For over a week, I’ve had conversations and text messages with a new guy on one of my dating sites– OurTime. I was initially impressed that he didn’t want to send the slow back-and-forth messages that seem to be the way for most of the men. Instead, Steve wanted to talk on the phone ‘the old fashioned way.’
That seemed refreshing, a man who was straight forward and wasn’t afraid to talk on the phone. Since he’d provided few details in his profile, we talked about the work he’d retired from, his family, and activities he enjoyed which centered on music, and especially live concerts. While Steve didn’t dance, he wasn’t opposed to learning–which was definitely a plus with me.
I learned early in this online dating journey, that it’s best not to talk or message too long before meeting in person. There’s no replacement for being present with him and judging if his pictures, profile, and other things are true and if there’s potential chemistry. With that in mind, we had scheduled a dinner date last Sunday. But around noon that day, he texted saying he wasn’t feeling well and asked to reschedule.
So, that began a second week of calling and texting. He was engaging, funny, and seemed to have a lot of characteristics that I was attracted to and were different from my former husband. I’ve heard it said that if the new man is too similar to your Ex— RUN! I don’t know if that’s always true but when you go through a divorce you look closely at changes you need to make going forward.
Talking on the phone with only pictures presents a person who is not ‘fully formed.’ Unlike the old days when we dated, you don’t have the person in front of you. However, with each conversation with Steve, I felt more like he was a real person and I looked forward to our plans to meet for dinner over this weekend at the same restaurant as we’d planned last. But then something seemed a bit off on Thursday night when he changed the subject when I tried to get specifics on which day, time, and he said, “we’ll talk.”
Unlike most of the other days, he didn’t text or call on Friday. Yesterday, I kept waiting to hear my phone “Ting” with a text message, feeling that he’d surely text or call by mid-day if we were going out that evening. I’ve been told I’m a planner and males don’t often operate with the same time frame– so I tried to ignore my growing concern. Every time I got a text or later when the phone rang, I expected it to be Steve. But instead, it was friends and family. I wanted to hear from them, but was disappointed every time Steve’s name didn’t appear on my phone. I felt my anxiety and agitation rise and found I had to do something physical. I settled into housework–washing down my once white kitchen cabinets and cleaning out my grandsons’ toys in the playroom.
My heart felt heavier and heavier as the day progressed, slowly realizing that I’d been ghosted, or perhaps, scammed. It was such a let down because in the time I’d talked with Steve, I’d really felt at ease and excited about the plans we made for going to concerts and taking dance lessons. By three o’clock, I’d accepted that it was ‘over’ before it really started with this man who called himself “Steve.” What had really been true about him?
Some of you may think, “How could Connie let herself be so deceived?” You may feel that would never happen to you. If you’re like some of my friends, you’ve seen too many Dr. Phil shows with women who look like fools, in a ‘relationship’ with a man who never really existed except in photos– that were stollen, and profiles that were lies.
But . . .
What I’d tell you from my experience, is that these scams, this ghosting, happens in context of a person who’s been deceived in a relationship, who comes to the dating site with ‘trust issues’ and is trying to move forward. You go between not trusting at all and trying to be more objective– not letting your past experience prevent you from the possibility of a new relationship. You know of people, like my sons and brother-in-law, who have met their spouses on dating sites. It is possible that the new man, will be quite different from the old. It’s possible, that because you’ve been hurt that the new relationship will at first seem uncertain. Add to that, this time in history that’s been unprecedented– the pandemic forcing isolation that has compounded the isolation of divorce.
Some of Steve’s ghosting me–that sudden disappearance, reminded me of Denis. He had vanished several weeks ago–after we’d been messaging for two weeks and talked on the phone for two hours. That conversation ended with him saying, “We have each others’ numbers. Let’s talk or text next week about meeting.”
Denis didn’t call; he didn’t text. Soon after that, he removed his pictures and profile from that site.
From early on in this online dating, I’ve tried to approach it like my solo journeys–looking for what I can learn from ‘the people in my path’ or the ‘men in my path.’
Denis and I shared a love for music. He suggested I’d like some of his favorite Blues artists. While I never met him, never went out to hear live music–as he’d suggested, Denis did give me new music I would have never heard. I’ve listened to a couple of those artists and really like their work. One is Joss Stone who is British. Her song, “Right to Be Wrong” seems fitting accompaniment for yesterday.
To me, the lyrics of that song are a defense for making mistakes at this time that is filled with so many challenges. I’ve talked with my therapist about the difficulties of online dating. He said that part of the problem is that there aren’t established norms for this way of forming relationships. In the old days, we knew what was expected with starting and ending conversations. Guys rarely ‘stood you up’ unlike the ghosting– just dropping out of site or not showing up that seems common with online dating. When we dated in the past, if we didn’t know the guy beforehand–say it was a blind date arranged by your friend or cousin, at least that person knew the guy was real–flesh and blood and not a stollen picture.
My friends and family have all been supportive of me, and I know they wish me the best in finding a new life partner–but in general, they hope it’s the ‘natural way’ meaning the old way. Sometimes they’ll give advice, and I’m thinking you have no experience with online dating so you can’t give advice. Everything is so different from the old days. You can’t use the old rules of dating for this new form of meeting guys; it doesn’t work.
One of the verses of Stone’s “Right To Be Wrong” seems to fit:
“You’re entitled to your opinion
But it’s really my decision
I can’t turn back I’m on a mission
If you care don’t you dare blur my vision
Let me be all that I can be
Don’t smother me with negativity
Whatever’s out there waiting for me
I’m going to face it willingly.”
Yesterday, when I realized there would be no dinner with Steve, no last minute calls that he’d been in an accident and that’s why he hadn’t called, no other possible scenarios–I had to get out of my house. A friend had offered that if Steve didn’t show, I could join a group going out to hear a band.
I needed to drive, to be alone, to deal with my disappointment, hurt, and anger. I didn’t want anyone I knew to see me because I can’t hide how I feel; my face and voice are dead giveaways. Over those next few hours I sorted through my conversations with Steve, searched the trash for warning signs I might have missed. My sadness was soon overtaken by anger and the need to get up, brush off my heart, and fight back.
When I returned home, I logged onto the OurTime site and fired off a message at ‘Steve’ or whoever he was. In the back of my mind, I know that true scammers, men who are posing on these sites, don’t really care what I say, but I needed to say it; I’ve never been one that could go without at least trying to have the final word.
I’d been composing my words on my drive.
“So who are you really? A scammer using a hometown boy persona or a man hiding behind a bluff?”
Not long after that he called and let it ring a few times then he was off.
Later, I checked the OurTime site and he’d responded to my message.
“Well, I never?”
Just like a previous scammer, acting as if nothing had happened; no acknowledgement of any problem and no real denial of it either.
I was exhausted from my day of going through the hours, hoping, waiting to hear from the man I thought I was starting to know. I refused to feel like a fool; I was not the one who had deceived.
Eventually, I will get past this latest experience in online dating; I am nothing if not resilient. And I will find something that I gained from this ‘man in my path’ or this toad that was on the table and now has been thrown back on the conveyor belt– hopefully not to deceive some other woman who just wants to trust, again.