This actually happened to me several years ago but a good friend of mine was telling about a very similar incident she experienced more recently. Who knew both of us would experience time travel.
When I first started online dating I was fairly naïve. (I would like to think that coincided with me being fairly young.) I do have a basic trusting nature and want to believe the best about everyone. I assumed that what I saw and read on those profiles was the truth. I have since been relieved of those notions. I also was the type of online dater that wanted to give everyone a fair shake. (Naïve, again.) Sometimes it just doesn’t go well. So there was this guy. Let’s call him…..(seriously, I really don’t remember his name.) Ben. Let’s call him Ben.
I was living and working full time in NC. Single mom with two young daughters. Online dating wasn’t as popular as it is now, but I was going to give it a try. I read and reviewed the options. No rash decisions. Ben had a great profile. Nice looking. Good job. Lived in the next town over. Hey, I could do this! So after a few emails, we talked on the phone. Still good vibes going out. (As a side note, I won’t meet anyone who will not talk to me on the phone first. There is a wealth of information you can learn simply in a short ten minute conversation. Does he have a potty mouth? Are there more than three letter words in his vocabulary? Can he actually carry on a conversation? Vital tidbits to help determine if a first date is actually a desired next step.) Ben and I had good phone repoire, so we then set up a day/time to meet for dinner. We were going immediately after work on a specific day. Now this was the time before constant communication via text message, Facebook, etc. We made a date and then waited. (Instant access to everyone has eliminated the process of anticipation. I’m not sure that is entirely a good thing. I, for one, am a very impatient person. The art of anticipation is typically lost on me anyway. But as a general rule, I believe it can play an important role in the wistful, expectancy of an event.)
Sometime after lunch on the day of our first date, I started to get very ill. It was bad. While I knew I did not feel like meeting anyone and certainly did not look my best, I did not want to cancel. I was sure if I backed out on the premise of being sick, he would not have believed me and I would not have gotten a second chance. So I made the decision that since it was right after work, I would go, meet him, let him see how pitiful I was and then send me on my way with a second date scheduled.
I get to the restaurant first and settle in my chair. I don’t order anything at all because I am sure nothing will stay down. I am just waiting for the quickest meet and greet of all time. Now let me just say that in all my years; before or after this incident, I have never been approached in a restaurant (or public) by a guy. No one sending me drinks from across the room. No one ramming their grocery cart into mine. Nothing. But this day, while I’m waiting for Ben to show up, here comes this old, paunchy guy up to my table. He proceeds to start talking and ask how I’m doing. I try to ignore him. But he isn’t deterred. In fact he sits down. I become frustrated. Ben cannot see me talking to another guy on ‘our’ first date. That would just not look right. Then somehow through the nauseous haze I hear him say my name and how nice it is to finally meet me. I try very hard to focus on him and then it hits me. This IS Ben. Not the Ben in the handsome photographs on the dating site. Not the Ben who is 33 (remember, this was many years ago) who likes to stay active and take care of himself. Not the Ben who talked to me on the phone and not once mention that he was sending his FATHER to have dinner with me!
I rallied. Pulled myself and thoughts together. Put on a smile and said all the ‘proper’ things one would say when meeting someone for the first time. I wish I had a ‘call you out’ gene. The DNA strand that gives you permission to look someone in the eye and call them out on whatever they have obviously tried to swindle you on. Something like, “Hello Ben. I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you standing there. Your pictures must have been from at least ten years ago. Those years were not kind. It is sad that you felt the need to be dishonest in order to meet me. I will not continue our dinner and please do not contact me again.” No. I didn’t say those things. I wish I had. They would have been more honest. As weird as it sounds, at that moment I was GLAD I was sick. It was my most obvious and reasonable exit strategy.
No. I never heard from Ben again. No idea what his thoughts were about my reactions or the meeting itself. But in case you are reading this Ben, here are MY thoughts.
I understand the bottom line of an online dating profile is a picture and a headline. Both sides of the gender aisle. Is it right? No. Is it fair? Not by a long shot. But it is never a good idea to misrepresent yourself. Age. Weight. Missing Limbs. Be honest! I know it is scary. We all want to be appreciated for our personality. Our kindness. Sense of Humor. But a sense of humor does not include the joke’s on me because your phone’s camera has a photoshop app that turns Archie Bunker into Bradley Cooper. (My apologies to Archie Bunker fans.)
When all is said and done, we singles live in a precarious, ever shifting landscape. It is hard to maintain our balance. We know we have options. We know we ARE options. But we have to be real. We do not live in the computer or on a phone screen. We have to be careful to present ourselves as the best and most honest selves that we can. So don’t hide in yesterday.
Make TODAY the very best version of yourself.