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Fast forward 

Want to meet someone special? Turn off your cellphone and step away from MySpace. Forget speed dating, it’s time to join the Slow Love revolution.

In 2004, we fled from the golden arches after Morgan Spurlock spewed McChunks over the side of his car in the documentary Supersize Me. Dutifully, we purchased Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation—or watched the movie—a no-holds-barred examination of why French fries taste so damn good (of course it’s the chemicals. Duh). “Oh, how terrible,” we pooh-poohed, over organic broccoli and brown rice. “How did this happen?”

Well, it happened because our society demands fast. Faster. Fastest. No time to eat, we’re in a hurry. That’s why you can buy peanut butter and jelly pre-mixed and high-alcohol beer shots. It’s why Dr. Robert Bohannon, an American molecular scientist and cafe owner, is developing caffeinated doughnuts and bagels. And we wonder why the kids’ waistbands are all stretched out.

Our need for speed has encroached into every aspect of our lives, from our entertainment choices to our incessant need to drive while talking, eating and grooming, all at the same time. If you flew Air Canada over the holidays, you probably read in-flight magazine EnRoute’s tribute to “fast” culture, written by no-shame tabloid editor Bonnie Fuller. Yes, it’s in the sky, it’s everywhere dear friends, and you can blame technology—the usual suspect—all you want, but we’ve done this to ourselves. Technology is simply our weapon of choice.

Other than food, the biggest victim of our technological obsession, mixed with our instant-gratification fix, is our relationships. Sequestered in our homes (or as far as our wireless will go), we create likenesses of ourselves in virtual societies such as Second Life, which currently has a population of more than three-million people, who spend roughly the equivalent of $1.2 million US a day on virtual clothes, cars and real estate. We make cute personal profiles on MySpace or Facebook, with well-crafted, oh-so-clever quotes, carefully selected music and photos. Some people become obsessed with collecting as many friends as possible, others hang out with people they already know.

Yet, even with millions of others wandering through these etherworlds, there’s little room for happy accidents, to physically meet these people or to step away from the technology and create real relationships with random people who don’t necessarily meet our tastes in music, movies, body shape or hair colour. “i played a practical joke on a friend, made a fake profile of a pretty girl, with all the same interests as my friend, thinking it would be funny to suck him in. ok, it is mean, but the creepy part is that this fake profile was set up less than 2 days ago, and i (she) has already gotten 20 or so messages from men from around the world asking to meet her, and how they are infatuated with her.” —email from Jon, a MySpace user

While social-networking websites are generally harmless boredom-killers and Internet dating services such as Lavalife have resulted in happy offline couples (a request to find people who dated through MySpace was fruitless, except for “Heather,” who met her boyfriend online eight months ago: They are now “sort of” living together), cellphones are like the A-bombs of fast relationships. No more anxious moments wondering if he left a message at home—you know the instant he texts you that everything’s cool. No anticipation of what that attractive woman looks like under her shirt—she already sent you a photo of her new Victoria’s Secret push-up from the bar washroom. And forget reading hot literature together—who needs Anaïs Nin when you have such stimulating textual intercourse as LtsDoItAlNitLng (Let’s do it all night long).

“The days of calling someone to ask them out on a date…are so yesterday.” —Nathan Rosenburg, Virgin Mobile Canada

In fact, cellphones are so ubiquitous that, according to Australian psychologist Natalia Robinson, our text messages increase during rough patches in our relationships. In her study of 100 people aged 18 to 35, Robinson also discovered that 15 percent of participants used text messages to break up with a romantic partner. And if you think that cell phone dumping is restricted to exhibitionist pop stars and their dumbass husbands, a la Britney and Kevin, Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen made headlines in December after he broke up with his girlfriend (whom he met online) with a text message.

How do we put the brakes on and start enjoying each other’s company (or letting go of a bad relationship) without a microchip or wireless- service matchmaker? Maybe we can learn from a group of foodies who decided they don’t want to live in a fast-food nation. According to their website,, Slow Food’s mandate is to “counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” To date, there are more than 80,000 official members of the Slow Food movement, and that doesn’t count people who practise the principles of proper food preparation and enjoyment on their own. They must be on to something.

