May 19, 2020 – Arlington, Washington
The other day I woke up from an intensely emotional dream. I’d been in a crowded place, a bar or musical venue, and was having a great time. Several people around me reached out to touch my arm in a warm and tender way—their touches were infused with love. It didn’t take much to realize that I’d been dreaming about some of the things I’ve been missing the most in this changed world of COVID—human touch and human kindness.
Like most issues in this country, those surrounding the virus have become highly politicized. When Democratic governors try to enact their stay-at-home orders, they’re criticized by those on the right for over-reacting and taking away human rights. When Trump says we need to go back to work, he’s criticized by those on the left for behaving rashly and endangering human lives. This polarization has made it nearly impossible to come up with any kind of rational approach to the virus, one that probably lies somewhere in the middle.
My journey with Brent left me with emotional scars, and I’m probably not ready for another relationship, but I did re-activate my online dating profile. I blame it on boredom—when you’re stuck at home, dating sites are a source of cheap entertainment. I like to use a site called Plenty of Fish (POF), one with a very apt name. Dating sites, especially the free ones, are full of people pretending to be someone they aren’t, commonly known as “catfishers.” They prowl the internet, searching for lonely women (usually older women) they can befriend and extort money from.
I’ve become an expert at recognizing these guys. Their profiles all look the same. They’re tall (usually around 6 feet), and their catchphrase is something cute and generic like “happiness, good vibes & peace of mind.” They’re highly educated, with high-tech jobs like “Biomedical Equipment Technician”, and they’re usually widowed (you get more empathy that way). Their profile photos are flawless—they are classically handsome with salt and pepper hair and neatly-trimmed beard. Their first message always mentions my smile. It could be that the same person is catfishing me over and over because they often list German as a second language and their spelling and grammar is terrible.
I usually call them out immediately for their charade and they disappear, but sometimes I try to one-up them. When I asked one guy if he was born in the States, he answered “Of course dear, why do you ask?” I replied, “Because you spelled the word “favourite” using the British spelling. It’s obvious you’re not who you say you are.”
I recognized my latest, Mr. John, as a catfisher by his “Greek god” profile image and his bad grammar. For “conversation starters”, he lists “Funny stuffs, same time been serious and always talk about our purpose of in life, future.” When he sent his first message, he was gushing in his praise. “Hi beautiful…. Please allow me admire your appearance, most especially your smile… it would be amazing to ready from you Beautiful.”
I was sitting next to my granddaughter in the car when I received his message. “I think I’ll have some fun with this guy. I’ll be so over the top, he’ll think I’m a catfisher as well.” I composed my reply with some help from Emmy:
“Yes Mr. John, you look like a model. You are so so cute. Hard to believe anyone could be so perfect. Ready for a great time? R u not ready for a great time, sexy boy??”
Sad to say, he didn’t get my sense of humor. Here’s his reply: “Hi sweetheart, I’m not a model. You are not the first person asking me anyways. Even sometimes when I meet people in person face to face they ask same questions. I wish we could talk on phone or text elsewhere. Feel free to drop your phone digit and I will respond to you beautiful one.”
My strategy had backfired. Instead of disappearing, Mr. John got more and more persistent. I knew he wanted the secrecy of an email/phone relationship, but I insisted on face-to-face.
“Why don’t we meet up in person? That would be lots more fun, don’t you think?” He pushed back, demanding my number. Instead of outing him as I usually do, I stopped responding.
I need to delete my profile and give up online dating—too many strange people out there—but with social isolation what options are there? Maybe it’s time to stop looking, get myself together, and “go with the flow.” In a week I’ll be heading to Hawaii for a while to quarantine on Oahu with my son and his family. Can’t wait to see my grandkids!