Fear of the terrible UNKNOWN

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All right, so here’s something kind of stupid.

I kinda sorta ‘met’ a guy online last week.

I won’t get into details regarding how it happened, other than to say that I was sitting in my living room, bored, and messing around on the internet. Before I knew it, I was considering sending off an email to a stranger who intrigued me because of common interests. I waited a couple of hours, walked the dog, got ready for bed… and decided to hit send. I honestly don’t know WHAT came over me.

I do not want to start dating.

I don’t think so, anyway. I’m kind of confused. I really like not having the stress or extra responsibility that comes with having a (sigh) relationship of any kind. I love living alone, even if it does get lonely sometimes… but being lonely in your house isn’t the same as being lonely in your LIFE. Two different things. I am not lonely in life.

But I also have a little knot of fear deep inside of me that I might not ever be with anyone, again, ever. I’m not trying to sound like a fatalist here. I’m being honest when I say I’ve grown so comfortable without dudes in my life, that I could realistically see this phase lasting for a very long time to come. And there remains a chance that I’m never going to experience something really nice, ever again.

“Something really nice” being, of course, love. I don’t want to go my whole life without feeling it with an equal partner.

And so, I start to get curious, and weird about it. I behaved kind of spur-of-the-moment last week, and me and the guy have started a little communique on e-mail and now on the phone.

On one hand: this is good practice for me! My first baby-step out of my comfort zone; learning how to talk to a new boy again. I can’t say this is flirting, because it doesn’t feel like it. But so far, the guy appears to be decent and we have some interesting things in common. He is very random and loves animals (is in school to be a vet tech, in fact); he’s into most of the same music that I am, which is nice for a change; he can quote MST3K and, awesomely, “Adventures in Babysitting”; he wrote and illustrated a children’s book; he loves ‘odd little dogs’ like Chinese cresteds and pugs; he likes spending time with his nephew, who he is teaching to skateboard. We’re the same age, and live in the same town. He’s not into sports (but he does hike and snowboard). Personal score: I found out the other night he has dark hair, and it’s long. What can I say…longer hair is my thing.

We’ve talked on the phone for an hour and a half straight. He asked a ton of questions. He apparently was trying to feel it out if I was promiscuous or not (HA!) and if I carried a lot of baggage. I noticed he doesn’t swear. So far, nothing he has said has been weird.

There’s one or two problems, though.

One: he hasn’t shown me a decent photo of himself. He says he just doesn’t have any. We friended on Facebook and he has one stock-photo profile photo, and that’s it. He is really mysterious in this regard, and it’s just a little off-putting. I mean, it really isn’t about his looks and if I will consider his face a dealbreaker or something, because that’s really not the thing that bothers me. What bothers me is who, among us jokers in this internet-connected generation, doesn’t have at least one or two photos of themselves on a social networking website? Even my most stoic or anti-establishment male friends have multiple photos on their pages. It doesn’t feel normal, for some reason, you know? It makes people suspicious, like what are you hiding? I don’t want to feel suspicious of my new maybe-friend.

Two, people very close to me have told me they are alarmed by this new development. I usually share EVERYthing with my family, and this was something I kept to myself for about 4 days or so. I don’t know why. I think it’s because I didn’t want to look like I was trying to DATE again. And I was ashamed of meeting him on the internet. Now, I know lots of people meet on the internet, and it happens every single day. But not everyone meets the way we did, which was not on a dating site or anything like that. The shameful site we met through has an iffy reputation (don’t worry, it wasn’t killerdungeonslaves.com or something; I remain as prudish as ever) and I can’t imagine anyone seriously getting anything decent out of it. Not in this way. I did a bad thing and blurted out a very silly little lie about how I met him to my family when I told them last weekend. I didn’t plan to lie, I just did it. It wasn’t far from the truth at all, but I couldn’t lie for long. I told them the truth yesterday, and it didn’t go well. I know I did something very uncharacteristic when I told a lie. I DO NOT LIE. And yet, what did I just find myself doing? And why? It’s really not that bad at all. In fact, I know that it’s probably more common than I think to contact people on this site in this way. I wish I could explain, really, why I lied, but it only makes me feel more like a weirdo. All I know is I had to confess about my minor lie because I couldn’t carry it around anymore. I do feel like a jackass, though.

I hate feeling weird to my family, and for no good reason. Have you ever just told a little lie, and not known WHY you just did it? It’s so strange. Ugh.

And let me be clear that it’s NOT the guy himself that is leading me to lie. Not at all. In fact, I would happily forward all of my e-mails to close friends who wanted to know more about this mysterious, no-picture-having geek I’ve met out of the blue. Nothing he’s said has scared me off, or alarmed me, other than his frank questioning about my dating history on the phone that night, and that’s just because I’m not used to people being so blunt and unafraid of asking the difficult questions–and then staying to hear the difficult answers. It was actually refreshing.

I do wish he’d send me a good photo or two. I flat-out told him to send me a picture last night when we were IMing and he did, but he explained that it was about 5 years old, and it was taken while he was skating, so you can’t really see his face. But at least he sent it, even as I teased him, saying things like, “so you’re horribly scarred, right?” and “I got it, you’re a ghost!” and there was nothing off-putting about what I saw. He seemed very… average-sized, normal and not at all scary looking. I wish I could make out his face, just because. Admit it– it IS a little odd that a 35 year old guy would not have a recent photo of himself. Even if he is a guy who is not actively looking to go on dates, because he apparently isn’t. This whole thing of us meeting is just as random to him as it is to me, except technically he made the first ‘move.’ Also out of curiosity, boredom and a fleeting desire to meet new, likeminded people.

