Is It A Date if You Can’t Actually Go Out?

This has been a tough seven days. Last week was the 19th anniversary of my father passing away; two days later it would have been his birthday. It also would have been my sister’s birthday; we lost her in July the week after I moved to Minnesota. My father’s brother is losing his battle with stage IV throat cancer. And I got my fifth rejection letter from the Mayo, supposedly the #1 neurology/neurosurgery center in the U.S., saying they don’t think they could come up with a name for my disease or a prognosis or a treatment plan.

Like with most major obstacles, I had myself a good cry, and then I called my family and gave them the update on my denied referral. I waited until I had a conversation with my disability attorney; that did not go well either because he seems to think that there is no way I can win my case if there isn’t a name for my disease. Yet his website repeats over and over that when our cases go to court, we should focus on the symptoms and how our quality of life is affected, not the name of the disease.

I have friends all over the U.S. and in locations around Europe, so it’s sometimes easier for me to get the word out on Facebook. I feel a little silly “liking” everyone’s message of support because it feels like I’m fishing for sympathy. However, it’s also nice to know that some of my friends are outraged on my behalf and willing to write/call/tweet in order to call attention to my plight. A few people have stepped forward to say that they have media contacts, so I’m widening my reach with giving them documentation to pass along to their people. The theory is that if the doctors won’t take me, maybe the news will?? My medical coverage is through medical assistance in Minnesota so I would not have any expenses covered if I went to a different state. However, Johns Hopkins has a “remote second opinion” option (for a minimum of $550) and they will review my case without me having to fly to Maryland. I may end up doing this. However, I do not think it’s very effective because it’s one thing to read about my symptoms, and quite another to actually see my issues in person. I have taken to scaring my friends by moving the fluid around in my brain so that my face stops being paralyzed momentarily – aka my “party trick.”

I’m a very social person by nature and being stuck in bed all day and night is really wearing on me and definitely changing my outlook and attitude. Last Friday night I caved and reopened my OKCupid account after a four-year hiatus. I barely had time to update the city when I started receiving messages – I was fresh meat! Generally speaking I don’t reply to obvious copied and pasted notes who claim they like me (without knowing me), but they just restate what they have written in their profiles. I also don’t like to talk to anyone who can’t write a sentence. I know it’s a huge reach to think that I can find anyone willing to just chat and not go on dates, but I have been up front with everyone who has contacted me to let them know that I can’t go out anytime soon. Dare I say I’m lonely??? It feels so whiny to say that. Yet here I am.

I talked to about three of the 20 guys for more than a few messages – most guys were either put off by my request for no penis pictures or my warning that I can’t actually go out. One was far, far too young for me and located a good hour away, but gets kudos for truly creative questions. One was obviously a social recluse and did not do anything outside of his janitorial job, which is really a bit sad. That one would send me messages saying he was lonely and bored and he wanted to come over. I get a serial killer vibe, though, or he’s just not capable of conversation, which is just as bad. He would kill me with social ineptness. I have asked probing questions and he only answers with “yes,” “no,” “ok” and “oh.” I suggested that he check out Meetup because he would never have to spend another night alone and bored if he didn’t want to, and that way it doesn’t solely fall on my shoulders to entertain him. I have enough going on. The third guy was really, really responsive, funny, age-appropriate and not put off by the fact that my bed is getting a lot of my action. I’m actually hoping to meet that one very soon.

The last time I went on a date through OKCupid, it was with a tall, southern gentleman who was ex-military about four years ago – I’ll call him Mr. Army. Mr. Army met me out at one of my favorite restaurants in the Phoenix area. It started out nice enough, though I could tell immediately that he was used to dominating all conversations. I would describe him as being a perpetual mansplainer. Mr. Army was too old to have served in Iraq this second time around, but he made it clear that he had very strong feelings about being over there. I’m a tree hugger and liberal at heart and his very vocal support of George W. Bush and Cheney made my skin crawl.

Towards the end of the meal I explained to Mr. Army that my friend had moved to the U.S. from Iraq twelve years prior to that to marry a man through an arranged marriage, and that she was currently trying to sponsor her parents, brother and sister and their spouses for asylum because they were still stuck in Iraq. Her brother had even been shot in the leg during a failed kidnapping attempt; people in his community knew he had a sister in the U.S., and the kidnappers were hoping to extort money from her. Mr. Army became outraged and asked me, “How do you know that your friend isn’t part of Saddam Hussein’s family? How can you trust her? She has no right to be here!” I told him it was obvious she did not come from some super secret bloodline; she would not sponsor them and put her name on all of the documents if that were the case. She was not being “kept” by anyone through a super secret account. It was an insane exchange. I am not very good at keeping a poker face either.

As I was walking to my car, Mr. Army stopped me to say he wanted to go out with me again. I declined. Did he not see my face??? I’m not certain what we would have fought about on the next date, but I’m betting it would have been about guns or religion. He who squeezes his eyes shut and yells the loudest wins, right? No thanks. I’d rather have a no pride night and sit on the couch for four hours in my pajamas, sprinkle chocolate chips in a jar of peanut butter and eat it while watching “The Notebook.” If Mr. Army is the alternative to that, I’ll gladly stay home.

