In case anyone out there has ever considered online dating as an alternative to a lifetime of pain and loneliness, I would like to share this story with you.
The last week I've been mooning about, all giddy over some guy I was in ever-deepening e-mail correspondence with. This guy was weirdly like me, in so many ways. At first it was just that we liked the same things: This American Life, The Daily Show, movies starring a young Paul Newman. Then it was that we had both lived in Cambridge (though at different times). We both had scoliosis! And his spelling and grammar were impeccable. He sent me the link to his old Myspace profile (which should have been my first clue that something was amiss), and lo and behold, he was cute! Really cute! Maybe a little too short; ok, definitely a little too short, but the guy DVRd Jeopardy. He played Boggle. He was clever, funny, and writing a book. I was willing to make an exception. We exchanged epic e-mails that grew longer by the day. I was a level of giddy I hadn't felt about anyone since my hot Italian internet pen-pal, Jules, in high school. It was weird, because even though I hadn't met him, I sort of felt myself...falling for him. I was too old for this silliness, I knew, but for once, I felt alive. I let myself fall.
Now we just had to meet in person. When I brought it up, he seemed hesitant. The fact that I am tall, thin, a student at Mythaca College, and probably talking to half a dozen different guys on a dating website brought to mind certain stereotypes that he just wasn't interested in, he said. He also said some of his Myspace pictures may have been fairly old, and he might not be as "pretty" anymore. He said he probably needed a haircut, preferred glasses to contacts, and had a beard and a bit of a gut. I, however, determined to disprove his image of me as a stereotypical "Mythaca College douchette," told him that none of that mattered. "Maybe I don't look exactly like my pictures either," I told him. "For instance, my hair is short now. You'll see."
When a guy from the internet tries to warn you about his appearance, Internet, heed his words. I did not. And so it was that I met up with someone I had hoped would be my soul mate, and instead found someone who bore almost no resemblance at all that the person I thought I knew. I quickly realized that the thin, smiling guy I fell for in the photos hadn't existed as such for at least ten years. But still, I am no shallow Mythaca College douchette. I decided to give him a chance. We sat down, and I asked him how long he had been in Mythaca, where he had lived before that, and what he had done there. At this last question, he immediately turned shy and mumbly, smiling down at his napkin and avoiding eye contact. Then he looked up and said something about a house painting business his friend had there, "and some other stuff, too." "Oh," I said, matter-of-factly. "Were you a drug dealer?" He turned mumbly again and blushed down at his napkin, which was all the answer I needed. "I can't believe you immediately jumped right to that," he said. "How did you know?" But it wasn't really such a mental leap--the guy looked exactly like a drug dealer. He said he was long done with that; he spends his days alone now, working on his book. When I inquired politely about his current means of income, his initial vague discourse on "investments" and "the stock market" turned out to mean "betting on sports." Apparently he never loses. And in full disclosure, he did pay for everything all night--movie, pizza, drinks-- all except for his cigarettes, which I bought for him because the store wouldn't accept cards or break his $50.
So, friends, when a guy from the Internet warns you that he might not be as "pretty" as his photos, heed his words, lest you be stuck with a short, unkempt gambler and former drug dealer who thinks that you just might be his soul mate.