Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Online Dating

I arrived in the US in June 1994. Towards the end of August, after a summer working as a counselor at Camp Maplehurst in Northern Michigan, I moved to Austin Texas. Once I was settled in my new home and started work, I decided to be proactive in trying to build a life. It was a few months before I had built up a circle of friends, mainly people I worked with. But the social life associated with this circle extended only as far as Friday evening after work drinks or the occasional working lunch.

I wanted to find someone I could go out to dinner with, or to the movies, or dancing. I was not looking for anything serious and certainly not marriage. I was in my late forties, newly arrived from Ireland and it is difficult to meet people and make friends at that age, when you know no one in the country, let alone the city. 

Internet dating was in its infancy but seemed like a good place to start, so after testing out a few of the available sites, I signed up with, mainly because it was segmented into areas—it was possible to view the profiles of all members, but easy to stay within a specific location.

Because I didn’t know what I was looking for I had some very strange encounters. I list just a few here.

One of the first dates I had, I was inexperienced enough to allow the man to pick me up from my home. This is a no-no on a first encounter in the world of internet dating. I was fortunate that he was harmless. However, he did arrive in a Winnebago, which I found somewhat disconcerting. He had an involved story about a flat tire on his car as I followed him to his vehicle, in a vapor trail of an assortment of well-aged colognes and aftershaves, a cocktail that was somewhat pungent, to say the least. Needless to say, this man did not make my top ten. We didn’t meet again.

Then there was Peter. His profile was a litany of lies, he claimed to be an executive —he was a traveling salesman, Austin (supposedly his home) was just another port of call. He actually lived in North Carolina and visited Austin twice a week. His profile read: height 5’ 8” - 5’ 10” and 'average' as body type.  He was five foot, name a direction—horizontal, vertical, diagonal, five foot in every direction.  He clearly had not touched a female in a long time because at the bar, he was finding any excuse to brush against me and he actually grabbed my hand and asked me where I got my nail polish!  I have a problem with men who assume that, if you agree to meet them, that means they can paw you. 

I will always remember the turn of the millennium, as I am sure everyone else who lived then will. I am fortunate that I am blessed with a wonderful sense of the ridiculous. Driving for hours on twisting country roads, totally lost, as the century turned and the fireworks in the distance lit the sky struck me as being incredibly funny. My poor date was distraught. Honestly, the fiasco of that New Year’s Eve date was not the reason that I decided to not meet him again we were just not in any way compatible. We had agreed to meet and go to the Y2K street party. It was going to be a terrific night. We headed into Austin early to get something to eat, and wandered around the blocks that had been cordoned off. Pretty soon the crowds started to swell. At about 9.30 my date suggested going to a club to hear live music. He had noticed that a good friend of his would be appearing. I had been looking forward to the big party, but the idea of live country music appealed to me too. So off we headed. It took a while but we did finally find the club. It was not close to the city, it was actually in the boonies out past the airport. A large young woman was murdering a perfectly innocent song at the microphone. We found a seat and John went to ask when his friend, Joe Smith, would be appearing.  He was told that is Jo Smith up there now.

It was 11.30 p.m. We climbed into his truck to head back to the Y2K party. I was having a very hard time keeping a straight face and poor John was so embarrassed. The new century arrived before we got close enough to Austin to properly appreciate the fireworks that we could see in the distance. 

Not all my encounters were one-date disasters. At least two were disasters that spanned a number of dates, even months. Fred was a man of few words. I have been shy all my life and it took me a long time to master the art of simple conversation. I can now maintain a conversation comfortably, but only if the responses I get are somewhat more conversational than one-syllable grunts.

I dated Fred for about 3 months. Our schedules were such that we frequently didn’t see each other for over a week. This was probably the reason it lasted as long as it did. I finally realized that we were totally incompatible when we spent a weekend together. We decided to go hiking in the hill country. I chose to go in my car because I could do the driving and hopefully that would eliminate, or at least minimize the road rage from which he suffered.

We got to our destination at mid-day, found parking and swapped our sneakers for hiking boots and headed up the rocky slope. Fred picked the most difficult ascent and set off at a fast pace. He was extremely proud of his level of fitness, he worked out every day, and he was unreasonably proud of his body—which was only slightly above average. I was also relatively fit, but I was ten years older than he was, and twelve inches shorter.

