It all started with two words: “Hi, handsome.”
I was checking my profile on a gay dating site, and there he was with that intro. Now, I know enough about Internet dating sites to often ignore openings like that. Scammers use these lines all the time, and I really do normally look for something more substantive.
But then there was the guy’s profile photo. The all-American guy type that makes me weak in the knees. Plus, in the photo, a baby deer was licking his face. Honestly, who in their right mind would ignore a handsome man cuddling a baby deer?
By now, you probably know where this story is going. And sure enough, it’s going there. But for a few days, our texts and emails were intense. He told me so much about himself: He was an only child. He lost his parents young. He went into the Army to find himself, and now that he’s about to retire from the Army, he wants to find that Special Someone.
All this was so appealing to me. So was the fact that we only occasionally talked about sex. Now, to be clear, I like sex. I really do. But it seems like, on most gay dating sites, sex is all the men are after. Seriously, this was the first guy I communicated with who didn’t ask me about my dick size within the first five minutes.
He told me he loved me. It took another day for me to say I loved him. But every time I thought of him, I felt my heart beat faster. As if that wasn’t enough, he said he was a computer technician. I’m lousy with computers. I need a computer technician! Could my cyber Mr. Right be any more perfect?
But then, he asked me to send him an Army care package. I must say, I got a little suspicious there. But he wasn’t asking for money. And war is hell! Why shouldn’t he want his love to lift his spirits?
But my red flags flew high when I asked him where to send the package — and he told me he did not want it sent through the U.S. Post Office. Instead, he wanted me to go through this website, deliveryman.com. Wait a minute, I thought. Loved ones send things to servicemen and women all the time through the U.S. postal service, and I’m sure the Army is sophisticated enough to handle U.S. mail.
That’s when I finally Googled this guy. Within five minutes, I knew he wasn’t who he said he was. Apparently, there’s a big trend toward people setting up fake accounts on dating sites, and posing as members of the military. They take bios and photos of real military members to make it look authentic. They get into deep conversations to earn your trust.
Then, they start asking you for things. Obviously, there are a lot of people gullible enough to give them what they want. This ruse is so prevalent that the U.S. Army has an article about it on its website.
In short order, I reported my “love” to the Army’s Internet fraud unit, as well as to the Federal Trade Commission’s Internet fraud unit. In both cases, the guys taking my information were very nice and understanding. At least I didn’t get suckered for money, or give this impostor enough personal information to steal my identity.
That wasn’t enough to stop me from curling up in my bed and pretty much staying there for 2 days, ignoring all calls and texts. Why COULDN’T this be real? It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a meaningful relationship. And I do want a relationship. For a few sweet days, I was part of an “us” instead of just “me.” I loved that feeling. Now, I sure know from my depression and anxiety support groups that it’s not easy for those of us who have a mental illness to be in a relationship. We ask a lot from the people who love us. But I see that relationships are possible, and I need to see that. There have been times in the past few years when I’ve wondered if I still had it in me to have a relationship.
I can say that the answer to that question is “yes.” But I’m still hurt by what happened. I’m embarrassed, too. When I was in the thick of my “romance” I changed my Facebook status from “single” to “in a relationship.” With that, I got more likes than anything else I’ve ever posted. I can’t bring myself to change my status back to single again. I don’t want to deal with all the “what happeneds” and “so soons.”
But the embarrassment isn’t the worst of it. It has always been very hard for me to trust people. Probably, my depression and anxiety have something to do with that. I think my skepticism protects me like a coat of armor. But it also pushes people away. I know, because I’ve pushed a lot of people away. I’m like, “I’m not going to let you hurt me. I’ll hurt you first by ignoring you!” With that kind of attitude, is it a wonder that I’ve been single for so long? This is one of the reasons why I didn’t Google this guy right away. What about trust, I told myself. Why not try trusting this man?
Well, look how that turned out.
Everybody’s telling me to get “back in the game” — to go back on the dating sites and start again. For now, I’m skipping the dating sites and hoping to meet someone the old-fashioned way — in person. This is not easy is such a tech-loving city such as Boston. Here, even when you do see real people, chances are they’ve got their eyes glued to their gadgets. But I’ve got a few social events coming up, and I’m trying to approach them with a positive attitude.
I’ll say this, though. If I do meet someone, I’m damn sure Googling them right away.