Friday, 4 March 2011

A toad by any other name

I've been meaning to share this story with you all for quite some time now, but my biggest fan and number one critic (Mama C) didn't know about it, and I was afraid to tell her. But thanks to my lovely sibling, she's been enlightened, and now I'm free to share it with all of you.

So, here we go!

The back story.

A few weeks after moving back to Toronto from Seoul, I decided I needed to get out of my slump and meet new people. You might have read about my feelings upon moving back (if not, check out A year in a dream), but suffice to say, I felt left behind while all my friends had moved on in their respective lives, careers, romances, etc. So I thought the most logical thing to do at that time was to try online dating. It seemed easy enough -- you log in, create a profile, upload a photo, and consider your options.

A few friends were lucky enough to meet their significant others online, so I thought this was a good sign. Mind you, the sites they joined ranged from the popular ones you could join for free (my first big mistake in this endeavour), to the more complicated ones that involved filling out a questionnaire about 10 pages long.

So one Wednesday afternoon, after waking up confused about the date and time again, (an awful reaction to jet-lag), I joined the online dating world. I won't plug the website here, but I'll say this -- for a site that says they have a lot of fish, it sure doesn't have a variety. I think this is one of those cases where quality over quantity DOES matter.

I dove straight in.

I filled out the basic profile information -- age, sex, location, physical attributes, what I was looking for, interests. They seemed like basic enough questions that would matter when searching for a suitable partner online. Then came the other questions that set off a red flag in my mind, but which I filled out anyway -- race, body type, religion, political views...

Those of you who know me will agree that I'm more of a mind over matter kind of person. Sure, I like a great smile and broad shoulders just a much as the next person, but given the choice, I'll take a witty conversation, a sense of humour and intellectual stimulation over dead air, fancy dinners and kisses any day. (Yep, you read that right).

The usual suspects.

Within minutes of uploading my profile, I was inundated with messages. OK, that sounds a little pompous, but bear with me. I realized very quickly that women on online dating sites bear the brunt when it comes to filthy, bizarre and borderline creepy messages. They ranged from one liners about my race, to questions about my personal habits. Mind you, this was without an introduction. An even more creepy aspect was the age range of the guys sending these messages -- anywhere between 19 to 65. Just about any guy with a pulse and a libido, eh?

Within a few days I learned to filter the messages. I set up a criteria for myself and ruled out any messages that were one liners composed in broken English, (I will not date someone who doesn't know the difference between your and you're, to and two. We learn the difference between these words in grade 3, and the invention of spell-check does not give you an excuse to slack off on that matter. Phew! Sorry. Obviously a touchy subject.), or contained any reference to my race or religion from the get go.

I've never considered race or religion to be factors in my dating pursuits, and I know that I'd expect the same from anyone I was with. I hoped that with the turn of the century and with globalization these wouldn't be factors for anyone. I would never want to be with someone who only wanted to date me because I was X race or X religion. That would be a recipe for disaster from the gamut.

Along came J*

A few weeks and many disappointments later, I found myself weaning off the idea of online dating. I started to realize I preferred meeting people in real life. I mean, not that this wasn't real life, but this idea of quantity over quality was killing me. And I was becoming more jaded with each new message received with the title, "Yo baby! Ssup?!" I decided to give myself a chance for a couple more weeks, before deleting my profile from this pool of fish all together.

One night I received the following message in my inbox.

Subject: Dear Pretty Lady
Message: I am a PhD graduate from ******, where I specialized in ****** research. I am also an Indian Catholic just like you, and you know how rare we are in Canada. I am kinda bored this evening. Would you like to chat? :)
- J

I didn't reply back to him because I was turned off by the idea that he found my profile by typing 'Indian' and 'Catholic' into his search box. If these were important factors to him, then I knew we wouldn't get along. I figured not responding to him would mean I wasn't interested. This had worked in the past with messages from other guys, and I also figured it was the universal way of telling people you weren't interested in them (at least in this strange world of online dating).

Five minutes later, I received the following message.

Message: How come all the Pretty Indian Catholic girls are in Toronto, and I am stuck here in Vancouver? It's not fair. :)

Again, he emphasized the whole Indian Catholic thing. Now I knew for sure we wouldn't gel. But at this point I was also quite irritated and felt inclined to respond back with something snarky and mean. Instead, all I could come up with was this:

Message: I'm sure there's tons in Vancouver. Maybe you're not looking in the right places.

I guess he took this as a good sign (and now, I see how he could have), because I found an instant message pop up from him (the site had instant messaging?!). We talked for maybe five minutes. He asked me a bunch of questions about myself, and I tried to remain as short and civil to him as possible. I excused myself and told him I had to go offline, and said goodbye. It ended with him asking me to send him my contact information.... which, of course, I didn't.