He Looks Good on Paper

One of the hazards about internet dating – and I’ve said it before – is that you can get wrapped up in making your grocery list. Shopping for men! In my 20’s I decided that my ideal mate would be tall with blue eyes, be smart and not have any back hair. The problem with this list is that I left out very important requirements, such as my partner should actually like me (and women in general, no misogyny allowed), pay his own bills, do his own laundry, be willing to help me if I needed it…well, I could go on and on. But after the two live-in boyfriends in Cincinnati, I altered my list a bit.

In my 30’s, I still wanted an educated man with whom I could hold conversations. I also added the need to have a sense of responsibility so that I wouldn’t be stuck with having to take care of everything including bills and hard labor. I mean, when I had to work two jobs to make sure the bills would get paid, or the guys sat on their asses while I hauled heavy stuff or packed for a trip, it was exhausting. I also got incredibly tired of hearing why the boyfriends wouldn’t help clean. Both of them said they didn’t know what to clean, and I had to tell them. I asked them how they thought I figured out what needed to be cleaned? I never got an answer to that question.

So around 2005 I was dating heavily through internet sites. I was very excited to start up a conversation with a guy I’ll name Al. He was a high school history teacher, and he could string complete sentences together and speak in a respectful manner. Al was completely average looking with straight brown hair and blue eyes and a very thin build. I thought he had everything I had been missing previously in other dates and relationships. Al was also very responsible.

Our first date was dinner. The conversation did not flow easily. I tend to be animated when I speak, and he was the complete opposite. I felt a little sorry for his high school students because he did not seem to be an impressive orator. But I thought I was probably being too harsh, and so when he asked me out again, I agreed.

It did not take long for me to reveal to him that I was wearing wigs to cover up my bald head. Al took it well and asked a few questions, but the conversation went much better than I expected, so it was a huge relief. We had more dates at museums and bowling alleys. We did not kiss very much and we never had sex or even got close.

For what ended up being our last outing together, we picked a random music venue at the northern end of Phoenix. Al picked me up and drove us there at exactly five miles per hour under the speed limit the whole way. If you have never been to Phoenix, one important thing to know is that no one who wants to live to see the next day drives under the speed limit – most go 5-10 mph over as a standard. Anyway, that evening’s feature was a singer/songwriter that neither one of us had heard of before, and there were maybe eight people in the audience, but we both really enjoyed the performance. Al even bought the artist’s CD and had it signed.

Afterwards we went back to his house and talked for a while on the couch. Al made his big move and kissed me. I am not a fan of kissing with tongue (especially if my counterpart is a huge producer of saliva and I nearly end up drinking it). Poor Al had no technique whatsoever. It was if a fat worm stuck its head out of a hole and wiggled back and forth a bit. I was startled and consciously fought the urge to do the crab crawl backward. Suddenly, he grabbed my right breast and sort of did a “wax on, wax off” motion. I could not stop myself from making a sort of whimpering sound to match my thoughts, which were along the lines of, “Oh shit, this is very, very bad.”

Al sat back and said, “You know, that is the first time I have heard you respond with passion.” I lost all faith that he would know where any of my important bits were located or what to do with them. I extricated myself and told him I was tired and was heading home.

A few days later I called him and told him that I didn’t think we were a good match. Al was respectful, or stoic, or…gosh, nothing! I am sure he was probably disappointed because he wasn’t getting laid anytime soon, at least not by me, but I couldn’t tell from his voice if he was or not. And that is why I couldn’t carry on. This proves that a list is great as a guideline, but checking items off when they are met does not guarantee a love connection.

I’m in my early 40’s now and I still keep a list. If I would combine all of my previous and present requirements, it would look like this: The person I take on in the next relationship must be tall, have blue eyes, play the guitar and sing, have no back hair, do his own laundry, pay his own bills, give me back and foot rubs, not be a follower of any sports, love the arts, enjoy traveling and have an active passport, be at least a fair cook, be nice to me, be a feminist, not grab my boobs while we’re grocery shopping, take the initiative to clean, love animals but not have any, love kids and maybe or maybe not have any, not steal from me, have a witty sense of humor, chew with his mouth closed, brush and floss every day, be a master of lovemaking skills, and be a good driver.

But since the Keebler elves aren’t exactly making men to my specs, I suppose at this point I’m going to settle for someone being nice to me.

The Broad Squad

CutBanana

The internet is a fantastic invention and I don’t know what I would do without it in my life at this point. I use it to search for rare health cases and symptoms like mine. I use it to communicate with my friends around the world. I watch movies and TV shows via four different streaming services while my laptop is propped over me at a tilt. I’m talking to you stranger dangers, for Pete’s sake.

One of the first ways the internet was initially used for “evil” was that producers and distributors suddenly realized how they could reach a much larger audience to pander their porn.

