In the height of summer, I sat at a patio table under an open umbrella as night fell behind the silhouette of the building.

The dinner was nice, the conversation quick and invigorating, the wine swelling on my tongue and warming as it descended. Every few minutes, he picked up his Blackberry and transferred his glance from my smile to the bright screen in his hand.

Since I began my second-time-around dating career, I’ve noticed a trend of escaping from the intensity of the moment into messages, texts and Tweets. It’s rude, and I hate it. Or is it simply the way we step back from potential intimacy today?

Alan Wolk wrote on a recent blog, “Twittering, status updating, blog commenting all involve taking yourself out of whatever real life situation you are in and inserting yourself into a virtual one. It’s every bit as annoying and disrespectful to the other people in the room as the coworker who feels compelled to answer several personal cell phone calls in the middle of a meeting.”

The other day, my ex-husband called and texted several times while I sat in a client meeting, planning our marketing and PR calendar for 2009. I didn’t answer, nor did I look at my phone. Rather, I switched the setting to quiet, so I would not be bothered by interruptions.

When I emerged from the meeting, I looked at my Blackberry. Dialed his number.

“Did you get my texts and calls?” he demanded.

“I was in a meeting.”

“You’re the only person in the world who doesn’t check messages during a business meeting,” he retorted. And suddenly, I had more clarity about his approach to business. And that’s all I’ll say on that.

But this practice of being with one person while you escape to check on another troubles me. Admittedly, I’ve been on some dates when an escape is required. Thankfully, few.

I had dinner recently with one person who turned off the phone so we could truly talk. Another night, I went out with a lovely person who had eyes only for the moment at hand, as did I. Of course, we laughed as we each emerged from the bathroom, Blackberrys in hand, eyes focused toward the small screen, eager to see who had messaged.

I’ve spent my entire life feeling as though no one is listening – perhaps that propelled me into a career where I listen intently and am judged by the accuracy of what I record.

The other day, I listened to a beloved friend emote sadness and fear about turning points. I listened. I listened. I heard.

We are both smart women repeating mistakes like we all repeat mistakes, choosing those who do not listen while we yearn for those who do. Or at least that is the mirage.

People don’t change but then sometimes they do. Today it’s cold but the sky is a crisp blue and I have made progress, crossed tasks off my to-do list.

The biggest question that I am left with is not who is listening to me, but am I listening to myself?


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