So, welcome to the first meeting of the Slow Love Club. To borrow from Slow Food’s mandate, “Slow Love is a non-profit, très romantique, member-supported organization founded in 2007 to counteract fast love and fast life, the disappearance of love letters and late-night, lingering phone calls, people’s dwindling interest in sending greeting cards with proper attention to spelling, and meeting new people on the baseball diamond, on the bowling lane, at the library and in the grocery store.”

“Crush or Flush lets you flirt, chat, and meet new people while you are on the go. It’s fun, easy to use, and there’s nothing else like it. You can chat people up, or just check people out and hook up your friends using your mobile phone or your computer.”

—Promotional copy forwireless company Icebreaker’s game of mobile “hot or not,” which lets you browse other subscribers and “crush” or “flush” them

Slow Loving doesn’t require a membership or commitment. At this time there are no t-shirts or badges, but we do encourage you to create your own. Really, all you need to do is walk away from the computer and turn off your cell phone and Blackberry. Try it for a day or two. Step outside and take a deep breath. If you’re really gutsy, try it without your iPod. It’s like that Simpsons episode where all the kids give up watching the kinder, gentler Itchy & Scratchy cartoon and actually go out to play.

Maybe take a trip to your favourite magazine stand and buy (or better yet, make) some postcards. You’re probably not ready to write a full letter yet, and chances are your handwriting stinks after not using a pen for a few years. Send a quick note to a friend. Sure, that won’t get you a date, but it will help reacquaint you with life on the outside.

A Beijing company found a particularly sadistic method to destroy about 400,000 lonely hearts. According to the Beijing News, the company “employed a team of 12 or 13 people—mostly men—to act as ‘Wang Jing,’ a 22-year-old nurse who would invite mobile-phone users to become her online boyfriend and to seek her out ‘whenever they felt lonely.’”

—Source: Reuters, January 9, 2007

Go see a movie, rather than waiting for the latest episode of Heroes to download. Or, if you really can’t miss it, invite friends over to watch your favourite show with you. Enjoy the physical sensation of sharing an experience with other people. Hang out at the mall, not because it’s an awesome place to be, but because malls are the new town squares and they’re great places to people-watch. Treat yourself to an Orange Julius, but just remember to leave the phone at home. If you’re desperate, bring quarters. Keep payphones alive for the rest of us land-liners.

“It’s that connection with our technology that sets us apart from every generation that has come before us. Our phone is not just a piece of plastic that we talk into—it’s something that gives us joy, and makes us cry. It’s the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing at night.”

—Sakhr al-Makhadhi, writing sending anonymous Bluetooth text messages to strangers on London’s subway system,, July 9, 2006

Now that you remember what life was like away from the cellular boob, find yourself something to keep those hands busy. Let you interests be your guide. If you like softball, consider joining a league. Books? Take in a free author’s reading at the library or local bar. Food? Fondle the rapini at the Halifax Farmers’ Market. Or learn something new. Yes, that’s the sound of men everywhere groaning, but if you really want to meet women and learn something new, take a knitting class. Hey, Russell Crowe does it, so does David Arquette.

“Whether it’s a first date or a long-term relationship, there’s always a desire to know how someone really feels about us. But unless you’re telepathic, you can’t always know for sure. Nemesysco’s Love Detector can take a lot of the guesswork out of discovering someone’s true feelings for you.”

—Compelling advertising for Love Detector, a voice analysis system you can download to your phone or computer

Slow Love doesn’t stop after you meet someone special. Hold back on giving that honey your cellphone number or email address—build up anticipation for that wonderful first call. And no coochie shots either—dirty photos will come back to haunt you. Enjoy holding hands. Hugs are pretty awesome, too. Just remember, you have all the time in the world.

Sue Carter Flinn always keeps quarters handy, just in case she wants to call someone special.

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