Internet dating has become an extremely popular way to meet people, and has indeed brought a lot of lonely folks together. But not every date turns out like an eHarmony ad. So in observance of Valentine's Day, we consulted readers, friends, a few experts, and a number of sites (notably Craigslist Personals) to gather the funniest, strangest, and most horrific online dating stories we could find. Lonely people, broken hearts, false claims, dashed expectations, doctored photos, bailouts, and no-shows — it's all part of the online dating experience, and we unearthed a little of everything.
Dear Guy-With-Sock-Puppet, Please Don't Call Again. Thanks "Beth" from Portland, Oregon, posted this note at an online dating site:
The old mid-date disappearing act has taken on a whole new utility in the age of Internet dating. Exhibit A comes from "Jill" in the San Francisco Bay Area, who posted the following on Craigslist:
I get an ad from a guy roughly my age who has a hot bike, and some pics showing he's fairly attractive. We e-mail back and forth a bit, he says he's definitely looking for the same thing, and finally we agree to meet at a coffee shop. The only thing I recognized was the bike. He resembled his pics the way Stuart Little resembles Mickey Mouse. His teeth were black, absolutely disgusting, and he had a cyst beside his left eye. He had to be 10 to 15 years older than me.... Not only that, but I got the distinct impression that he personally knew where a few bodies were buried.
I couldn't help it. I gaped. Then I couldn't look at him at all. I flipped the pages of the magazine I had brought in case of a no-show and glanced at him periodically, wondering how the [expletive removed] was I going to extricate myself from this. So he says he's going to get a coffee. And goes inside. That was his first mistake. Leaving my coffee and magazine, and barely taking time to snatch up my purse, I put my cell phone to my ear like I had just received an emergency call and literally hauled ass down the street to my car before he came back out. Karma says I am going to pay for that. Fine.
Caroline Presno, dating expert and author of Profiling Your Date: A Smart Woman's Guide to Evaluating a Man, says online daters are sometimes perceived as unable to meet people the old-fashioned way, and so are somehow "damaged goods." She recounts this example:
Jayne Hitchcock, a cybercrime expert from York, Maine, tells us she's now engaged to a fellow she met on True.com while doing research for her book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors. But, she says, she had to kiss a few frogs before finally finding her prince.
On some online dating sites, Hitchcock says, if a member wants to express attraction for another member after reading their profile, but without going to the extreme of sending them an e-mail, they can send an electronic "wink". "I was inundated with winks and messages in my True inbox," Hitchcock says. "I am not kidding when I say 'inundated'. Over 2000 members viewed my profile. Of those, at least half were winks." Usually, though, what the winks actually mean is: "I saw your picture and I think you're hot, but I'm too lazy to read your profile and it costs me nothing to just shoot you a wink on the off chance that you think my balding head is sexy, or that you're a nymphomaniac."
You'd think the anonymity of online interaction would make it easier for guys to come off as smooth and in control. But the opposite is often the case. That same anonymity seems to give some men a license to be rude perverts. "One guy came right out in the subject line of his message and let me know he wanted to meet me and do 'bad things' to me," Hitchcock reports. "Another claimed he was a real cowboy in New Mexico and wanted to have sex with me bareback on his horse. Oy."
From Russia With Love
Loneliness can be exploited, as some lonely hearts in the United States have found out. The Web site of the US embassy in Moscow has some good advice for Americans who think they've met their online match in Russia, and run into trouble. From the Q&A page, here are two of the issues that can crop up in such intercontinental romances.
The individual I'm writing to says that s/he needs US$1,000.00 to show for "pocket money" or the airline won't let him/her board the plane. Is this true? (The Embassy responds that this minx from Minsk isn't required to "show" one cent to travel.) I think I have been scammed. I have sent this individual US$2,000.00 and now I find out his/her visa is a fake. How do I get my money back? ("Tough ****," the Embassy replies, in effect.)