There was the ivy grad who was at least 80 pounds heavier than in his profile picture. (I barely recognized him.) There was the local TV producer who was recognizable, but 10 years older than his photos, easily. And let’s not forget the marketing guy who neglected to mention a series of ex-wives and a lengthy string of former live-ins.
The most recent had only departed two weeks before.
It’s not for the faint of heart, caveat emptor, and in current parlance, “truthful hyperbole” abounds.
The Challenges of Age and Appearance
Me? I’ve lost count of the number of times that I was on the receiving end of this line or something similar: “Oh, you look just like your pictures.”
Have I fudged my age online?
I have, for purposes of search, not by much, in the (naive?) hope of meeting someone my own age. And I remedy this situation if I “connect” with someone in a real way, typically finding we are roughly contemporaries. I’ve done it, as do many women, knowing that without doing so the few men I hear from are likely to be 10 years (or more) my senior.
Now, I don’t mean to focus purely on the physical. Far more fundamental aspects may be exaggerated or fictionalized including routine activities and interests, education, jobs, financial situation. Oh, and shall we add marital status? Hello? How often have we engaged with daters who say they’re divorced when they’re separated, or separated when it turns out they’re married?
These are things we care about, don’t we? Especially as we try — some of us in earnest — to find appropriate people to date and eventually, compatible partners. And let’s be real… These misrepresentations are not solely indulged in by men! Ladies, might you be offering images from days gone by, too?
The Woes of the Post-Divorce Dater
Post-divorce? Many of us are fragile. Very fragile. Often we need to grow new wings and fly fast, just in order to survive. While I realize that we are all more vulnerable after a break-up, this is no truer than after a marriage dissolves as we muddle our way through legal proceedings, family complications, loss of “couple friends” and potentially significant financial dramas.
Sure, we think about it. We want distraction, reassurance, affection, sex. We want a salve to heal the wounds, a renewal of feeling valued. We are especially susceptible to our own poor judgment, wishful thinking, or lack of practice in the dating world. And this explains the prevalence of the rebound relationship when we decide to dare to get back “out there.”
And if those experiences are undertaken in the online world?
We run the risk of diving in too fast, assuming too much, trusting too quickly, and taking our virtual Romeos and Juliets at their word.
The Challenges of Distance. Okay, Challenges, PERIOD.
I could go on and on with stories of my own about finding a seemingly great guy with whom there is a hint of a spark and a basis for compatibility. In my most recent period of lightly “cruising” the options, I encountered one genuine gentleman of good intent and substance, but he lives half a country away. Another, with whom I also shared interests and rapport, resides some 150 miles away. And both of these men are well established in their respective communities.
Having recently relocated after more than two decades in one region, the possibility of relocating again is overwhelming and financially unrealistic. 20 miles? 40 miles? Maybe.
150 miles? 1,000 miles? On the chance that a relationship might flourish and be sustainable?
Possibly, if I were 10 years younger. Even then, it’s a challenge I’m not sure I would undertake. If things go awry, how do I recover? Isn’t it so much tougher at 55 than 45 or 65 than 55?
Theoretically, you could debate whether consequences are gnarlier for the “mature” woman seeking romance, companionship, a future — or even a fling. But fear not! Any of us are apt to bump into this sort of guy — yeah, this one, here — who generally “reveals his hand” early in mutual virtual acquaintance. At least he’s good for a laugh!
More problematic are those who are skilled at subterfuge, scamming, or manipulating in order to get whatever it is they’re after. I say again: Buyer beware.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know?
Meanwhile, your Match Man of interest offers a plausible reason for no photograph or only a partial one. Your OK Cupid Cutie, likewise. Still, you wonder when he will be more forthcoming. Warning, Will Robinson!
As you buy his excuses and he promises to disclose more soon, you remain intrigued. He tells you he’s bearded. (Nice!) He’s an entrepreneur with a variety of projects in restaurants and hospitality. (Why not?) Oh, by the way, he has a few discreet tattoos and a penchant for hats!
Cool, you think. Even if he’s exaggerating a little, now you begin to imagine this:
Then he shares a few more tidbits. He’s a musician in his spare time. As he enumerates the vocals he prefers, you begin to suspect he may be a little older than he first led you to believe… Then again, does that matter? He did it for better results in search, and haven’t you fudged by three years as well?
Adding to his creative side, there’s his love of photography and he expounds on his latest wildlife series. Your interest grows. So do your trust and level of engagement. With the additional details, you now picture him slightly older, a bit of a hipster, and that has its appeal, too…
A few more delicious details emerge. He’s blue-eyed with an athletic build, he says. He’s hooked on working out daily, he adds. His music? He’s composing for a band he’s putting together.
Unfortunately, it turns out the weights are three-pounders, the hat is a fuzzy panda, the camera is his mother’s ’94 Polaroid, and his compositions are scores for ukulele and drums.
Behold, your dream man.
Hey, the guy may be a fantastic human being with a big heart, an intriguing mind, and precisely the sort of quirky humor you enjoy. His entrepreneurial business? Maybe he really does run his empire from his cozy couch. Personally, I like the ukulele, but…
Why the deception? And what else is he hiding?
Stay Smart, Stay Safe, Take Time
Listen, even when you’ve been dating for a long time, you’re still discovering — and sometimes uncovering — the person you’re falling for. Even when you’ve been in a committed relationship or married, you can still come to realize that you don’t know who you’re with. There will always be elements of our lives we feel concerned about sharing. There will always be people who purposely hide or deceive. They may have their reasons; we may have our reasons. And it may take us years to come to grips with the totality of who we are… with and for each other.
So doesn’t it follow that we ought to be a little wary in any online dealings? Shouldn’t we be encouraged to proceed with caution for our own good? Shouldn’t we manage expectations with a large, and I mean large dose of skepticism?
Listen to your gut. Vet, vet, vet. Get a full name. Make sure he — or she — isn’t married. If and when you meet, make it a public place, by day, and let a friend know where you are.
The great Online Meeting Challenge?
Online encounters are precarious ventures if we’re hoping to move our interactions from the virtual universe to the real one. As for little old moi and my occasional desire to get back out there again?
I wonder… After a respite of three months or six months or a year, will I dare to dip my toes into those wild waters again?