leave me alone

Where does Thesaurus.com get off suggesting I “meet Chinese lady?” I came for a synonym and it’s offering me companionship—although I must say the fact that it’s “free join” is enticing. Yes, I realize I was searching for synonyms for “alone,” but this ad/link shows up almost every time I use the site, no matter what I’m searching for (honestly, I don’t just enter words like “alone,” “Chinese,” “lady,” “pathetic,” or “fetish,” not all the time). Someone must know something I don’t (fact). Who is Chinese lady and how might she help me improve my vocabulary? Apparently she’s loyal and will warm up my soul but my guess is, judging by the ad, her English is considerably worse than mine so it’s hard to see how she has anything to do with my need for a thesaurus.

Perhaps Thesuarus.com thinks I could learn by helping one who knows less. Everybody wins. That couldn’t be it, though, because Chinese lady, if I read this ad correctly, is specially poised to address my loneliness, not assist me with my desire to find obscure synonyms for common words in order to make myself sound more interesting. Thesaurus.com must believe that Chinese lady would appreciate me for who I am and would demonstrate this appreciation in ways that do not require particular lingual aptitude—at all. It understands my insecurities, sees me as a distinct individual, and wants to let me know there’s someone out there who gets it. I’m sure Chinese lady will laugh at my jokes and convincingly feign an interest that linguistic barriers would necessarily preclude. I’ll never notice the difference between this little act and real intimacy anyway because my own lack of self awareness has constructed some mighty fine barriers of its own.

Thesaurus.com is by no means alone in suggesting ways my life may be (immediately) improved, which really makes me wonder what I might be missing. I feel quite well, content, healthy, satisfied, until I started looking at these ads. Everybody has advice, offers, stuff. Gmail thinks a new phone, laptop, credit card, and website would be worth considering. These are, of course, common products commonly peddled but it’s somehow eerie, even portentous, that I might, in fact, use precisely these items, sometimes in combination, to negotiate and manage my dealings with Chinese lady. Maybe she’s the real mastermind behind it all, conquering the world (and the world market) one lonely, unsuspecting, overspending American at a time, happy to help me inflate my self esteem and invigorate my sense of inherent self worth, the driving forces behind my penchant for consumption, by giving me more stuff to buy while simultaneously offering the soul-warming companionship of a perfect, and perfectly loyal, stranger. Because I deserve it. Well, if I’m really like that, then maybe I do.

Whatever the case may be regarding the necessary conditions of my personal fulfillment (and Chinese lady’s aims of world domination), this fortuitous convergence of ends and means is rather alluring, especially to someone inclined to notice (or manufacture) connections and interrelationships, to seek (or fabricate) meaning where there is none. Perhaps this is one of those fascinatingly felicitous moments in life where seemingly disparate elements of experience begin to point toward some single item, action, thought, or in some more or less particular direction. It’s an interesting phenomenon; you really can find yourself in the thick of what you wish for from time to time, surrounded by your preoccupations, good and bad. Thesaurus.com and I are pretty close, I must admit, and Google, well, is Google. It knows me better than I know myself (and has superior storage capacity). So maybe they’re on to something about me before I am, maybe I should pay attention. Not so much because they know what I need but because I’m subconsciously seeking what they’re happy to provide, things far more incisive and substantial than synonyms, antonyms, and email.

To that point, Thesaurus.com, as I consulted it again just a moment ago for synonyms for “strange,” also thinks that I may qualify for a “depression research study” (charmingly redundant) and, interestingly, have a need for a waterbed and hypnosis (not—necessarily—in combination). Something must be wrong with me, I must be afflicted by some measure of psychic and even physical discomfort if I’m being offered things like companionship, gadgets, the opportunity to participate in a study of depression, inducement of an altered psychological state, and, of course, something comfy upon which to rest while I search for another way to say “weird.”

Great-Vocab-Didnt-Save-The-Thesaurus-From-Extinction_1838-l

Yet there is a crack in this façade, some crossing of treatments, so either I’m so far gone that I need everything I can get or Thesuarus.com doesn’t know what the hell it’s talking about. The depression research study ad is interested in knowing if my anti-depressants have stopped working. If so, it appears I may qualify for examination, presumably to uncover details that may shed some light on my condition and lead to more efficacious treatment. While that is certainly tempting, I imagine Chinese lady has that (and more) covered with her soul-warming capabilities, that she’ll help adjust my state of mind in ways that modern science simply cannot. So why waste my time with depression research study? What need could I possibly have for medicine after I set up my new personal website with the help of my new credit card and laptop so I can upload photos of me and Chinese lady developing our respective vocabularies under hypnosis on the rolling comfort of a waterbed? I now no longer suspect Chinese lady of surreptitiously managing Thesaurus.com; it seems we’re both pawns in a much bigger game, which takes me back to square one: what is my thesaurus (and my email) really up to, suggesting solutions to problems I’m not entirely sure I have, offering advice on matters it doesn’t understand and couldn’t possibly know anything about?

And here I was thinking we understood each other. It had me going there for a minute, mistaking familiarity and the fact that it occasionally gives me what I need for anything more than near-accidental products of circumstance and association. I was, sucker that I am for correlations and affinities, actually beginning to wonder if it knew something, if it was just trying to figure out what I really want, leveraging its credibility as an adviser to my writing and speech to extend itself into the rest of my world, giving me options, choices, just generally letting me know I’m not alone. But, with all this not-so-subliminal, conflicting, and generally desultory messaging framing my routines, all this unsolicited advice and presumptive analysis, I’m starting to wish I were. I have a sneaking suspicion that Thesaurus.com merely wants to make itself feel better, not me. I think I’ll go to the library, grab a real thesaurus (that’s right), the kind with pages and binding, one that’s perfectly comfortable in its area of particular expertise and has no interest whatsoever in meddling with my affairs. Then I’ll pull out my new laptop, log in to Gmail, and see what Chinese lady is up to. I hope she wants to take a train vacation to Michigan because Gmail thinks that might be best.

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