Posts Tagged ‘dating anthropologist’

The Carrie Bradshaw of Broomfield

January 10, 2017

More than once, my friend Melisa Pearce suggested that I had the Carrie Bradshaw problem: scaring off men with my writing. It prompted me to binge watch (over the course of a week or so) all six seasons of Sex and the City. I didn’t have cable when the show was airing, though I’d seen a number of episodes and later owned entire seasons on DVD. But I hadn’t seen all of the episodes, and it was time to do so.

I have referred to myself as a dating anthropologist, so when Carrie Bradshaw referred to herself using the same language in one of the earliest episodes, I knew the fictional character and I had at least something in common. That wasn’t the only thing. Carrie Bradshaw wrote a newspaper column about sex and dating, and some of those columns were compiled into a book. I’d never written a newspaper column, but I had written magazine columns over the years, though not about dating. Likewise, I’d written a book, but not one that had anything to do with dating, unless you used romancing the next company you want to work for as symbolic of romancing a man. I do, however, have a blog about dating. And I have been encouraged to turn it into a book.

Carrie had a tendency to pose questions about dating and life. Sometimes she did so in question format; at other times in statement format, often beginning with, “I couldn’t help but wonder . . .” I too have a tendency to pose questions about dating and life, though mine are usually rattling around in my head or posed over a glass of wine with a friend instead of ending up in my blog. I tend to write my blog as if I know what I’m talking about, though regular readers can easily see that I am often clueless. So was Carrie.

Granted, Carrie Bradshaw was a whole lot younger than me in that series. But I found it strangely surprising that dating and sex were not all that different for women in their thirties during the Carrie Bradshaw era than women in their sixties in the current era.

Carrie and I also have shoes in common. While not rich enough to own an estimated forty thousand dollars in shoes, as she guessed hers to be worth, and while owning not a single pair of Manolo Blahniks, I do have somewhere over ninety pairs of footwear, which sometimes prompts me to refer to myself as the Imelda Marcos of Broomfield, Colorado.

Apparently, I am also the Carrie Bradshaw of Broomfield, Colorado.

But in watching six seasons of episodes, I could find only two occurrences in which Carrie had scared off men with her writing. Carrie did scare off the politician with whom she had a few dates. But as far as I’m concerned, she was well shed of any man whose career was in politics. Carrie also scared off fellow writer Jack Berger, but not because she wrote about dating and sex. She scared him off because she was a more commercially successful writer than him, which is another problem altogether.

After watching all six seasons, I couldn’t help but wonder (using the Carrieism) how Carrie Bradshaw would fare in the blogging world. The woman had her photo on the side of a bus, accompanied by the statement that she knew about good sex, for god’s sake. If anything could scare off all the right men and attract all the players and perverts, one would think that would do the job. But it hadn’t. Was she charmed? Was I doomed? Had the dating climate changed in the years since the series aired? Was the fact that men these days could find you online in a New York minute a part of the problem?

I wondered what Candace Bushnell would do in my predicament. And I also couldn’t help but wonder what her alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw, would do in my position.

 

Note: The name Melisa Pearce is real. She’s a friend I count myself lucky to have. Melisa is the founder and owner of Touched by a Horse and the creator of the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method. Carrie Bradshaw is, of course, the famous character created by author Candace Bushnell.

 

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall

Not So Innocent Research

September 6, 2016

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

Another Dating Site

August 31, 2016

I felt I had stumbled into a subculture I had been completely unaware of when I signed up for my first online dating site on my birthday. But two and a half months later, soon after I signed on to a second site, I felt like Dorothy being told she wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

To be sure, the first site had its share of scammers and ridiculously young men contacting me. And some of the scammers were pretty sophisticated in their approach. One scammer contacted me days after the breakup with Derek. I laughed out loud when I saw his photo, not because he was unattractive or had a silly expression, but because he looked like a male model. I was immediately skeptical. But one photo in the lineup had been taken at a fast food joint. It was not professionally done, as the others had been, and it represented the same man in a much more casual pose. It wasn’t even focused well, though it was recognizably the same man. I was still skeptical, but I felt a bit like an anthropologist and wanted to see how my communication with this man might play out.