Another is that it is super, super easy to create a profile and an entire backstory for a person that is not at all based in truth.

Hulu has every episode for the show “Catfish: The TV Show,” produced and distributed by MTV. I was a fan of the movie, and now that I have loads of time on my hands, I am watching that show like I’m loading it up on an IV leading directly to my veins. The movie “Catfish” was made because a guy in his mid-20’s, Nev (pronounced “neev”) started an online romance with a woman long distance, and his brother and their friend taped the progress of his relationship. He is a good looking guy (dark hair and eyes, strong jaw, lovely constant 5 o’clock shadow), and the woman he thought he was talking to was gorgeous with caramel-colored hair and big turquoise eyes. Thought. Nev was crushed and confused when his journey that ended with him meeting this mystery person face-to-face. This is not how he imagined his fairy-tale story would end. Turns out the woman was a middle-aged housewife with special-needs kids who wanted to momentarily escape from her life.

Now Nev’s mission is to help others facing the same dilemma. People write to him because they have been carrying on long distance internet romances with someone who they aren’t sure is being truthful about their appearance, their job, their marital status, their gender, their location, their offspring, their names…you get the idea. “Catfish” is no longer a subject – it’s also a verb.

So, have you been catfished?

Internet dating sucks. I’ve said it many times and I’m sure I will again. At the very least, people don’t like to post their recent pictures, usually because their weight has changed from when they were 17. I get it – I would rather people see me at my best too. I actually haven’t taken any pictures of myself for the past few years because bed rest has not been kind. But I have never lied about my marital or relationship status, the city where I live, my age, my name, my gender, or any other item you can dream up. I don’t tell men up front that I’m bald, but those same men also don’t tell me if they have a 4″ dick that is bent at a right angle.

A good friend I’ll call Svetlana is still braving internet dating, and I am presenting you with just one of her stories with her permission. She had closed down a profile after feeling disgusted and defeated by the men who approached her, but she stayed in touch with a few, including one I’ll call Fernando. Up to this point she has not met him. Fernando had finally asked her out on a date, but Svetlana hadn’t had a chance to accept or decline; instead, she received this message:

Hello Svetlana, I am the girlfriend of Fernando and I don’t think you know anything about it. Since July I live in Germany. 10 days ago I came to his sister’s home in Skokie to visit him for a week, just yesterday I came home. I had seen in his phone and the text messages that he sent to you (unfortunately you are not the only one with who he communicate, at the same day another woman probably from Brasil because it was in Portugese language got from him a love message the same words that he said to me words that he said to me a lot of time, I know that because my friend translated it)…so sad because at that time I was with him, what he would do is ruthless,phony and disrespect. He used me just for his advantage and benefits, he needs european passport to stay legally in Europe and after that study in Amsterdam. He asked me to marry him, now I understand that he wanted just passport and then just cold bloody leave me for another woman. Now I know that he is just liar and cheater, he promised me never to hurt me because my ex boyfriend did it and he knew whats happened in the past to me. I am very angry, disappointed and upset what he did to me, everybody helped and like him cause he looks as innocent and lyal person but he is not like that…unfortunately not! I release my self from him. Why I send you this message? because I want to warn you, no woman deserves this pain. He promised me not to dating you when we stay together but I don’t want to share my life with somebody like him. So enjoy his company.”

First and foremost, Svetlana felt like this took a lot of courage for this woman to reach out to her and warn her. Svetlana has done the same thing when she has discovered men who have been lying and cheating, but sadly, she has had vitriol thrown back at her – other women calling her a slut, whore, desperate, and any other derogatory name you can think of. Second, she responded to the woman and thanked her for warning her, because she wanted nothing to do with men who conduct themselves in this manner. Third, she felt immense relief because this woman did not treat her badly, especially since she had not knowingly become one of many other women he was working on.

How would you react if someone contacted you to warn you that the person with whom you were conversing with or in a relationship with was being duplicitous or dishonest? Would you listen to them rationally, or would you call them names and try to shame them for telling the truth?

Svetlana suggested that she could send a message to Fernando saying, “You think you’re so clever, don’t you?” But really, I thought it would leave much less room for him to wiggle out of if she asked him when he’s planning on moving and who he is going to marry in order to get the proper passport. She did and then blocked him.

My wish is that women would stop buying into this theory and practice that we should compete against each other for the attention of men. Every woman Svetlana warned should have thanked her and cut off all ties to the liars rather than turn against her. I would love to start up a Broad Squad, where we take the time to research things like marital status, number of offspring, jobs, cities, etc., using our favorite tool, the internet (because I can’t very well drive around in disguise and take pictures). Then we warn each other. Then we believe what the other women are saying with proof to back it up. Look, I know we don’t want to think the man who is sticking his dick in us and saying very pretty words could possibly be saying the same to other women, but it’s time for the women to stop hating other women for the lying that men do. And it’s time for men to change their internal recordings from “that bitch messed up my plan, now I have to find new victims” to “I’m sorry, and I will never be a shit again.” Really, wouldn’t we all be happier if we were trying to be our best selves?