Note: Yes, this was my actual dating profile on OkCupid. I mean, women love Jane Austen, right? Right. Or at least, the bookish ones seem to.
MY DEAR ____, — Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as it appears social calling, much less the merry magnificence of a ball, has been eradicated by the State and indeed by Necessity, I am setting out this letter like a castaway throwing a message in a bottle upon the waves. I am told that goddesses are often born upon the foam, so perhaps you will spy it amid much other storm-tossed debris; but perhaps I have been reading too much of Mr. Keats and Mr. Defoe.
In truth I do not find solitude burdensome as a rule; to the contrary, when one is at peace with oneself, dwelling alone is domestic bliss. Yet any good thing may be taken to excess (Meden agan, reads the Delphic temple), and the spirit left too long alone begins to grow inward, like a rootbound plant, stunting its growth. And growth is the essence of love, it seems to me, each encouraging the other like devoted arborists.
Of course, to intertwine our sylvan limbs in these divided days requires reaching a little further. The space between us may seem insurmountable, but think of the joy, nay, the ecstasy, such surmounting brings. A flutter of the fingers (upon your keys), a few strokes (with a pen), can bring every bough to fruition, every bud to unfold, every fruit to fall satisfied upon a bed of fragrant flowers. The clouds part, the sun shines in splendor, the earth is born anew.
But if you find such language overheated, let us get down to brass tacks. I am forty-three years old and in exceptional health, exercising daily. I stand five feet nine inches and weigh one hundred and fifty-five pounds. You know I am of good family, and while it is perhaps vulgar to mention, my estate at Pemberly provides a comfortable income, and expansive grounds for riding or other entertainments. In summer the gardens are green as emerald, and in winter we often have recitals in the parlor. You could make a home here, or just come for a night or two.
I hope I have presented my views, my person and my heart’s longing as directly or sidelong as the occasion requires. Words are poor substitutes for the immediacy of the senses. Perhaps someday we will meet, in a park or sidewalk cafe, let fall our masks and gratefully receive each other’s expressions of spontaneous delight. Then these obstacles will prove mere markers on the path, this waiting a whetstone, and the pandemic itself a portal for something rare and wondrous.
Until then I am, devotedly,
P.S. I hope you will not listen to any rumors that my estate is greatly exaggerated, my horses phantasms, and my actual income a pittance. There are all kinds of characters out there, spinning airy fictions in the hope of a moment’s amusement.