HEAVEN: One robot allowed
I was hoping that, for once, I could use my wit, along with good grammar and punctuation, to charm someone who didn't fall neatly into the "space cadet/rabid Tolkien disciple/attends events with the word 'Con' in their titles" category of men that had almost instinctively pursued me since the onset of puberty.
My early forays into the brave new world of Internet dating hinted at the possibility of something better than I was being introduced to through more commonly practiced methods of courtship. However, many a potential suitor met his inevitable downfall when his true persona was unmasked during the crucial Meeting in a Crowded Public Place. I had an untold number of disastrous first dates that ended unceremoniously without any prospect for a second when my companion would remark on the apparent "maturity" being exuded by my "aura" or brazenly attempt to fondle me before the appetizers had even been ordered. After several instances of such torture, I began to think that perhaps the naysayers had the right idea about Internet dating all along.
But just as I was about to shut off the computer and return to my regularly scheduled life, my painstakingly created personal ad garnered a reply from a man of my age who was working on an advanced degree at the same campus where I was employed. "War and Peace"-length e-mails with this individual gave way to marathon phone conversations and, not wanting to wait for him to suggest that we arrange a date, I asked him to accompany me to dinner.
Our conversation during the meal contained no awkward pauses or embarrassing outbursts; neither was there a single mention of my "aura" or any attempts to fondle it. A second date was agreed upon. And a third. Eventually, I found myself in his bedroom and was, perhaps, a little taken aback when I reached for a condom and saw C-3PO standing at attention on his nightstand.
Nine months later, C-3PO is still standing, and so are we. It looks like the makings of a success story for your column ... not that we will always admit to it. When asked how we met, we occasionally make vague references to some nameless mutual acquaintance, which seems to satisfy the curiosity of most. After all, we certainly don't want to be lumped in with the other perverts and smut aficionados. Or do we?
-- Hollie Corbitt, Tallahasee, Fla.
I'd had a profile up on an online dating site for a few months, the result of convincing some of my single girlfriends that this lark would be best enjoyed as a group. At worst, we would meet some loser guys and have funny stories to snark over later; at best, one of us might meet someone worth dating.
All of the men who were wrote to me were "looking for a Special Lady," enjoyed candlelight dinners and walks on the beach, and really wanted me to meet their dogs and/or kids. Uh, no thanks. Instead I decided to go ahead and write to one particular man who seemed funny, sarcastic and committed within the confines of his profile.
We e-mailed. We I.M.'d. We talked on the phone. He sent me the link to his home page. We met and he was gentlemanly and funny and not at all dull. He was totally open and charming. He bought me a book of poetry and inscribed it sweetly. There was the small matter of almost never seeing him on weekend nights, but I knew that he spent most of his time with a large network of friends, so I didn't worry. I was pleased that I was dating someone who had a life of his own and didn't need to be with me every moment.
I also knew that he had an online journal, but I didn't know his user name and I didn't concern myself about it, until I came across a conversation I recognized from an earlier instant message between the two of us, linking from the page I was reading straight to his online journal. My amusement turned to horror, and then to rage, as I read my name, my detailed physical description, and an intricate reference to the area of the city where I lived, as well as full descriptions of our activities behind closed doors. Other women he had been dating (simultaneously, which I would have preferred a head's-up about) received similar treatment.
In my fury, I e-mailed him immediately and harshly, pasting relevant sections of his writing into the e-mail to illustrate my distress. Funnily enough, he didn't receive the mail before sending me a Valentine's Day e-card (which I can only assume also went to about five other e-mail addresses), but he did respond shortly thereafter to let me know to ignore the adorable message he'd sent.
Did I continue to read his online journal? Yeah, for maybe a week. But then he got too bloody boring.
HEAVEN: Deviants in love
I met him in a privately hosted Internet chat room representing the interests of the local sexually deviant community.
Well, not "sexually deviant" according to DSM IV, the diagnostic manual that headshrinkers use when trying to Label That Dysfunction, unless the deviance prevents one from functioning in the real world or from developing meaningful relationships. Since I function in the real world and have meaningful relationships, my sexuality does not define me; I define it. I prefer to define mine as kinky.
Sometimes though, being kinky means that getting a date on Saturday night can be slightly complicated.
We were in a chat room full of fellow kinky people looking for the next good party when we started talking. We discovered shared interests beyond whips and chains. We liked cats, and active sports outdoors, and thought that conspicuous consumption was tiresome and politics a sham. I liked his dry Southern sense of humor; he liked my kooky California viewpoint. Too bad he was 1,500 miles away.
Ultimately, distance did not deter us. We burned up the phone lines and various chat programs for a couple of months and finally met at the airport where I lived.
He got off the plane and was surprisingly good-looking. Later, he told me he felt the same way about me. I was tickled. We had a hot weekend.
For a year, we flew every other weekend to see each other. We ran up huge phone bills having deep conversations. We had amazing, complicated leather sex for days. We went for long walks. My friends thought he was wonderful and forgave me for being starry-eyed in love.
At the end of that long-distance year, he was the ultimate gentleman and drove a 27-foot U-Haul containing all my worldly possessions 1,500 miles, which brought us 10 minutes apart. We were both nervous. Our first year in the same city was tumultuous. It smacked of commitment to both of us, neither of us entirely sure how we felt about the meanings and implications of commitment.
