Last Man Online

A few years ago, I decided to get my feet wet in the online dating game. I started out with the first-time, big-dog, sites, your eHarmonies, your Match.coms, and soon found them to be the biggest timewasters. I spent hours answering cliched questions, crafting 60 years of who I am into cleaver 50- characters-or-less descriptions, and sifted through potential suiter photos and profiles. I soon realized that 98% of the guys that contacted me had only looked at my photo, but never read my profile. At one point, to prove my suspicions, I wrote at the very bottom, a sentence that read, “If you read my profile then put the code-word “lucky” in the title of your message”. I got about two responses entitled “Lucky”.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I checked out guys photos first and I admit I’ve sifted through about 100 troglodytes before I found anyone I wanted to investigate further, by reading their profile. But unlike many men, once I found a dapper gentleman with an agreeable look, I did in fact go the extra mile and read his profile before I attempted contact. Cause here’s the thing …if you’re a 75-year-old man in overhauls standing in front of your ½ ton duly with the confederate flag decal on one window and the “piss on Hilary” decal on your bumper, where just not a good match, Buba. And if you read my profile you would have known that! Now, maybe you guys think I’m just being snarky or perhaps exaggerating but I’m not kidding. I love the photos of the guys in their wife-beaters, snapping a selfie, in the reflection of their bathroom mirror, with a torn shower curtain in the background. Sexy!!! And what’s with the fish? So many guys put up photos of themselves with a 10-pound trout hang’n from their fishy fingers. What are you trying to say? “Me Grog make good provider!” Or how ‘bout the photo of the guy with a girl? Or better yet, the girl has been cut out of the picture, so he’s got his arm around… somebodies amputated limb?

Perhaps you may be asking, did I ever go on any dates? Oh yes! The last date I went on was with a very nice chap who was intelligent and a pretty good conversationalist. We met at a Starbucks and had a pleasant afternoon talking about the latest films, a bit about our backgrounds and our writing endeavors. We’re both writing enthusiasts. But here’s the problem. He was about 10 years older and 70 pounds more than his picture. I barely recognized him. But okay, he was nice enough to sit and chat with, but when we got up to leave, he said he needed to call an Uber. Why? Because he was legally blind. Now, there’s a little detail that would have been nice to know a head of time. Not that I’m prejudice towards blind people, but one must readjust ones thinking, if they are going to date a blind person. Like, I guess we won’t be going to many movies and I will be doing all the driving.

And then there was the guy, whom I had an appointment in the afternoon to meet and I was having a little trouble finding the place, so I called him on his cell phone. He was guiding me to the location, when he said, “I have something to tell you”. Suddenly, I had a really, bad feeling about this. “What?” I asked cautiously. He confessed that he was on a dialysis machine for 10 hours a day -- but only at night. He hoped that I wouldn’t mind. Now, you tell me? Don’t you think that would be a rather important detail, not to leave out in our initial introduction?

Here’s a point I also want to make. It’s one thing to be in your twenties or maybe in your thirties and play around on these sites, but as a woman, once you have the scarlet letter of 60 on your profile, you’re in the forbidden zone. Regardless of what you look like or how smart or hip you may be, you’re --- 60. And what’s up with decades? When I was 49, I was still in my “40s” right up to the day before my birthday. The next day, I entered a whole new category. And on my 60 th birthday, I started receiving AARP catalogues and coupons from the Neptune Society. I had a guy write me and literally asked me how does it feel to be 60? I looked at his profile and said, “dude, you’re 58. It feels like you plus 2 years”. I understand, most guys want younger women. Here’s a news flash -- who doesn’t – we women want handsome, strapping, young men, as well. It’s the strangest phenomenon to be 30 years old inside and look at the 64-year-old woman looking back at you, in the mirror. I say, “who are you and what have you done with Radhia?” But when I post 64-year-old woman seeking man, age range: 55 to 65, I get 70 and up. I get it! That is why all my single girlfriends have cats.

And then there’s the dark side of online dating. I met a guy once who was good looking and a little younger than me. We talked a lot on the phone before we finally met at a very public outdoor pub. He was flattering and enthusiastic, until soon into the conversation he tried to kiss me. I politely moved away. He apologized, laughed it off and we continued to chat. He tried again, only this time when I pulled away, he forced me. Of course, I immediately got scared and my instincts were to get away. Not knowing who I was dealing with I tried not to act frightened, but when he asked me to drive him to his car, I felt he could be dangerous. I made an excuse that I was meeting a friend and he left. I never heard from him again.

And then there are the ghosts. Until then, I hadn’t really experienced the ghosts of today’s online dating. The phantoms of the cyber world. Those are the guys that set you up. You go out a few times, they complement you, make you feel special, you think you’re both having a really good time then, all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, that’s the last you hear from them. They just disappear off the face of the earth. They never return your texts or calls. You never see or speak to them again. That is what it is to be ghosted.

Ghosting is a thing people do, today. They don’t have to be responsible for people’s feelings. In the shadows of online, they can disappear whenever they feel like it. They don’t have to worry about running into people who know your family and friends, where they might be judged. They can just mess with people and slip back into the shadows with little or no consequences. I’ve been ghosted about a half a dozen time. Online dating is the perfect venue for characters that Martha Stout, Ph.d. describes in her book, The Sociopath Next Door. She states: “1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty”. The phenomenon of social media has become the breeding ground for sociopathic behavior. The internet has become a virtual Pandora’s box of cruel and irresponsible mischief from trolls, bots and anonymous commenters. Online dating sites give such characters the opportunity to take it to the next level.

