Follow the LDR: Can distance doom love?

A DJ spins music in the background, and pickup lines echo left and right, but one sound dominates your attention.

Your phone.

Miss one chorus of rings and you risk initiating a cycle of distrust that won't be confronted until at least tomorrow morning.

If a time difference is involved, you might as well be prepared to cry yourself to sleep for the long haul.

So you cover your bases, increasing your ring tone's volume amid the thumping beats while waging a stare-down with the all-important five-inch device.

And reminding yourself that somehow, this is all worthwhile.

Such is the life of one half of a long-distance relationship.

In military towns like Columbus, the LDR is often a result of necessity: partnerships that from the get-go know they will at least temporarily be geographically challenged.

But then there is the LDR's other variety: distance by choice, or, if you prefer, postponed choice.

You know, the spontaneous connection that is spurred by a vacation or a random cross-country text message from a former fling.

It is cemented by a series of online greeting cards. Phone conversations that culminate in flirtatious fights over who says goodbye first. And a shared desired to avoid the controversial "M" word at all costs.

"M" is, of course, for "move."

A recent article on the Web site Slate (www.slate.com) criticizes the LDR, pointing to the negative environmental impact of the setup's emphasis on travel.

The piece advocates a "Date Local" movement, maintaining that LDRs can hamper individuals not only on health and financial levels, but also in those people's willingness to contribute to their immediate communities.

As transportation costs rise, and the economy teeters on shaky ground, some distance daters are bound to wonder if they've made the right decision.

Instinctively, it's easy to answer "yes."

You spend most of your time dating a voice in phone conversations where fights can be passively avoided with the gentle intervention of "call waiting."

Visits are almost vacations — you're so overwhelmed with excitement that you don't have time to notice real-life concerns.

But the LDR's biggest weakness lies in its looming threat of choice. At some point, if you're really serious, someone must get tagged with the duty of sacrifice in your long game of phone ping-pong.

And when that happens, you risk the sobering realization that your partner is a little less endearing than the stomach butterflies you got from his "I miss yous."

Or the brighter scenario: Distance serves as groundwork for an unrivaled closeness.

The kind that focuses on missed connections, not missed phone calls.

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