What You (Think You) See is (Not Always) What You Get
There’s a danger in online dating that goes beyond meeting perverts, douche bags and creeps. I mean, really, that’s just a given, right?
This other danger is something that we as women create ourselves if we’re not careful. It’s insidious and sneaky and as much as I try to guard against it, I still succumb once in a while. I call it the Fantasy Man Syndrome.
I met Mike online months ago. I don’t remember how it started, but I think I “winked,” then he emailed, then we talked on the phone where he told me he’d just started dating someone. No problem, I said, thanks for being honest, you seem cool—I can always use a friend. And he agreed.
We kept in touch, in a very platonic fashion, for several weeks. Not a big deal—just a text here and there. Till one day a here-and-there text turned into a conversation.
Mike explained that his budding romance had bit the dust, and now that he was available, he was interested in getting to know me better. Great timing, as I had had no current romantic interest and had found myself in a phase of wondering, “Will I ever find another love connection?” I try not to spend much time in that phase, but once in a while the grass over there starts to look a little greener than the patch where I’m currently standing.
We started texting, talking and keeping in touch on a daily basis. But immediately there were a few things that bothered me:
1. He was five years older me, and I had mostly only dated younger men. More accurately, his “vibe” felt old.
2. He admitted that his current online pictures weren’t recent and he wasn’t “big on selfies.” Of course, he kept asking for more photos of me, which seemed like a double standard considering that my profile pics were indeed recent. Pus I was willing to send an occasional selfie. He seemed to think that this was perfectly fine because “men are more visual.”
Okay, can I rant for one second? What the fuck? So men are “more visual”—all that means is they like to look at us naked and we don’t find penises especially attractive. But it doesn’t mean that clear pictures of a potential love interest don’t matter to a woman. It just means that we don’t get turned on by shots of their junk. Which is perfectly understandable. I mean, have you seen a penis? End rant.
3. The other thing that bothered me was the length of time (months) that we’d been chatting without actually meeting. Here’s where the danger lies that I mentioned earlier—in that space between an initial, “hey I’d like to get to know you” email and the first offline encounter. If that space is too prolonged, the Fantasy Man Syndrome can kick in, and suddenly the guy you’re getting to know is the one you created in your head. With Mike, that’s exactly what happened. I got to know the man I imagined him to be (and I imagined a hottie with a cool swagger who was witty, charming and sensitive), not the man he really was. At least, not until our initial encounter. That’s when my fantasy came crumbling all around me in the little coastal town of Cambria where we agreed to meet for our first date.
Remember my “old vibe” comment? Well, truth is, he WAS old. He looked old. Much older than me and at least five, maybe ten, years older than his profile pics. Plus he was short–barely my height. And he had one ear that stuck out from his head. Call me shallow, but the asymmetry bothered me. I kept tilting my head.
And then there were his word choices. He called my breasts “hooters.” No lie. He point blank said, “You’ve got some hooters.” Uh, thanks?
He referred to an orgasm as a “bingo.” Should I use that in a sentence? “How many times did you bingo?” Like that.
He called big women “heifers.” I’m not a big woman, but still. Rude.
And he referred to a vagina as a “secret garden.” That’s not rude, but eww. I’m pretty sure that most women do not have anything green or floral growing down there.
I could tell you more, but needless to say, my illusion of who he was faded with each weird/old-fashioned/offensive thing he said, and by the end of the evening, I was left staring at a shell of my former fantasy. And his protruding ear.
And who do I have to blame for my disillusionment? Three people: me, myself and I. I was infatuated with a fantasy, and that was none of his doing. I let my emotions get involved before I even met the guy, and when he was not who I expected, disappointment was inevitable. Shame on me for letting my imagination play with my heart.
Like I said, I think creating (and falling for) fantasies is one of those online dating pitfalls we have to guard against, and meeting Mike was a definite turning point for me. Now I don’t allow prolonged communication to continue without meeting a man in person unless two factors are present: One, I sense a seriously strong connection. And two, distance makes it difficult to meet sooner than later. I’m not opposed to meeting someone who lives far away. But I guard my heart when that’s the case. As much as I’d like to fall in love one day, I want it to be with a real man, not one I create in my mind.
Let’s face it, ladies: When we know the type of man we want, it’s much easier to create a fictitious character and build a fake relationship with him than to keep kissing douchey frogs, hoping that one of them will become the good guy we’ve been dreaming about. That second part can get damn frustrating.
But fictitious characters don’t provide real romance and healthy relationships, and fantasy men don’t hold you after a long day when all you want to do is disappear into someone’s arms.
I learned my lesson. I’m holding out for the real thing, not a figment of my imagination. So I’ll keep kissing frogs. Dodging the douche bags. And watering my current little patch of land, whether a man is standing in it or not.