The following morning, I received this message.

Subject: Dear Pretty S
I enjoyed chatting with you this evening, and I am happy that you are a Goan. If you are interested, you can read about some of my best scientific research available from the ****** website. Anyway, I was planning to go to Hawaii in November, but it is hard to find a nice Indian Catholic girl to accompany me. So I was thinking if you would like to take a couple weeks off in November, perhaps you could visit me in Vancouver for a few days and then we could go from here. If you book your flight to and from Vancouver, I will pay for our trip to Hawaii. We would have a great time. When you are in Vancouver, I could teach you how to ski, and then when we get to Hawaii, I could teach you how to surf. :) I haven't really dated that much, but I am looking for a long term relationship with a lady that I could potentially marry someday. Please let me know if you are interested?
Best Regards,

- J (He also included his e-mail address and phone number in the message.)

This wasn't really happening, was it? ANOTHER emphasis on the whole Indian Catholic thing? Should I have told him that I barely made it to Sunday mass every week? Should I have indicated in my profile somewhere that being Indian doesn't define who I am and what I do on a daily basis? And to top that off... a free trip to Hawaii, ONLY IF I came on my own to visit him in Vancouver first? After a five minute chat?! This couldn't be real.

So I made a mental note to remove my race and religion from future online dating profiles (yet to happen). And even if he found me based on those factors, I would assume one look at what I wrote on my profile would drive him away, screaming, in the opposite direction -- we seemed like complete opposites as far as our priorities in life were concerned. So I ignored this message as well, figuring that not responding to a trip to Hawaii would drive home the point that I wasn't interested.

Then, a few days later, I received this message.

Subject: S, I like your eyes...
...because they are almost as narrow as mine. It was once said that evil spirits enter into wider eyes. So at least we don't have to worry about that. :)
- J

At this point, I was starting to get amused. I shared these messages with a friend of mine, who said, "You know, in all the time I've known you, I've never looked into your eyes and thought, 'Gee, S has really narrow eyes!'"

My own mum went into shock when she read this message recently. "For a scientist he sure does believe in old-wives tales a lot, huh?" she said.

As you can imagine, I still didn't respond back. But I also didn't think he was worthy of being blocked. After all, it wasn't too bad yet... right?

A few days later...

Subject: S, your eyes remind me...
...of the beauty of a tranquil Vancouver sunset gently glistening over the peaceful pacific blue.
- J :)

OK, this was nice. But if this hadn't been preceded by the string of bizarre and kind of creepy messages, I would have been flattered. I know by this point you're thinking, "Why haven't you responded to him yet?!" Or, "You're leading him on..." (How so?)

Here's the thing... I can't bring myself to tell someone, flat out, that I'm not interested in them. And I know a lot of you share my fear. I've had people do it to me in the past, and I know you, dear reader, have either had it happen to you, or have done it to someone else. I don't condone this, but I do think it's a better tactic than leading someone on with false hope. (Don't you think that's far worse?)

Wouldn't you figure that if someone hasn't responded to your handful of messages by now, that they weren't interested? Wouldn't you think that someone with a PhD would put the pieces together somehow?


A few days later...

Subject: Dear Pretty S,
Message: I think you should get to know me. I don't drink alcohol or coffee because I don't take drugs and caffeine is a drug. If I get bored or depressed, I just run for miles and miles on the downtown Vancouver seawall. I am a (Ivy League)-educated scientist with a background in ******, ******, ******, and ******. To be honest, I am actually looking for a long term relationship with a lady I can marry someday. Although I am 35, I have better strength and stamina than most 25 year olds, and I have a healthy 102-year old Grandfather, so I am really only one third through my life.

If we are compatible, I am sure I can provide you with a wonderful and happy life in Vancouver, and it is only a five hour plane ride away from your family in Toronto which you can visit anytime. I believe that we could bring much happiness to each other's lives and to the lives of our families. Perhaps we could chat on skype video sometime?

Best Regards,
- J

Where do I begin...?!
1. I love how he assumed that if we got together I'd drop everything and move to Vancouver to live with him. Talk about an antiquated manner of thinking.
2. He's assuming he's a third though his life -- he could get hit by a bus tomorrow and be 100 per cent through his life (morbid, I know, but it's the truth).
3. If he thinks coffee is a drug, then that fact alone would set us miles apart. I love my cuppa java in the morning, and a nice cuppa tea in the evening. And sometimes, I like a glass of Merlot. And on hot days, I'll indulge in a margarita or two. I guess that makes me (and 99.9 per cent of the planet) a drug addict.

A few HOURS later, I received this.

Subject: S, I am not that good at mind reading.
Also, I never really understood the concept of taking a hint? :) Please let me know what you thought about my previous messages because I would like to get to know you better. Thanks S
- J

And finally, the last straw.

