Not So Innocent Research

One of the youngsters who had contacted me on the new site was actually not such a youngster, but at forty-six, he was still young enough to be my son. He had an entertaining and rather outrageous profile. Rather than describing himself, he told the story of an encounter with a drunken homeless man while sitting on the street-side patio at a bar on Denver’s famous Colfax Street.

He was not dissuaded by my usual message response that he was young enough to be my son and therefore too young for me. In fact, he could not be dissuaded at all after numerous messages back and forth. That I continued to interact with him was curious. What was it about him that kept me engaged? I wasn’t completely sure, but the fact that he was very respectful didn’t hurt. And the fact that he was interested in me as a writer probably played a part in the continuing conversation. I rather flippantly told him that he was at risk of being written about in my blog–something I thought would send him packing–and he said he didn’t mind at all.

When he suggested we have lunch, I turned him down. When he kept pressing for lunch and agreed to come to my part of the metro area for it, I began to weaken. When he said he was a vegetarian, he more or less had me. It wasn’t that I prefer vegetarians. I don’t. I’m an omnivore myself. But the combination of things I was learning about him made me doubt that it would be much of a risk to meet him. I agreed to lunch. We set a date. I asked him to pick the place.

Still, I found myself wondering if I knew a woman closer to his age who might be suitable for him, and I told him as much. The day we’d set for lunch came and went without further contact from him. Ten days or so passed and we reconnected. I accused him of chickening out. He replied that I seemed to be trying to pass him off to my younger friends, and he wasn’t interested in someone else, he was interested in me.

I agreed to another go at it. Another date was set. He was reading my blog and enjoying it. He sent me a photo more recent that those on the profile. I sent him one of me not on the site. I knew his full name and did a Google search. I had his e-mail address. He did a little online research on me as well. I knew his profession, or at least his stated profession. He promised to follow through with lunch this time. It was all moving forward.

The day before our scheduled lunch, I asked him to confirm our meeting by the next morning. When I heard nothing, I sent him a text asking if he was actually going to back out again. The text I got back said, “Funny story. Not really funny, but it happened to me. I just got out of jail.”

I texted back, “So not funny. Scratch the meeting.”

I didn’t think the man was a catfisher, exactly. I believed that his photos were actually of him, particularly the selfie he had sent me. And I did not think he had presented a false personality. But some catfishers were not trying to gain financially from their activity, they were just shy, bored, married, in prison, or otherwise disinterested in or unable to date. Instead, they were interested in gaining the attention and affection of someone online to pump themselves up or entertain themselves. And while I didn’t think he had misrepresented himself by photo or personality, I did think he had been playing games. In fact, I had suspected that from the start. And if he hadn’t been, he was still persona non grata by virtue of the fact that he had done something to land him in jail.

As a dating anthropologist, I found it all fascinating. But as one human being interacting with another, I found it disappointing. I had hoped to find a quirky, interesting human being on the other side of the table at lunch.

A second man had interested me enough to entice me into ongoing conversation. He was in his early forties and did not even live in the Denver area, so there was virtually no chance that I would meet him face-to-face, at least not anytime soon. He live in LA. He wanted to shift from the site to Facebook almost immediately–a scammer’s move. But when I checked out his Facebook page, it looked more legitimate than not. He had over three thousand Facebook friends, many of them women. Who was this guy?

He messaged me while I was checking him out on Facebook, having agreed to friend him. What transpired was a thirty-minute exchange that was both hilarious and as close to the message version of telephone sex as I had ever had in my life. I attempted to keep it clean, and he kept moving it into sexual territory. When I thought it had gone far enough, I signed off.

But I remained Facebook friends with him because I was fascinated and because I could not figure out what was real and what was fictitious about him. Were any pictures of him actually him? Did the computer-generated art depicting him represent him visually at all? Granted, he had a penchant for taking a head shot of himself and plunking it down on another person, but was that head shot even of him? Was he a man born on July 11, 1973 as he claimed? Was he a man at all? He represented himself as a writer, poet, lyricist, and philosopher. Was he any of these?

No Google search answered those questions satisfactorily. The link to a website did not work. Links to music produced no music. He had a couple of books on Amazon and photos of him could be found online, but there was nothing that convinced me that he was the person he was representing himself to be.

I was becoming more than Dorothy in Oz, I was Alice, and I had gone down the rabbit hole.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall


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