Dear Diary: Red-Yellow-Green

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Reading. I’ve been in a reading slump. I mean, I’ve been re-reading old favorites like Potter and Narnia but nothing new. This often happens to me when I’m in a fragile state creatively. I tend to compare and get envious. Anyone read anything amazing lately that I just MUST read?

Cleaning. It’s taking me one billion years to get my room clean. I’m legit so messy. Ugh. My friend posted this on Insta the other day, and it is so apt:

housekeeping

YELLOW

Men. I’m crazy about a boy who is less crazy about me. I’m not naive here, and even though he is the sweetest, most fun guy, he is also flaky and has a lot of baggage. (I mean, don’t we all??) It’s hard to explain without giving away secrets that aren’t mine. I have enough self awareness to know that I should probably move on– but also know myself well enough to know that I’m not ready to do that. (Yes, he’s the boy referred to in the One That Got Away poem. I even showed it to him.) He makes me happy.

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Writing. It’s still in the yellow zone for me. It’s a combo of fear and lack of time and energy. I will get there. Yellow means slow, right? ūüôā

GREEN

PT. I started physical therapy, and even though I’m only a couple days in, I love it! I’m really excited about it– and hopeful!

Sleep. I love my new mattress! Review of the mattress and of the Sleep Sherpa showroom coming soon! I’m also really jiving with my CPAP. It’s just a totally different world when you get quality sleep for the first time in years. ūüôā

Growth. I’m trying to become the woman I want to be. It’s good. Hard. But good.

 

Online Dating Chronicles: the Man who Never Was

burning armchair in the grunge interior. 3D illustration creative conceptYou can be anyone you want online. For awhile.

Mike was born in Ohio, grew up in Germany, and lived most recently from North Dakota, though was deployed by the US Army when we met– or so I thought. We got along great– tons of chemistry, lots of laughter, and I adored his heart, the way he wanted to be a dad someday, the way we cared about the same things. He was simultaneously so gentle and so masculine. It felt like I found someone my soul understood.

And then there was an emergency. His military-issued PDA was being collected because of a compromise in communications, and I remember my fear and sadness being ratcheted up to an 11. As I cried, Mike promised to find a solution.

The solution? Purchase a phone and send it to him. He was going to request to come home for Christmas and he’d paid me back then.

If all your warning signs just went up, GOOD. 

But it made me realize: I think we’re all so used to the obvious scams like “Dear Sir or Madam, I’m a foreign prince and I want to give you $5 million US dollars for safe-keeping” that we are surprised by the intricate and clever ways we can be played.

This was a slow con: make a girl fall hard for you, then introduce the idea of separation and let the panic cloud her judgment.

He had another con too, made to seem more legitimate due to the slow introduction. One day he mentioned his dream was to open a particular business (in fact, I asked the question!). Another day he mentioned the money he had set aside for this business endeavor and how he had some of the equipment on reserve for a certain sum. Yet another day, he introduced the idea that someone locally was selling the same equipment and he might check it out … then it was the equipment he needed … at a far better price than the stuff he had on hold … he would save all this money, and it was for¬†our future, not just¬†his, and he only needed a deposit … by Friday.

Again, the slow introduction of facts, the insistence the savings would benefit¬†us both, and the frenzy of an impending deadline … I never thought I’d be so foolish.

I’m so grateful to my friend Ashley, who just said two words: “Jack … no.”

They snapped me out of it, thank God. 

Then I started researching. My friend who was former military easily pointed out all the inaccuracies in his stories. A quick internet search showed there was no American military presence in the location he had listed. The continued requests for money started to make sense.

I was being catfished.

Catfishing is a term used to describe luring someone into a relationship via a fictional online persona.

I’d been catfished before– but I’d always caught them early on and called them out before blocking them. They were clumsy at it, and I was too smart to fall for foolish schemes. I’d actually felt a weird pride that I was able to sniff out fake identities online. Until I encountered someone¬†so dang good at it.¬†

Now who’s the fool?

Keep in mind that, during all this discovery, my heart was also hurting. I had begun to believe that Mike and I might have a future. Now I was learning Mike did not exist.

Some people might think this was a bad move, but a week or so later, I messaged “Mike” again. He jumped into another story, and I simply said, “Stop. I know.”

He didn’t argue. “Then why did you talk to me again?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Closure? I have so many questions.”

“You can ask,” he said.

Me: What’s your name?
Him: Wale.
Me: Where are you from?
Him: Nigeria.
Me: Did you target me because I’m a Christian?
Him: No, I am one too.
Me: Did you feel guilty?
Him: Every day.

