I wasn’t planning to write a post about this, being a little reticent about discussing my personal life on my blog in real-time. Ok, I’m fairly certain some of you are snickering right now as you note that I based an entire novel on real life events, but somehow this is different. Many of the plot points in my book, though inspired by actual happenings, are either dramatically embellished and/or borrowed from other people’s experiences. Others are completely fabricated. So while in a sense Water Signs is a fictionalized version of reality, any plot points that accurately reflect my own personal experiences are all from the past — not an ongoing reportage of real-time cyberspace dating adventures.
Adding insult to injury, this has been a difficult year for many reasons. Actually scratch that. The past four years since a certain someone was elected to the highest office in the land circa November, 2008 have been the most tumultuous, uncertain and unstable I can recall. Ever. At the same time, I recognize that countless Americans — some of whom I know personally — have also been enduring similar hardships. So I understand that my situation is certainly not unique, nor any worse than some other hard-working, talented person who wants to earn an income, not suck off the labors of others while extolling the “virtues” of benevolent, big government as they purchase all sorts of goodies with their EBT cards. Yes, some of us still have a work ethic, but in challenging financial times, we should also guard against throwing pearls at swine.
And since this isn’t a political rant I’ll leave it at that.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge that perhaps my current mindset and emotional state aren’t exactly conducive to successful participation in the online dating game, although God knows I’ve been at it — albeit off and on — for more years than I’d like to count. Way back in 1998 when the internet was still in its early stages, I even attended a wedding for two people who’d met online. At that time I was still dating the “old-fashioned way”: meeting guys either through professional events like a business card exchange or through someone I knew. So even though I thought it was pretty remarkable that these two people had found each other thanks to amazing new technology, it never occurred to me to create a profile in the hopes of becoming another match made in technology heaven.
Back before the internet even existed, I’d always hoped/expected to be married with maybe even a few kids by this point in my life. Although the traditional methods of dating hadn’t netted an engagement or marriage, I never envisioned that someday advanced technology would prove to be a vehicle with a simultaneous capacity to be a force for good — in terms of creating business opportunities and jobs; bringing people together over common causes and interests; and for a lucky few, dating relationships that culminate in marriage — and bad — making it even easier for liars to lie, players to play, and cheaters to cheat.
As I wrote in Cyberspace and the Single (Conservative) Girl, technology is not to blame for the total breakdown of morality and respect in today’s society. It does however, make it even easier for anyone with less-than-honorable intentions to play their silly little games with reckless abandon — all from the comfort of their living room. Whereas before they’d at least have to hit the local bar, scope out an attractive target and possibly even fork over a few dollars to buy her a drink or two before making the moves, now all they have to do is log onto a computer. For little or no cost, without having to drive somewhere and thus waste time, gas, and money (many sites are free), players have even more flexibility and opportunity to seek out vulnerable prey.
Even worse because most sites, in a purposeful effort to facilitate the process of finding someone compatible with each member’s values and preferences, provide an opportunity to post a detailed profile in which each member can describe their ideal match as well as their own personality traits, they inadvertently offer the blueprint by which to deceive.
So if you want to mess with someone’s mind and heart on an online dating site, all you have to do is regurgitate what they want to hear. Is their faith important to them? Lie and say it is for you too, even if you haven’t said a prayer or stepped into a church since your Catholic high school days. Are they there to find the right person for a long-term relationship with the potential to culminate in marriage? Lie and claim you want the same thing, even if all you’re seeking is a chance for another conquest on an otherwise uneventful Saturday night.
If you’re really clever, you can create a profile in which you show off your acerbic wit by criticizing all of the phonies on the site. That’s what one guy I recently “met” did, and I must admit I was intrigued. In a few short paragraphs, he managed to convince me that he too was tired of fake people who lie about everything from their marital status to their desire for something more than a one-night stand. Here’s a portion of what he posted, paraphrased of course:
My headline used to be: Hold My Bong While I Call My Wife. i am trying to be a little more serious now.
I dont smoke pot and i’m not married. But so many people lie here, cant you close your eyes and see it?
I love to smile. I play guitar and enjoy popping out some impromptu lyrics. My dog is very important to me and I love taking him to the beach. I am flexible and uninhibited, yet committed and loyal.
