Rise to the occasion

I spent 24 hours with him stark naked, doing my best. My best wasn't good enough.

Published April 16, 2003 9:21PM (EDT)

HELL: What's in a name? A lot, if his name happens to be Dick

No, I never sought Salon or Nerve for my online personals, but something tells me I should have -- that is, if I'd wanted to meet a "normal" guy. Instead I went on to Yahoo and met Dick. I remember the subject line of his e-mail: "You looking for different? I'm your guy."

We corresponded for months via e-mail, postcards and the phone, and it seemed we had lots in common: Both cute, both had African ancestors from Somalia, both Italian speaking. He was perfect. So we met in October and had a nice chat. I loved everything about him, his manners, his wit and his incredibly sexy looks. I was so mesmerized with him that I began to see babies in the future. Our boy would have his curly hair and my eyes; our girl of course would have my overall aura, except without my chicken-thin legs. On top of that we had a sense of connection -- until we felt comfortable enough with each other to start talking about sex

"I want my woman to be a church girl outside and a freak in the bedroom," he said. "I want her to call me small daddy and suck my toe. I want her to pee on me each morning when she wakes up. I love her to..." I stopped him right there before he robbed me of my innocence. I stood up, made an excuse to go the restroom, and then when he was busy looking at himself in the reflection of his plate, I sneaked out of the restaurant and never saw him again.

Of course I changed my number, my e-mail, and my definition of the word "pig."

-- Name withheld

HELL: He got what he paid for

My girlfriends talked me into joining an online dating service. It was late, we were stuck at work, and we were all a bit curious. They had boyfriends, so I was the logical guinea pig.

My culling process? No more than two misspellings per sentence or photos with cropped-out ex-girlfriends. And no reference to snuggling. I wanted a guy who had a passion for something: cooking, motorcycling, movies, Ping-Pong, whatever. Someone who didn't live for the bar, or above one for that matter. On the last day of my trial membership, I got an e-mail from a guy whose photo "gallery" included him hiking in the desert, riding a motorcycle. His profile said he loved to cook.

This could be good, I thought, and we began a digital banter that rivaled Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan's. I gave him my work number and we talked for an hour. This could be really good, I thought. We met at a neighborhood bar one night after work.

He hadn't lied about his looks, which was refreshing. I do wish he had lied about his personality though. It felt like he was getting a commission every time he began a sentence with "I hate."

I mean, how can you hate the beach?

He paid for a round. I paid for a round. I kept the night short, but not before he said I was a lot more reserved than my e-mails. I walked to my car alone.

He asked me out for a second date. We went to another bar. Again with the back-'n'-forth beer payment plan, except when he was in the bathroom, I let another guy buy me one. I thought I was being thrifty, but he was clearly annoyed. It was still early when we left the bar, so he asked if I wanted to have dinner. We split a small pizza, he had a beer, and he talked about his ex-girlfriend and how it was OK when they broke up -- because they used to split everything.

Hmmm  pattern forming here.

The bill came: $22. It sat. And sat. Mold began to form. My mind raced: Was he not the one who had asked me out? Was the bathroom window big enough to wriggle out of? Finally, he slapped down a $20 and said, "You can get the rest, right?"

On the drive home he talked about his days in the recording industry and how much he hated it. He dropped me off at the corner. I live on a one-way street, so he would've had to circle the block, but he probably hates doing that, and of course he drove off before I even got inside. Still, I have a feeling he'll call. I probably owe him for his cell bill.

-- Anne Hagerty

HELL: He couldn't get it up -- not even for a friend

Internet, circa 1995: My daughter was in a chat room discussing various subjects and the topic changed to roller coasters. One man in the chat room said that he shared the same "first" coaster with her -- the Jackrabbit in Kennywood Park outside Pittsburgh. When she found out he was closer to my age, she said, "You should talk to my mom ... she loves coasters." He gave her his e-mail address and I began corresponding with him to discuss our mutual interest in coasters.

To my amazement he was educated, articulate, and had an amazing life. His combination of self-deprecating humor and passion for living impressed me from the beginning. I had been dating casually in my small town but was disappointed at the lack of men my age who were well-read and who could discuss current affairs.

Coaster man and I talked and talked and talked via e-mail, often exchanging messages all evening and into the night. E-mails turned to phone calls that lasted for hours. I was falling for the sweet, intelligent man with the sexy Southern drawl. We exchanged packages to fill in the 3-D dimensions of our life -- his was a videotape, mine was a photograph. I was disconcerted when I first saw him because he looked like several of my middle-aged cousins. Thin dirty-blond hair, large head, light eyes. I am attracted to dark men -- dark eyes, dark hair, dark skin. I chided myself for being so superficial and I had to stop talking to him for a few days (blaming it on computer failure) to make sure he would not read my disappointment between the lines of type.

When we began to communicate again he suggested meeting in person. I jumped at the chance and booked a plane ticket immediately for a long weekend to visit him 350 miles away. The trip went as planned. He was a gentleman and made arrangements for sleeping accommodations in case we turned out to be only friends.

I had packed pajamas but they stayed in the suitcase. It was a very sensual visit but he was unable to have an erection and told me that he had had that problem for a very long time due to traumatic events in his past. We talked and held each other for hours. The visit was wonderful. He was just as funny and passionate as his e-mails. I overlooked the steady stream of beer during the weekend, which began early in the morning and lasted all day. He never seemed drunk or out of control.

For the next six months I visited about every six weeks. I had the money for the car rentals and airfare, and he was heading into bankruptcy because of debts from a previous marriage.

When we were apart, our "dates" would go like this: After work, I'd turn on the computer and there would be a "Hi, Honey! I'm home" e-mail that would begin hours of nightly conversation. We shared the events of our days and our dreams for the future.

Then the wake-up call: During one visit his beer drinking was constant and this time he was not eating food. When I went to use the bathroom and saw fresh vomit on the floor, my rose-colored glasses started slipping off. I came home from that visit and said to my best friend, "Please tell me I should not be involved with a debt-ridden, impotent alcoholic." She said "OK" and repeated the phrase back to me.

It didn't matter. I was in love and had to help him. Luckily, he helped me out of the relationship. I called to arrange my next visit and he told me that it wasn't convenient because he had another "friend" that he was seeing. He said, "She's just like you." Those were the words that made me see red, and I seldom get angry about anything. How demeaning to be told that he considered us just "friends." I had never spent 24 hours naked in bed trying to ignite a spark in the limp member of any of my other friends.

I sat down at the computer and typed a venom-filled e-mail to him, then packaged up every gift he had given me, plus the first videotape and sent it back. His e-mail in return to me was just as nasty. It's been seven years and I still love him, but I love myself more and now know that if he had not found another "friend." I'd still be visiting every six weeks trying to keep hope alive.

-- Carol M.

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By Salon Staff

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