Then there’s the flat-out scammers. They put up a fake photo and profile and aggressively pursue you. There was one I started a correspondence with, after he wrote me a long flattering letter about my photos and profile. He said, his membership was about to expire and asked for my email address, so we could continue getting to know each other. Well I did, Big mistake! DO NOT give any personal information to anyone until you are sure who they are. I didn’t get back to him in a few hours, so the next day, he sent me a sappy, cyber card, and a cyber bouquet of flowers, along with an attached music video, “Wait’n on a Woman” by Brad Paisley. Now, if you’ve ever seen this video with Andy Griffith and Brad Paisley, you may find it charming to watch this guy in a mall, getting pissed off that his girl is late. His impatience leaving messages on the phone is almost abusive. Then Andy of Mayberry, in overalls, sits down beside him and explains that that’s the way all women are. It’s the most stereotypical, sexist song I’ve heard in a long time. But especially, first thing in the morning, from a perfect stranger. He’s already complaining that I didn’t return his email within 8 hours. Immediately, I knew there was something up. A few hours later, I received an email from him with a link. He said, he found sexually, explicit pictures of me and I should open the link and delete them. Of course, I knew right away, he was trying to send me a virus. I didn’t open the link and reported him. Two days later, I received another fake picture, (this time of a woman), on the same online dating site, with the exact word for word flattering letter. You would think these boneheads would, at least, have the finesse to change the wording. It was so creepy; I closed my account with that site.

After clocking in every day to this time-wasting pursuit -- because for some weird reason, it becomes addicting, I decided that perhaps I was in the wrong pool. The big sites like Match are just too big. I thought maybe, I should refine my search. So, I looked for more nuanced, boutique sites. Cut out the riff raff. Hone it down to more compatible suitors. The last site I joined was called Meetmindful.com. Now, we’re talking. The “conscious” crowd. Guys who actually know what Pilates and Kombucha are: meditators, poets, musicians, “mindful” intellectuals. So, I pulled out my credit card, and ponied up for the 6-month special. They always offer a special price if you show a true commitment to your addiction.Then, I filled out my cleaver 50-character profile, (at this point it’s a simple cut and paste), and answered questions like: Category one: “Intention”, hmmm, it just occurred to me …perhaps in that category, under choices:

a) Friendship

b) Dating

c) Long Term Relationship. They should add the choice

d) Just mess’n with people.

In the second category: “My friends would describe me as…”

a) Intellectual

b) Driven

c) Narcissistic sociopath (I thought that would be a helpful option)

d) Comedian

Meetmindful has a special feature that notifies you every time they have found “your perfect match”. So, a daily ding sounds on both my phone and computer alerting me that my soul mate is just on the other side of this homepage. “Click here!” And there he is. What ‘s his name, age 77, he looks like Winston Churchill on a bender. Then there’s, Taz, age 30, his photo is a picture of Bill Clinton playing Saxophone, Floyd, age, 68, all questions blank, just says: “It's hard to say who I am!” fair enough, he looked like Gollum’s older brother, with glasses. Then there’s Carla, Age 65. I don’t know how she got in there, but at this point I’m considering it! Well this circus goes on every day of my 6-month tenure and except for an occasional interest the daily line-up is pretty much the same. This cured me of my addiction better than a 12-step program. I cancelled my membership and abandoned my search for true love on the internet.

Warning: these sites are relentless in their pursuit of capturing just one more month of your hard-earned money. Even though I canceled my membership, I will still get an occasional appetizer ding on my phone or computer and if I’m bored or caught off guard, I’ll take a look.

And there he was; a fairly attractive, 62- year old man with an intelligent, well written profile, several graduate degrees and thoughtful answers to his questions.

So, I had to do it. I had to ante up one more month just to give it a shot. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s like the old saying: “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me six of seven times, I’m just a freak’n idiot. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear So and So,

Even though I have been inactive for almost a year, yada, yada, I decided to reactivate my membership just to reach out to you. I saw that you had checked me out, so, out of curiosity, I read your profile. You appear to be intelligent and sensitive. Blah Balh Blah. If it has been so long that you have either found the love of your life and run off to the Casbah or lost interest in this site, then I wish you well in your future. If you're still around, however, give me a shout.

This was his reply:

“Radhia,

I’m flattered by your good words and impressed by your chutzpah to reach out to say hi. Yes, I did see your profile and checked out your website and your work, which is impressive and thoughtful, blah, blah!  Of course, I would welcome the opportunity to meet. I’m around the house this weekend doing chores, so if you’d like to have tea, coffee or a glass of wine, suggest a free time and let’s talk in person”.

My reply:

Thanks for getting back, Yes, I'll be around this weekend. My number is blah blah blah. Give me a call. 

Well, color me surprised! I never got a call. Now, my friend offered the suggestion that perhaps he came down with the flu. I immediately, thought: “or he could have done a faceplant on his kitchen floor and no one has found him yet.” After all, he is 62 and everyone knows that once you reach 60, you’re liable to have a stroke at any time. But here’s the thing. Meetmindful has another special feature that allows you to tell if the person got your message. Under the text box with my phone number it said:

MESSAGE READ!