It appeared to me that he needed to prove, perhaps just to himself, that he could climb this mountain faster and better than I could, this fact was not in dispute in my mind. However, I do have a somewhat competitive spirit myself, and I didn't want to appear to be inept, so I kept up with him. Finally I called for a stop as one of my boots was causing some discomfort. On inspection, I had a huge blister forming on the back of my heel. We were almost at the summit, so I told Fred to carry on to the top and I would head back to the car, he could catch up with me on the way down. He headed off—clearly quite happy to have established his superiority.

Next morning, we found a place to have breakfast. Fred bought a Sunday paper. We ate breakfast in silence as he read the paper. That was when I became aware that I needed to adjust my perception of what I was really looking for. I didn’t date for a number of months after that, but eventually I found my way back to the web sites and started my search again. I was still not looking for what I really wanted. I still didn’t know what I really wanted.

Another mistake was Sam. We dated for almost six months and we had some really good times. We also had some really bad times. When I met Sam he was on the rebound. I was aware that he was totally obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, but I convinced myself that as our relationship developed, he would forget her. The strange thing is that he was not really terribly interested in me while we were dating. He actually told me that I could never live up to his previous girlfriend, whom he still loved. 

He was a retired Army officer, of independent means, youthful, active and great fun. A man of honor, he frequently told me. I did start to worry when he told me that he had been watching his ex-girlfriend’s house, and had taken photographs of the license plates on her visitors’ cars. Later looking them up on the Internet, not very honorable behavior. He spent a lot of time on the internet—frequently as many as eight hours a day, tracking down as much information as he could on the ex-girlfriend and anyone who came in contact with her. I just hoped that he would get over it.

He didn't. The end came when he told me that he had been by his ex-girlfriend's house one night, and noticing that the next day was garbage day, he threw two big black plastic bags from outside her house, into his truck.  He took those bags home, emptied them out on his kitchen floor and spent the entire night sifting through them.  It really scared me to discover that he found telephone bills, from which he tracked down all the people she called, again using the Internet. He made copious notes about her lifestyle, noting what she was eating, where she was shopping, buying her gas, and many other details—all from her garbage. That day I said goodbye to him and I bought a cross-shredder. Since then I have shredded everything that will fit through it. I was relieved that at least he did not ‘love’ me. I would not be subjected to such attention. 

For a few weeks I heard nothing more of him. Then he started phoning and emailing me.  At first I chatted casually with him, but I began to realize that he was angling to get back together, and so I avoided contact with him totally. That is when he started phoning me in the early hours of the morning, leaving drunken, abusive messages on my answering machine. Sending me abusive emails.  I continued to ignore him, thinking he would get bored. I was wrong. Things got very unpleasant. One Thursday evening, I headed off for a long weekend of seminars being held in a hotel just outside town. My friend, Kimberly, was staying in my house while I was gone. She had been visiting from California and was happy to look after the house for me.

I got settled in my hotel room by about 9.30 p.m., when my mobile phone rang and, without thinking, I answered it to hear Sam’s voice—I hung up immediately. At about 10.30 Kimberly called me to say that Sam had called the house and been abusive on the phone to her. She said that she told him that she was not surprised that I didn’t want to talk to him again. He called her back a few moments later and told her that he would report her to the local police. That was when she called me— she was very nervous at that stage. I calmed her down as best I could, saying that there would be no point in him calling the local police. What could he say to them?  She had done nothing wrong after all. As we spoke on the phone, I could hear a pounding on my front door—it was now after 11 p.m. Kimberly was terrified. With me still at the other end of the phone, she answered the door. It was the local police—and they had woken the entire neighborhood. They asked Kimberly if she were me, and she agreed that she was. Fortunately they didn’t ask for identification. They said that my ex-boyfriend had called them and asked them to come to my home, as he feared that I was in danger from my house guest. Kimberly managed to convince the police that she was fine and they left. Immediately, Kimberly packed her bags and headed back to California.

I was furious and as soon I hung up the phone, I dialed Sam’s number and let him have it. I told him that I never wanted to see him again, nor speak to him again. That if he ever came near me, I would report him to the police as a stalker. I thought that would be the end of it.

A number of weeks went by and I heard no more from Sam. Then a mutual friend told me that Sam had been watching me, and had told her that he "knew my every move." I realized that I was being subjected to yet another form of abuse, and I reported him to the local police, reminding them of the false report he had called into them previously. They made a note and told me to keep a log of any further contact. 

He did contact me again, sometime after that, but luckily I had finally found a man who was honest and good, who really did love me. Larry warned Sam off and I have heard nothing more from him since.


No comments:

Post a Comment