Message: Dear S, I once wanted to be a journalist, but I let it pass me by in favour of science. In journalism, we look for the crisis around us. In science, we cherish the universe that surrounds us. That is why I became a scientist.
- J

And with that, I blocked him, deleted my profile from the pool of fish, and vowed never to take online dating seriously again. It may work for a lot of people out there, but it clearly isn't for me right now.

I couldn't believe this guy. He insulted me for being in journalism... but the saving grace was AT LEAST I was a Goan.

Really? Is this what's left to deal with?

Dear readers, I would LOVE it more than anything if you shared some of your stories with me. Am I alone in my experiences? Do you have a funny or horrifying online dating story worth sharing?

Please join in the discussion on the blog's Facebook group or comment on this post. I can't possibly be alone in my experiences... can I?


Image courtesy of Google Images
*Name has been changed for the sake of discretion.


  1. The desperation in his messages is almost SAD! Poor guy needs a wife!

  2. I've never done online dating, but my friend joined OK Cupid in Seoul and gets messages like this:
    hi....i was reading your profile and i started thinking you a kind of cool,gentle and out spoken lady i would like to get meeting and have a lovely and maybe funny kind of chat with you know.i also took a look at your pictures and they were also loving and now i think i feel the zeal in me to get knowing you better than i do now and maybe possible meeting you one day......(think i just know few basic things about you for now)...i would be more glad if this wouldnt be the last message btw me and you....and so happy to see your reply...
    waiting for ur reply......

    I will never do online dating!

  3. Miss K! I've heard of horror stories on OK Cupid! I think especially in Korea, there's the issue of Google Translate being misused as well. :) That's hilarious, though! At least it makes for an interesting story, eh?

    Thanks for reading the post! Please feel free to share it with your friend. She isn't alone in this pond of toads. :)



  4. That guy is a is clearly blinded by desperation and lacks a number of important social skills, but he did get one thing very right when he said this: "S, I am not that good at mind reading.". This became apparent after his second message or so. You really should have just flat-out said "I'm not interested, stop messaging me". It would have saved you a lot of hassle, and it would have saved him even more.

    I honestly think it's rude to ignore any message that isn't a stupid one-liner, because that means they probably put at least a little thought into it, and so they may be stuck in a state of anxiety waiting for a response before finally deciding you ignored them. And then they're still not entirely sure. It's much easier on them if they know sooner rather than later to not get their hopes up. But sadly, you're right that flat-out ignoring is the norm (personally, I ignore this norm and always respond to messages -- this has always worked out very well for me).

    And if you do choose to ignore someone, and they refuse to take the hint (like the case discussed here), then it becomes even more important to be direct in rejecting them. I know you said in this article that you're afraid of being direct like this, but I think that's a fear you need to get over. Yes, you might hurt someone's feelings by rejecting them. But ignoring them is probably going to hurt their feelings even more -- it's a period of anxiety followed by implicit rejection. Inaction is a choice like any other, with its own ramifications.

    Anyway, I've been on OK Cupid for a year now and it led to a number of wonderful dates and eventually a partner. Don't give up on online dating just yet -- maybe you're on the wrong dating site, maybe you're not being proactive enough in looking for people you're interested in and messaging them (as opposed to just passively considering messages sent to you), or maybe you just need to more practice sifting through the chaff, because I assure there are great people to be found online.

  5. straightfromthecurlsMarch 13, 2011 5:59 pm

    Hey there!
    I appreciate the feedback.
    You're right... looking back, I should have responded back and said I wasn't interested, right off the bat. I suppose a part of me wanted to see how far he would go with the ridiculous messages, considering the one he sent me right after our 5 minute chat invited me to visit him in Vancouver... and then take a vacation with him to Hawaii.

    I think this is a special case, separate from the one liners, and other well thought out messages. It goes beyond taking a hint here. This is how his series of messages got chosen for display on this blog -- because they weren't part of the norm.

    I don't have anything against online dating -- I too have met people who've found wonderful partners online, and if people ask for my opinion as to whether or not they should consider it, I'd say go for it! But I have noticed that it works for certain people, while others (myself included) get trapped in a hot mess when it comes to choices on these sites.

    Perhaps I'll try again some day, and will meet someone who will make all of this worth it. We'll see. :)

    Thanks again for your comment!

  6. There are many horror stories that people share about online dating. The process of filtering itself is already one of the challenges you have to face. You need to be specific in what you are looking for or you may end up finding the one who is not the right for you.

  7. Online dating can be very fun but it can also be as horrible as what you have in the story. The thing is, you need to be keen and vigilant in trusting people you'll meet online.
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  8. Online dating can be very fun but it can also be as horrible as what you have in the story. The thing is, you need to be keen and vigilant in trusting people you'll meet online.
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