(people love putting “updates” and “requirements” in there description box. funny really, because it just gives the a-holes out there the map to con you!)
If you are looking to have a beer and then want to have sex in the alley behind the bar, i am probably not the guy for you. I think that you should still write me, though, and we should go out and have a drink and talk about it.
If you have to peel your belly away from your waist to strap on a 100′ rope for a belt, i am probably not the guy for you. i think you should not write me even if you want to talk about it.
the part i take SERIOUSLY:
I am accused of being too flippant and careless on this site. Its true… I am accurately portrayed as ambivalent by those with even half a noodle working upstairs. Most people here remind me of mindless drones engaged in repetitive circular patterns. And I have grown tired investing much energy to that. I want someone that believes in purity and beauty and the virtues of trust. I am far from perfect, but I believe what I am looking for exists.
By the way, what is it with presumably intelligent guys lacking the ability to employ basic grammar and punctuation? I am not kidding when I say that 99.9% of the profiles I view appear to have been written by pre-schoolers who have yet to learn about simple things like beginning a sentence with a capital letter, or for that matter, formulating a complete sentence in the first place.
But I digress.
Getting back to “Mr. Hold My Bong”, since his admittedly caustic sense of humor made me laugh out loud, I decided to reach out. Which led to a series of emails back and forth, during which he seemed pleased that I appreciated his ability to craft a message that stood out from the rest. He also suggested getting together and promised to contact me the following day sometime in the afternoon, since we’d both determined that part of our Saturday would involve working, in my case with with a ghostwriting client (who thankfully hired me), and his with a mortgage client.
It’s now the following Wednesday and I’ve never heard back. But that’s pretty typical.
In the same time period, my interactions with a few other guys in addition to “Mr. Bong” netted similar results. We’d email back and forth, they’d express interest in getting together and then never call to follow up. One guy even gave me his number to contact him about getting together for coffee, in case I was uncomfortable giving out my own. Via the site, we determined I’d touch base with him on Sunday. Which I did — only to have him hang up on me. Later, when I logged into the site, I saw that his profile had been deleted, leading me to believe he was either 1.) already in a relationship or 2.) “multi-tasking” by communicating with several women simultaneously. So much for the self-described “Italian Gentleman”.
Look, I get that everyone on these sites communicates with a multitude of people at any given time; it’s a fluid process and a numbers game, so just because it’s my first interaction with someone doesn’t mean he hasn’t had other conversations or relationships (to use the term loosely) previously and currently taking place. I get that. But then don’t give out your phone number and tell someone to call you on Sunday to set up a meeting. At least “Mr. Bong” had the decency to just stop communicating via email through the site. It might be rude but it’s not as bad as slamming the phone in someone’s ear.
And that’s pretty much been my experience with the cyber-dating world these past several years. While I readily admit I’ve been inconsistent in my participation, the events of this past week were a harsh reminder of exactly why I’d sworn off these stupid sites for good over a year ago. It was only to make some family members happy that I even bothered trying again. Funny how people who’ve been happily married for a number of years seem to think that online dating is the greatest thing to come along since the telephone. Easy for them to say. Also easy for them to scold you with a rare success story in which their cousin’s sister’s boyfriend finally found the woman of his dreams after five years of online dating. “Patience”, they admonish. “You have to give it a chance”.
As if 10+ years weren’t enough time. If not for a very good friend who happens to be gorgeous, fit, smart and successful having the exact same difficulties, I might think it was just me. More on that in another post.
Finally, a twitter friend replied to my frustrated tweets the other day by suggesting that many if not most people who engage in online dating are acting out their revenge on unsuspecting targets for having had their hearts broken by a former girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse in real life. An interesting and plausible theory, although I prefer to believe that these revenge fantasies are purely a function of the subconscious mind; it is just too depressing to entertain the thought that anyone would use an online dating site for the express purpose of hurting an innocent man or woman who had nothing to do with the dissolution of their relationship or marriage. Then again, given the state of our current culture, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
Any theories, thoughts, suggestions? Would love to hear them. And stay tuned for the follow-up post.