In 2010, it’s pretty hard to find someone who hasn’t at least perused an online dating site at some point. Or talked about one. Or heard about someone’s harrowing experience using one. There’s nothing wrong with meeting people with whom you’ve only emailed. One of my best and closest friends has only laid eyes on me once, and I tell her just about everything.
There are some scary stories out there about bad things happening to people who meet strangers off the internet, but there are scary stories out there about people who met someone in a bar, at work, in the library, or at church. Not everyone on the internet is nuts (you’re here, right?), but the people who are nuts can find a much bigger audience.
I was an internet dating pioneer. I used to have a profile on Yahoo Personals back when it was free and it was one of the first internet dating sites out there. I was probably 19 or 20 at the time, when there were 45 guys online for every girl. Almost everyone had dial-up, so pictures were few and far between, and what you could see would be grainy and not very helpful at all. I loved the internet. I loved the idea of showing someone my personality and having discussions with them before meeting them face-to-face.
Then I met some real freaks.
One wanted to meet me at a hotel. I’d gone to an all girls high school, so I had very limited experience dating. (Parents, consider this a warning: if you send your daughter to an all girls high school, she will learn about dating from men who are older, more experienced, and less inclined to cop a feel, and more inclined to get into her pants.) I remember thinking that maybe he wanted to meet there because they had a nice restaurant.
I can hear you laughing now.
Yes, I went. It was an Amerisuites. No restaurant, but I didn’t know that until I got there. (Silly me.) My internal alarms went off, and after he asked me up to his room, I left.
There was another guy who took me to dinner. He was ten years older than he’d led me to believe, and probably twenty years older than I was. Dinner was nice; he owned his own company (a web design firm — very forward thinking back in 1998), and treated me well. He paid. When we were walking back to the parking lot, he kept asking if I wanted to see his truck. I almost went.
Then he joked that he kept a sledgehammer under the front seat.
I ran. Seriously. I ran.
They weren’t all creepy. I dated this one guy for a few weeks. He’d been charming online. He was a grad student at University of Maryland. I didn’t break it off with him until I found him sitting in his car outside my apartment one night, waiting for me because I hadn’t answered my phone.
Oh, wait. That one was creepy, too.
This one guy came to meet me, talked for three minutes, and said, “You know, I really gotta go.” And he left. That was that. Subtle, right?
One guy talked to me on the phone for weeks. We never met in person because he couldn’t get it together to ask me out. He’d call me and start conversations like this: “So, I’m really not doing anything tonight.” I’d respond, “Oh yeah? I don’t have any plans either.” And then he’d say, “Well…I guess I’m just going to sit here and watch old eighties movies.”
He’s probably still doing that.
I met one guy at a bar after chatting online. He owned his own home in downtown Baltimore, had a good job, and was perfectly nice, funny, all good things. Blond. Blue eyes. Charming. When he asked me back to his place, I went. Beautiful home. He showed me the rooftop deck and we looked out across the harbor. Then he sat in one of the deck chairs, one of those Adirondack chairs that’s good for sprawling, and leaned back. He said, “You know what I’d really like?”
At this point, I was practically naming our children (the date had gone that well). His blue eyes were sparkling, the stars overhead were shining. After his perfect behavior all evening, I expected something charming, like, “To go out with you again,” or, “For this night to never end.”
I turned around, leaned against the deck railing, and said, “No. What would you like?”
You can guess what he asked for.
I never saw him again.