Unlike CD collections, which exist primarily in homes and may be tucked away in bedrooms -- and so are relatively easy to keep private -- the iPod is carried in public, where it has the potential to expose all, quickly. Gone are the days of slow musical revelation, layers peeling away like clothing until a man and his music stand naked before you. On an iPod, everything's there -- songs for exercising, commuting, seducing. Taking your iPod -- and its playlists -- on a date is the equivalent of wearing your entire wardrobe at once, then holding up each piece of clothing for examination. "Here's what I wear to work out!" it says. "And in the meantime, check out my silk boxers!"
Granted, the iPod is not the first portable music device. The Walkman has been around for years. But really, what do the contents of a Walkman tell you? They only hold one tape. That's like deciding whether a guy is hot by looking at one eye. And besides, anyone who has made a mix for a crush knows that, when it comes to romance, music can be carefully manipulated. Selecting the perfect songs for your would-be lover is less a revelation of your soul than a careful construction of a public image that you hope will lead to bed.
During the long-gone days when I still carried around a white, second generation iPod (you know, like, two years ago) it occurred to me that by creating the iPod, Steve Jobs had inadvertently affected modern romance. The San Francisco Chronicle gave me space to elaborate.
The Chronicle also invited me to participate in a podcast about the piece.