We got through year one of living locally and year two was better. Commitment was less scary. I still liked his dry sense of humor. He didn't flee from my kooky California viewpoint. I developed a taste for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He maintained a patient but horrified interest in "The Sopranos." I exposed him to good Chinese food. He tutored me on the subtleties of good BBQ.
Year three of living in the same orbit is pretty nice. We still call each other to say good night when we aren't sharing a bed. We run errands for each other, pick each other up at the mechanic, keep each other's favorite beverage in the fridge, ride bicycles long miles together. The sex is still wonderful. The future is still unfolding for us both.
-- Name Withheld
HELL: Sex as the dating kiss of death
I loved her ad. Good taste in music, appropriately laconic sense of humor, sexy little smile. I sent her a suitably complimentary note -- perhaps it was a little fawning, but if I were a master of subtlety, I wouldn't be dating online.
She didn't respond. I was disappointed. Hurt, even, when I thought about it. But soon I wasn't thinking about it.
And then, there she was: She was ad of the day. Her face right there on the main site. I was stirred into writing her again. And this time, I got a quick response, an apologetic response, even. She was sorry for not writing back, she liked my ad, she wanted to talk. So we talked about old TV shows, about the comparative advantages of living in Manhattan and Brooklyn, about the career arc of Elvis Costello. Mild interest morphed into genuine fascination.
We met for a drink. By the end, I was smitten, and I made my big move: I offered her the extra ticket I had to an upcoming Harlem Globetrotters game at Madison Square Garden. I have never seen joy fill a woman's eyes so completely. She screamed in joy, she jumped up and down, she practically leapt on me. She kept asking me if I was serious, like she couldn't believe her luck. What the hell? Chicks go nuts for the Harlem Globetrotters?
In the days before the game, we traded increasingly cutesy e-mails. "Did you really mean it? The Harlem Globetrotters?!" The night of the game, I picked her up at work. We walked around, had dinner, kissed a little in the park. I impressed her by going toe-to-toe with a homeless man in TV trivia and giving him $5.
The game was boring -- but fun, mostly because she was all over me the whole time. We met her friends at a party at a bar. Still, she was all over me. Someone asked me how long we'd been together. "This is our second date," I said.
"Man, she likes you. She's never like this."
Back to my place. We kissed some more. We kissed a lot more. Other things started happening. And then she stopped.
"I really want to sleep with you. But if I do, I will never talk to you again."
"What do you mean?"
"I won't return your calls."
"I don't know. But that's the way it is."
We talked a little. We went to get some food. Over French toast and grilled cheese, I tried to save this budding relationship. She tried to escape. But I just couldn't wrap my mind around the situation. It made absolutely no sense. Eventually, she said she wanted to be my friend. I said I had enough friends. She left. I never talked to her again.
-- Noah, New York
HELL: I am your worst nightmare
Most of these hell stories come from the victims of online-inspired date disasters; here's one from the perpetrator.
I'm a 30-year-old, married-with-children, straitlaced and mild-mannered editor, but I've got a rakish and rapacious persona that comes out best in e-mail and chat forums. There have been times over the last few years when, for one reason or another, my sex life was fairly nonexistent, and I channeled all my pent-up erotic energy into cyber-conquests. I'd pick women up online, woo them with my wit, maybe engage in a little e-mail flirtation or cybersex, and then disappear into the ethernet. Hey, at least I wasn't really cheating, right?
Of course, it's only fun until someone gets hurt.
During one bout of horniness I posted a vague but hip ad (saying I was a 20-something unattached writer) on a dating site for Jewish singles, and I promptly forgot about it. A few weeks later, I got an equally hip and intelligent and funny response from a young woman in my area. (I'm pretty sure she was who and what she claimed to be.)
We hit it off instantly. The service we were using allowed unlimited back-and-forth message posting, and we logged at least a dozen exchanges in two days. She was everything I could possibly want in a girlfriend: naughty and nice, generously accepting and viciously funny, and fill in your favorite Billy Joel lyric here. She fell hard, and I fell pretty hard, too, even though my wife was asleep in the next room.
We graduated to instant messaging and found our hearts thumping with excitement in anticipation of the buddy window popping up with the other's handle in bold type. Serious cyberlovers know exactly what I'm talking about.
But then she wanted to know why I wouldn't tell her my last name, and why I wouldn't meet her for coffee. I made up some nonsense about having been burned by online love before and wanting to go very slowly. But the tone and content of our chats belied that. We went from "Where did you go to school?" to "Tell me what you're wearing right now" in fewer than 72 hours.
I decided I had to come clean, so I logged in the next night and typed "Good evening" to my mistress. "It is now," she replied. I had my confession already typed; I pasted it into the window and hit Send before I could think twice. Her response: "Oh shit."
I tried to apologize and explain, but she was hurting, and in the end I promised to never bother her again.
Of course, I still haven't figured out how to cut ties with the 19-year-old college girl in Indiana who thinks I'm a single bohemian-type writer living in the Village. We've been chatting for a year now, and she's planning to visit N.Y. soon. Bottom line: Trust no one. The next person who answers your ad may be me.
-- Carmen, New York