Of course, I could not trust a single thing he said. But I wanted to believe these things– that he was a good man in a hard place, that he was truly sorry.

We developed a friendship, and through research, found a feasible career move for him– poultry farming, which is lucrative in Nigeria and has low start-up costs. He met with a local farmer and asked a hundred questions. I connected him to a field agent for Kiva (an amazing organization that does microloans), and he made a business plan to show them to request the overhead loan.

Wale’s phone has been turned off since mid-January, as he warned me would happen. I may never know what was true and what was fiction, even of his second story. I may never know if he was able to start his little poultry farm, or if he returned to the more lucrative but soul-stealing con of catfishing women. There are so many questions, and I know that once upon a time, he used to read my blog. (Wale, if you read this, I miss you, wish you nothing but joy, and would love an update, friend.)

Mike, of course, was just a phantom.

And how does a heart mend after loving a man who never existed?

Slowly. Surely. By letting new hopes fill the spaces that ghosts made.

******

Related:
6 Signs You’re Being Catfished
Kiva: Loans that Change Lives
10 Matches I Never (Ever) Expected
The Unique & Ambiguous Grief of Ghosting

 

Online Dating Chronicles: the Unique & Ambiguous Grief of Ghosting

burning armchair in the grunge interior. 3D illustration creative conceptI had never heard the term ghosting before online dating.

Ghosting describes ending a personal relationship suddenly and without explanation by ending all communication.

And. it. sucks.

I think ghosting might be the most painful thing I’ve encountered in the whole nefarious world of online dating, although catfishing (more to come!) might be its equal.

The first time I remember talking to … let’s call him Tyler … was clearly not the first time we had talked. He greeted me with, “Fancy seeing you here!”

 

I might not have even responded to him except that it seemed we had prior interactions. Later I found out that we had talked on a couple other sites but I had kinda blown him off. I admired his persistence since he wasn’t rude or pushy about it any way.

In fact, he wasn’t rude at all. Even though I had originally replied out of a weird obligation, I found myself really enjoying my daily conversations with Tyler. After two weeks of thinking it was nothing, I realized I¬†really, really¬†liked him. He was cute and friendly and really honest about his rough past. We had a similar sense of humor and developed inside jokes quickly, and we had vulnerable conversations about our insecurities. We talked about everything: we sent links to our favorite songs back and forth, I’d casually ask him to pick out which nail polish color I’d use while we learned about each other’s work, families, passions. Then I’d send a photo of my painted nails and it would evolve into flirting, so much flirting.

It was while I was in Duluth on a writing retreat that I realized I was falling for him.

Yes, I totally agree with the idea of meeting sooner than later, but remember, when we started talking, I honestly had no intention of pursuing anything. By the time I had changed my mind, I was spending a week in Duluth. We talked every night, and finally made plans to go on a date when I got home that Friday.

But it was actually Memorial Day weekend, and his family wanted him to go up to their cabin for the weekend, so we said, “Okay, we’ve waited three weeks; what’s another couple days?”

On my way home from Duluth, I went shopping. I bought a new outfit for our date. I was actually quite giddy and felt like the luckiest girl, picking out something to wear for when I finally met my newest best friend.

We chatted that Friday. We chatted that Saturday. He sent me a photo of himself in the boat, holding up a fish he’d caught, and I remember my heart doing cartwheels because¬†how could I have not seen how absolutely gorgeous he was immediately? How could I have ignored this man on two other sites? I’d been a fool, but now my eyes were open and I had a cute skirt for Monday and look at my strong fisherman!

I remember snapping a photo of myself making a dorky face, and he replied, “So cute!”

I never heard from him again.

For Saturday night, I wasn’t worried. Yes, we talked most evenings, but I knew he was up north with his family. There were a million distractions for him, and he might not even have good cell service.

On Sunday, I sent him a photo of the 90s song that was making me laugh. I sent a couple other things too, and … nothing. On the messenger we were using, it shows an “S” for sent, “D” for delivered, and “R” for read. It was not flipping to R.

On Monday, when I thought we were supposed to have our first date, I thought, “Huh, maybe I misunderstood and he’s only getting back tonight and we’re hanging out tomorrow.”

On Tuesday, I told myself I would hear from him later on, after work, even though sometimes we would text when we woke up and during breaks in the day.

The dread had been growing, but when I went to sleep on Tuesday with no word, it exploded like a bomb in my heart. As I’m prone to do, I still tried to reach for excuses. He dropped his phone in the lake. He was sick. He was still up north. But my heart was in pain, and … more than that …¬†I missed my friend.¬†

[Loooooong, intriguing story here about¬†why we had this, but] I remembered that my roomie and I had a fake account on that dating site. On Wednesday morning, I logged in under that account, found his profile, said, simply, “hi.”

He wrote back to “Jenny Jones” within half an hour. “Jenny Jones” sat in her bed bawling while letting go of the boy who had become so important to her and then suddenly decided to walk away. “Jenny Jones” told him she’d had a tough week because a guy she’d been talking to ghosted her. Tyler told “Jenny Jones” he was so sorry to hear that. “Jenny Jones” asked if he’d ever done that to anyone before. Tyler admitted he had. “Jenny Jones” logged off.

Immature of me? Yeah, probably. But the ambiguity is like hell.

A man had won me over for a month, make plans with me, and then bailed. Completely bailed. Not just cancelled. Ghosted. 

No explanation. No goodbye.

For a while, the space that person has carved out in your heart feels so devoid you can hear echoes.

And people don’t understand, of course, because
it was only a month
you never even met
it’s not like he was your boyfriend

So you mostly grieve alone. The death of possibility physically hurts.

******

I met another guy last summer who did the same. We’ll call him Ben. I liked Ben even more than I liked Tyler, far more, which is why it’s actually easier to tell that other story in more detail. Ben’s last words to me were, “Sweet dreams, gorgeous Jackie,” and with Ben, there was¬†no closure. None. No “Jenny Johnson” convo to truly cut that cord.

Then, two weeks ago (six months after ghosting), Ben emailed me. We sorted through things. We explained our various miscommunications. We talked seven hours that day. I let my foolish heart reopen. I could hear the hope in my voice, feel the potential fill my heart like a balloon.

And then he did it again.

I bond easily,¬†very easily, which is why I’m careful with my boundaries. I am created for relationship. I am not wired for casual. My heart loves hard but bruises easily.

******

Ghosting, I think, is selfish and needlessly cruel. That ambiguous grief is so much worse than a goodbye, even one without an explanation, and it’s such a reality in the world of online dating.

It’s hard to say when two people cross the line from owing one another nothing to owing one another¬†something. Is it determined by how many days you talk? How many hours? Or how many secrets you share, what level of intimacy you reach? I can’t pinpoint that space in which it changes, but I think that most people know. I knew. Tyler knew. Ben knew.

But why? I may never know that.

 

 

Online Dating Chronicles: 10 Matches I Never (Ever) Expected

burning armchair in the grunge interior. 3D illustration creative conceptSo many of my friends have met the love of their life via online dating. (Shout-out to the bestie, who just got engaged!) I’d sort of watched from the sidelines, vicariously learning their lessons (always meet sooner than later, rule #1), and I even tried my hand at it for a bit (I think I had one date in that entire trial). So I really wasn’t prepared for 2017, when suddenly there was this¬†influx¬†of interest in my online profiles.

One weekend I heard from 20 or so guys. That was more than I’d heard from in three years prior.

But then the next weekend I heard from 85. The next weekend, over a hundred.

I quit counting eventually, but I would guess I heard from about 2500 men in the last year, which absolutely boggles my mind.

Oh, and I’m still single. So there’s that.

I have stories to tell and some of them are WILD, so buckle up, peeps!

To give you a small taste, here’s a list of 10 people I never expected to match with online:

  1. The BDSM Dom, ten years my junior, who called me “little one”
  2. The guy who teased me in high school, who now wanted to sleep with me (Vindication– he didn’t even recognize me at first! And also: NO!)
  3. My childhood friend’s little brother (awkwaaaaaard)
  4. The former student I had once recruited to my university
  5.  The man I thought was single whose wife messaged me on Facebook
  6. A young man in Kashmir with whom I’ve developed a close friendship
  7. “Mike from Fargo” who ended up being a Nigerian scam artist
  8. A man who, upon rejection, called me “ugly bitch hoe,” and then tried to win me over on another site later that week, as if the earlier conversation had never happened
  9. The man who did impressions of Cookie Monster, Johnny Carson, and Rodney Dangerfield
  10. The man who had a money-making opportunity that sounded vaguely illegal, whom I strung along until he chose a code name for himself. I asked him to call me Peach. His codename? Brandon. 

More to come. So much more to come. ūüôā

Let me know: which of these makes you most curious?