of anticipation, uncertainty, and desire converged into an instant of bliss. For that feeling alone—to say nothing of the chance to go to Brazil—she would do it all over again, even though, during the next ten days, with nothing but sex to stave off their corrosive exchanges over past and future frustrations, they came to despise each other. When they returned to New York, they split up, and went back online.