We texted one another and talked on the phone a few times. He said he was American by birth, but he had live in Switzerland most of his life and had only returned to the US a year or so earlier when his mother died. He definitely had an accent, and I had been around the Swiss enough to find the accent potentially Swiss, but I remained skeptical. He said he was a software guy working in the security industry as an independent contractor who had crews working for him to do implementations. He lived in Lakewood (a city of about 150,000 on the southwest side of the Denver area). I was familiar with Lakewood and asked what part of Lakewood he lived in. When he said, “Near the town center,” I tucked it away as a vote in the scammer column. I didn’t know anyone who would have referred to where they lived in Lakewood that way.

For the most part, though, he deflected personal questions–another check in the scammer column. He was also far too quick to use terms of endearment with me: honey, honey-lamb. Did anyone actually use the endearment honey-lamb anymore? It was a little creepy. He wanted to develop a relationship with a woman slowly and put off meeting on the grounds that he was working many hours on a big project. I packed it all in my mental anthropological journal. My internal BS detector was so loud that it banged my skull from the inside.

But it wasn’t until one particular text that I was sure. He wanted to know what I had been doing one fine day. I had just finished a book editing project and had been running errands all day. I texted about where I’d been and what I’d done. His reply text was, “That’s a lot to do. You must work so hard. How do you play sometimes?”

Yes, the last sentence lacked the kind of sytax that a native speaker of the English language would use, but it was the “You must work so hard” line that set off the internal alarms. If I was a scammer in Sierra Leone or some other Third World country, I might be wired to think and speak that way.

He must have picked up on the fact that I wasn’t buying his line, or he came to the conclusion that I was unlikely to be swept away by a good looking guy giving me attention, or both. Or maybe he just had a better prospect for scamming. I stopped getting texts from him.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from him. “You haven’t been replying to my texts,” he said. “Have you been getting them? I’ve been in England working on a project, and I didn’t have a text from you the entire time I was gone.”

I rolled my eyes on my end of the line. No, I hadn’t received any texts from him. As he talked, I got the sense that he was trying to get a feel for whether or not the sudden loss of communication from him had made me desperate, or even concerned. Of course, it had not. He did not like my coolness. If he had been wondering if I could be groomed, over time, into falling for him and sending him big chunks of money, he had to be losing any confidence in that possibility.

And then the most brilliant thing happened. As his confidence flagged, he lost his Swiss accent for just a few words. But it was enough for me to hear that the accent sounded decidedly African. He was toast, and he seemed to realize it. It ended quickly after that. He asked if I was dating anyone else, and I admitted that I was still on the dating site and going out with other men. This was unacceptable to him. He hung up on me.

As a dating anthropologist, it was a wonderful experience that allowed me to get a feel for how scammers operate. But once I was also on the new site, I was flabbergasted by the sheer numbers of scammers contacting me. Most were not as sophisticated as my fake Swiss friend. The first ones used language poorly, making them easy to spot. But those who showed up after the first wave were a bit better at it. Some had full profiles that were well worded, but their messages to me often lacked the same level of communication sophistication. I suspected that they had copied the actual profiles of legitimate men or perhaps combined parts of several profiles.

But another giveaway that could only be apparent after numerous contacts from seemingly different men was that bits of the same or similar text kept showing up. And there seemed to be a pattern in the online monikers they gave themselves. Often, they had a predictable series of numbers as part of the moniker.

All of this was good research material for the dating anthropologist and writer in me. I sat back, made mental notes, and stayed neutral enough to remain objective like a good little anthropologist.

But what threw me were the contacts from youngsters–men between nineteen and their late forties. Many were blatant, clearly wanting a hookup. One even suggested that he would consume a part of my anatomy not typically a part of heterosexual assignations. Some seemed to be playing cat-and-mouse games. All of them were a mystery to me, but two of them were intriguing enough to prompt more than a couple of messages pointing out the difference in age and stating that I did not date men young enough to be my son. I was willing to interact with them and see where it led. More anthropological research. At least, that was my intent.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Was trading messages with these men innocent research, or was I risking a direct trip to dating hell?

 

Note: The name Derek is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall