Creating Something Perfect
An ode to Craigslist personals
by Corey Saucier
In 2011 there was a documentary released called Craigslist Joe, where the titular everyman, a skinny White guy with curly brown hair and sad, trusting eyes traveled the country and tried to survive for one whole year entirely on the kindness of strangers that he finds on Craigslist. No money—no car—no friends—no plans—just a free simple-service website that promises an active community of random folks trying to connect. The film is a strange, low-budget social experiment that is often uncomfortable to watch. He shuffles from foot to foot, and flushes desperation-red and blanches embarrassment-pale, as he asks perfect strangers “for a place to crash.” But as is with most reality-based documentaries that follow the singular story of an individual that guides the viewer into an unfamiliar world, it is also deeply interesting, specifically peculiar, and (at some points) as heartbreaking and soul-soaring as any of the world’s greatest operas. As Craigslist says goodbye to its personal ads, and I lament the disappearance of one more sexual gray-space, I wonder where those people will go. With the closing of bathhouses across the country, the proliferation of consent conversations, and the obliteration of random, anonymous connections, I think these beautiful places that historically blended dark and light dichotomies will cease to exist. And as the kids these days say: “I find that problematic.” Because though Craigslist Joe is funny and cute and personable (and I want to kiss him….) the people he meets in these liminal spaces are mostly just lonely.
Some of us are so lonely.
“US Congress just passed HR 1865, “FOSTA”, seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully.
“Any tool or service can be misused. We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking Craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day.
“To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!”
—printed on the personals page
I once met a man on Craigslist whose eyes were as wide and drowning as the ocean, and whose hair was soft and sun-kissed like corn fields in summer. He was kind and sexy and articulate and butch: half-Black and half-Chinese and studying to be a doctor. He had a propensity for geek culture, and like me, the ability to laugh at the most inappropriate times. And every once in a while I would get a text from him that would ask me if I was available at a certain time and place. And though I do not know his name, or age, or where he lives, or how many children he has, or why he wants to be a doctor, or what nightmares plague his sleepless nights, little pink bubble hearts would appear around my face like a Japanese cartoon when he texted. And I would reply “Yes.” Or “I can be there by five.” Or because I’m a writer, and would eagerly be thinking of how the jigsaws of our bodies would fit, I would send him sixteen more texts that were curious and delightful ways of saying “I think you are swell.” And because he was not gay, and not male, and not female, and not great at lasting long, and not comfortable with discussing intimacies, and unclear about his place in the world, and not sure if he would be here in five years; and because he was unhappy with the curve of his hips, and not a writer, and probably married, he would respond with “Cool.” Because he had no words to fit how he felt in the world. But when we were together holding hands between my sheets, we were perfect. We would talk for hours: laughing and giggling and me kissing the curve of his thigh…until he remembered that he had to return to the real world; and had to go back to being whoever he is there.
And perhaps that is the silver lining…. As I bid farewell to my finely worded sex ad that asked for exactly what I wanted, and posted pictures of me in my best light, and that made disclosing my HIV status as easy as a click of a button, now we all have to learn to be who we are in the real world. And because some of us are so strange and lovely and perfect and broken and beautiful that we think there is no safe place for us but the Internet—and without these invisible hidden web spaces that help us break the laws of physics, form, and social constructs, we are forced to go outside. And God knows we all need more sunlight. And in the sunlight, perhaps we can connect.
Because some of us are so lonely.
But in this Brave New World, I dare you to look up from your phone, smile at a stranger, put words to the things you are feeling, and create something perfect. Personal and perfect.
Love and Light.
Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently penning his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.