As often as I visit new restaurants, it’s rare to have that moment of discovering a heretofore hidden gem. But when it happens, it’s a beautiful moment. Euphoria sets in. There’s love, perhaps even lust, upon falling head over heels about a place that’s just so perfect. It’s a feeling of getting swept away that happens perhaps just once in a lifetime.
You may not have heard of Kekua. I hadn’t. But it wouldn’t be long before I knew we were meant to be together. Despite being a skeptic who’s guarded in his feelings, it was love at first sight. Some might call it the kind of love that blinds, but I know it was real. I’ve been so taken with Kekua that I can’t really describe what I’ve seen or what I’ve eaten, other than to say that the dishes have dazzled me, and that that I’ve found the restaurant to be inspiring and motivational. Stirring and beautiful and magical, Kekua is touching my heart.
So what does Kekua teach us about sex?
It’s all about living in a fantasy world.
As much as I might fantasize about it, there is no Kekua. It’s a phantom restaurant.
If you don’t recognize the name, I’m referencing Lennay Kekua, the phantom girlfriend. She “belonged” to Manti Te’o, the Mormon football player who spearheaded the Notre Dame football team’s recent charge to the championship game. Te’o and Kekua texted and talked on the phone (including 110 calls that lasted more than one hour) for many months, but in the end, she never really existed. She was just a hoax.
Laughable is the defense of Teo’s behavior. Indefensible is Notre Dame’s response to more serious matters regarding the football team. For while there’s an imaginary Kekua who is fake dead, there’s an actual Lizzy Seeberg who’s really dead–having committed suicide after Notre Dame football players allegedly intimidated her for reporting a sexual assault by one of their teammates. Meanwhile, members of the team apparently sent bullying texts to a second woman after she went to the hospital for a rape exam, scaring her from reporting an assault by another football player. It’s been reported that Notre Dame’s athletic director cried for Te’o during a press conference, while a coached cracked a joke about the Seeberg situation.
Sadly, I’m not surprised by the sexual irresponsibility. So many young people are incapable of relating to each other. I fear that the destructive nature of technology in our increasingly electronic society is a partial cause of the problem.
In our Foodportunistic city where it seemed for some time that there were more food writers than non-writers, I’d imagine some people read my first two paragraphs, saw the photo of the dish, and immediately wondered “Why don’t I know about this Kekua restaurant?” as they prepared to look it up online. And then rush out to try it, taking notes and photos before Yelping and screaming about it while posting pictures on Pinterest and Instagram and promoting it on Twitter. (I’m guilty as charged at times, though the educator in me is trying to provide new information and perspectives with my posts.) It’s a “look at me and what I’m doing” mentality, boasting and bragging without sensitively recognizing that others can’t afford to have the same experience. Does this really bring Facebook friends together? (A bigger question, of course, is whether Facebook itself is really bringing friends together, or instead making it convenient to not spend real time together.)
And what does this behavior say about the quality of our romantic relationships? While you’re photographing and posting the food on the Internet, you’re likely ignoring your dining mate. The Smartphone generation is guilty of going out on Stupiddates. We’re losing the ability to date and relate–to sit at a small table in a coffee shop or wine bar and stare in each other’s eyes and talk without a piece of technology in sight. To take a walk and learn more about each other. To be in bed and negotiate birth and disease control. To be one with the other and communicate our hopes, fears, needs, and desires.
On the flip side, is it really necessary to affirm our love for another by posting it on Facebook? Is texting taking the place of talking as the way of saying something nice? Intimacy used to mean a private moment, not a public proclamation. I used to say that the people who talk about sex the most are the ones who are getting it the least. Is it possible that people talk big on Facebook because they are hiding something, or have otherwise empty lives and empty relationships, with technology helping to create an illusion?
Take Te’o as a lesson. Kekua was an illusion, and Te’o seems to have played some role in that. Technology is leading to social discomfort, a lack of dating and relationship skills, and imaginary romantic partners. It’s nice to have fantastical thoughts of a loved one. It’s better to be able to look in a real person’s eyes, embrace a real body, hear a real voice, and feel a real heartbeat.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on January 31, 2013.