Saturday, January 19, 2013

Imaginary Lover

Trey Smith


There has been a bizarre story this week involving college football player Manti Te'o of the University of Notre Dame. Teo, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, supposedly triumphed this football season after his grandmother and girlfriend died on the same day in September. The story itself took on mythic proportions and, like most myths, part of it turns out not to be true.

While his grandmother did die as reported, his girlfriend never existed in the first place!! As of right now, it appears that the girlfriend was a hoax perpetrated by people other than Manti Te'o.

This last part sounds weird. If it's a hoax, how could Teo not be part of it? And this is where the story gets really strange and it certainly illustrates a divide between generations. Teo considered this woman his girlfriend despite the fact he had never met "her" in person! His only contact with "her" was via text messages, emails and phone calls.

When I was in college in the late 70s, I engaged in a long distance relationship. My girlfriend, Maryse, attended Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and I attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. We were separated by more than 500 miles. We communicated by letter and phone.

But there is a BIG difference between the relationship of Maryse and me and Teo and his "girlfriend". Maryse and I had kissed before! We spent our Christmas and Spring Breaks together. And we had begun our relationship IN PERSON the summer before school.

Teo had never gazed into this "girl's" eyes or held "her" hand. He had never been in the same room with "her". Heck, they had never been in the same zip code together!

In all honesty, I simply don't understand how someone could consider someone else the "love of his life" IF he had never actually met her! It sounds to me more like this imaginary lover was a myth objectified in Teo's mind. When you don't interact in an intimate way with another person, it is easy to make them anything you want them to be. The person becomes an idealized caricature of a bona fide human being.

That being said, I realize that my ideas on this subject are shaped, in large part, from my standing in the older generation. Maybe the times have changed and I just don't get it. Maybe so, but it is hard for me to imagine that this elaborate hoax could have been perpetrated to the extent that it was IF Teo had met this person face-to-face and had spent considerable time WITH "her".

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