Back to the (Internet) Dating Game

Posted 02.19.05

About a year ago, a single friend who had just turned 50 placed a personal ad on an Internet site, describing herself as a redhead with lively blue eyes, eager to meet someone new for a possible relationship.

She had just colored her hair, lost a lot of weight, and decided to start dating again after more than a decade of avoiding social situations.

"I need to change my life, go out more, meet new people!" But instead of going to a local singles' club, she went online. The potential danger in this seemed to elude her.

A couple of the dates were no-shows. But most of her dates met her at the arranged time and place, and all of them paid for dinner. "I haven't cooked in weeks," she told me, smiling.

I pressed her for details, and was shocked to discover that if she felt there was "no chemistry," she left after dinner and didn't bother to stay in touch, but if she found the man attractive, they often ended up in bed.

Horrified, I asked her how she knew how these total strangers were not married, or, even worse, sexual predators.

"Oh, you can tell," she replied, unperturbed. "You get to know quite a bit about them by exchanging e-mails and telephone calls, and I think I have a pretty good instinct about whether or not someone is telling me the truth."

I'm sure I wasn't the only one of her friends who was worried. She often drove alone to a hotel or motel where she would meet a man who had flown in from a distant state on a business trip. Sometimes she even had them come to her apartment.

Over several months, she never had a bad experience, which I attributed to dumb luck. She kept telling me how "nice" these guys were, how one would bring her a rose, or tell her how attractive he found her, or phone her long distance to say how much he'd enjoyed the weekend.

I didn't want to spoil her pleasure by pointing out that a rose, a few compliments, a nice dinner (probably chalked up as a business expense), or a long-distance phone call were really inexpensive ways to get free sex.

It's so easy to establish a false sense of intimacy on the Internet. Yes, we all know about lonely singles who have met this way and ended up happily married. But they're the exception. If they were smart, they met for the first time in a public place with friends present, and allowed the relationship to develop slowly, with subsequent meetings in public until they got to know each other.

Just like the old-fashioned way. Because when it comes to love, there are really no shortcuts.

I'm happy to report that my friend has finally stopped Internet dating. About a month ago she met a long-distance truck driver, divorced, no kids, who appears to be the man of her dreams. I only hope that he turns out to be who he says he is.

But how can she know for sure?

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2005 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/02.05