The pursuit of love was harder than I had imagined, I sat bruised and contemplated my future. In the short time that I had re-emerged I felt that the “game” had definitely changed. Had the world changed too? Were the woman different?
Internet dating created a new sense of anticipation and urgency. There was something deliciously exciting about the phenomenon of exploring potential love matches on the web from the privacy of your own home and quite frankly I was hooked. I tried to impose “rules of engagement” which demanded that I only contact interested parties after work hours. The potential distraction was overwhelming and I needed some self discipline. My rules were honoured more in the breach than in observance whenever I met someone who I regarded as an outstanding prospect. So let me tell you about my experience with jousting at shadows, “ships in the night” if you will. These stories are sad and compelling. They contrast dramatically with the often outrageous personalities that one encounters day to day on dating sites.
So let me begin…
In my search for love, I came across two young women who caught my eye. The irony of this reminiscence is that I actually met neither of them, but engaged in a cyber dialogue that was both profound and deeply moving and I would love the share this tale with you.
Case study one, the Woman in Red...
At this stage of my cyber dating journey, you will recall that I was still too “embarrassed” to post a photograph of myself. I had always thought that I was not terribly photogenic, but my real concern was that I didn’t want to be “seen” as desperate and dateless. This was my perception of the stigma that attached to internet dating in its early formative years. Accordingly I had to develop methodology to entice the fishes to come and have a nibble on my hook. There were a lot of hooks out there and it was awfully competitive. So I would invest in “dating dollars” (kiss dollars) and send a message to a prospective contestant stating that:- “I have a very senior position in a law firm and I jealously guard my privacy. I am happy to send a photograph if you would like to see me and we can take it from there.” This was generally effective.
So enter my "Woman in Red..."
She had posted a series of stunning photographs and one in particular commanded my complete attention. She was wearing a red silk cocktail dress. The photo was taken at a party and she was looking back over her shoulder with a cheeky grin holding a glass of champagne as if she was toasting the viewer. She was beautiful and stole my heart with her captivating glance.
This is when ego emerges and you begin to fantasise in your own mind that this person is actually looking at you. You start to believe that you could fall in love. You read and reread their profile believing that you align to their interests and that you would make an amazing couple. This initial “crush” starts to wane after a few days when there is no response. I decided to be proactive for my Woman in Red and send her another message. That night when I opened my profile to review the day’s score card, I was shocked but delighted to see that she had responded in my inbox. I clicked “open” with my heart beating with anticipation and I remember to this day how my excitement turned to despair within seconds when I read her message. “You have no idea, you think that women are going to melt when they receive your message. Don’t you understand that beautiful women receive hundreds if not thousands of these sugary sweet notes every day and you don’t even have the guts to put a photograph on the site.” Her tirade continued, “How do I know that you are not just another married player trying to take advantage of nice women?”
I sat at my desk feeling gutted and empty. This is the nightmare of cyber dating. A complete stranger with whom I had built the expectation and in my mind, the possibility of a relationship had basically answered and told me to “go fuck myself.”
Wow. I responded. “Thank you for your message and the courtesy of the response. However, by the tone of your answer I gather that you are perhaps not happy with your experiences on the site. I think you should understand that not all men are the same and if you had read my message carefully you would know that I am more than happy to send you photographs so that you can see me. I am not married, and do not consider myself a “player”. I genuinely want to meet an attractive and intelligent woman. You have to trust that all men are not the same.” Within an hour she responded. “I am so sorry, I should not have barked at you. I have just had a very bad experience on the site. I met a man, who seemed to tick all the boxes and I started to fall for him. I just found out that he is married with a family and I am devastated.” I replied. “So sorry to hear that, but you can’t put all men in the same category.”
She replied, “you’re right but I have had it with internet dating and I am off this site, goodbye.” Her profile disappeared within the hour. I sat there thinking about the reality of the lives of people using these sites. The good, the bad and the ugly. I was sad that she had been deceived and that I would never ever meet her. I couldn’t believe that during the short period of time that I had first seen her on the site I had created a fantasy journey in my mind. I had allowed my imagination to create the idyllic and perfect romantic scenario. In the space of half an hour it was gone. I felt empty, and deflated. My “Woman in Red” had gone… forever.
Case study number 2, Ships passing in the Night...
As they say, the best cure for any of life's kicks in the butt is to get straight back onto the bike and start pedaling. And this was my medicine as I hit the search button to review new members and fresh candidates. I saw another woman who had posted about 10 photographs. She was beautiful and appeared to be professionally successful, independent and confident. Once again my ego went into overdrive. I sent her a message with my standard explanation and once again, my hopes were dashed when after a week there was simply no response. After a period of time, and many fruitless introductions and dates I would notice her profile was still current and would send her a message again, more chatty and friendly than the usual drivell.
A long time passed and I had moved on with no response and then one day I noticed her again and casually sent her a cheeky “hi”, “it would seem that we are like ships in the night, passing by and briefly waving to each other as we sail on in search of adventure and love…”. To my complete shock and surprise she actually responded. She said that she was not dating and was not regularly checking her messages but she appreciated that I had kept in touch and we become pen friends.
I noticed as the years ticked by that she had never updated her photographs. Every couple of years, we would exchange messages. I was dating and assumed that she was too. However the fact that we both continued with current profiles implied that we had not been successful in finding love. Finally I suggested that we should plan a catch up as we must be by now RSVP veterans and she should consider our meeting more of an ANZAC Day reunion than a date. I think she appreciated my sense of humour and we exchanged phone numbers and I found myself actually talking to her within the hour. Could this be destiny? She told me the story of her life which once again demonstrated how the brain can create a fantasy world of expectation which is so often completely different from the reality.
There was a lot of serious illness in her family and her mother was terminally ill. She intimated that she also had a serious medical condition. My response was all too predictably to be her knight in shining armour. I now knew her name and searched to see if she had a facebook or Linkedin account. She had tentatively agreed to meet me at a cafe in Bondi that served vegan food. She told me that she had a number of dietary issues. To my delight I found her easily on FB and opened her account. I sat staring in abject horror at her recent photographs. The beautiful woman depicted in the RSVP profile and who had enchanted me for years, was no longer. Her face and body were emaciated. This was the face of an anorexic or worse. I rang her again to confirm details of our get together but she had changed her mind and said that she didn’t think it was a good idea to meet after all. I didn’t press the matter and left it.
We never met and we never corresponded again.
Like ships in the night we passed and that was that. Internet dating is full of these experiences, people circulating, people dreaming of love and having their hopes dashed time and time again. Internet dating is shallow and is more akin to a lottery. It is the lottery of life and love. It is random and punctuated by constant elation and disappointment. Your first impression is physical and visual. My inclination was always to try and build my perfect woman behind the photographic facade. I like so many projected my needs into every smile. It took me a lifetime to realise that this just doesn’t work.
I will always remember these two beautiful but frail ladies. I hope they are happy and perhaps they might read this and know that I wish them nothing but love and good health.
Never give up on love