And so, all of this leads me to THIS:

On Friday night, I am supposed to meet him at a Starbucks. He’s going to bring his portfolio and children’s book to show me. After that, we will walk either to the bookstore or the record store nearby. If things are still going well and we don’t loathe one another and have to run away, we’ll go see some bad cult movies (Flowers in the Attic! Ahh!)  at the independent theater nearby. I see it as being very one-step-at-a-time, and he’s not being pushy. He’s told me he is looking forward to meeting me and talking some more, and he seems genuinely excited about it. In passing, he told me I was pretty (he saw the Facebook photos…probably any and all of them, I’m sure… eeek) but that was the most suggestive thing he has said. I’m not getting the sense that he is a serial killer, or a pervert, or a sexual deviant or any other bizarre incarnation my imagination could come up with. If anything he could possibly be fairly religious. I can’t tell yet.

So why am I so unsure that I should go through with meeting him on Friday?

I’m strongly considering cancelling. Or re-scheduling so we meet over my lunch hour or something, so there is a set beginning and end to the meeting, and it’s during daytime. My best friend has told me she thinks this whole thing is “creepy” and doesn’t approve of me meeting anyone online… and because her opinion means the world to me, I have to pay it some heed. She’s worried that he’ll hurt me, or murder me. Don’t laugh. It’s a legitimate fear of hers, and I know she is reading this. I can’t begrudge her for her opinions. I know she loves me and wants me to finally, one day, be happy with the right guy. But she just doesn’t want me to meet a total stranger, at night, without friends nearby or something. She can’t be here to do it herself, but tells me she’d feel a LOT better if one or more of my friends could find a way to be there, someplace in the background, as I meet him. Because, like anything in life, really, you never know. True. But… I just don’t know what to do! I’m not really scared to meet him in person. I don’t get why my best friend would be so dead-set against this meeting. We’ve kind of gone back and forth, sort-of arguing about it, and I think we both understand one another and there are no hard feelings, at least not on my part, I know that for sure.

This is just new for me. The last time she had a strong feeling about someone not being good for me, it was regarding X. And over time, I came to understand exactly why she felt that way and agreed completely. I don’t like disagreeing with her, or doing something she’s raising her eyebrows at. It feels awful.

Is it a bad idea to meet someone in person, when that someone doesn’t give you any real photos of himself? I really want to know your thoughts, bloggers. I could really use the input at this point, because my head is a little fuzzy right now.

Oh, and just to give you more detail about how we first got in touch with one another: it involved doing a search on a phrase and finding someone pop up who shared that quality. That’s it. And we both kind of felt intrigued that there were two of us out there, the same age, same town, both dog lovers. At the very least, this could be a casual acquaintance friendship. No harm in that. I really do miss having guy friends, as I have lamented before. Even better if he is a guy friend who  might critique my work, and I could critique his.

I’m not going to imagine this going beyond that. I’m not ready for that, after all.

I’m just meeting a guy for coffee. That’s OK… isn’t it? Or, is it? HELP!

(PS: I found out a friend will be at the same location that night for another movie, so I’m going to ask him to look for me; scope this situation out, either from afar or if he wants to, he can come up to us. That’s good. But first, I have to decide that I’m going to go through with meeting the guy in the first place.)

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9 responses »

  1. I think going on a bunch of first dates–even (or especially) if you’re not interested in finding love at this moment–is great practice for when the real thing comes along. I like to think of it as practicing job interviews–you’re keeping your skills sharp and perfecting how you present yourself. Also, I used to get really nervous meeting new people, but now that I’ve done recruiting at work and tried online dating (I also wouldn’t want to tell people an online “how we met” story–I just don’t feel like it’s very charming) with kind of the same approach, that anxiety has diminished significantly.

    Normally I would say as long as you’re in a public place, going out for a coffee certainly doesn’t hurt, but since you mentioned he’s seen your Facebook, he knows your last name and your phone number, I would be more inclined to trust your gut. If you’re worried about it, cancel. If you have an inkling about some red flags, it’s much easier to take someone out of the running immediately. Once you’ve met, it’s a lot easier to start explaining away oddities, and if he ends up being a creep, you’ll want to disappear ASAP, which could be tough if he has all your contact info.

    Let us know what you end up doing!

  2. I am of two minds about this. One, I met my husband online (Myspace, holla! Haha) so I don’t think it’s necessarily this big, scary thing that only predators and creeps meet that way.

    That said, however, in this day and age, someone should be nearby and know where you are/what you’re doing. That’s just being smart, really. You’re already meeting in a public place, are able to leave quickly in your own vehicle if it gets weird, etc. I think it might be a good idea to text someone when you get there that everything is OK if it does go well, and definitely if you leave and go elsewhere, text someone and say where you’re going. That way someone is keeping tabs on your movements.

    My first meeting with Will was on my lunch hour for precisely the reasons you mention – in case it was bizarre, I was able to end it at a certain time. Luckily, it went well 🙂 But I’m of the mind of taking a risk – yeah he might show up and be a weirdo, but then again you could end up meeting a really great friend, you know? As long as you’re safe about it, I don’t see the harm.

  3. Hmmm…

    I debated such a dilemma once, myself. In that case I was the one who was hesitant about getting too friendly with someone online and I was the one who wouldn’t show/post/send any current photos, or any where my face wasn’t somehow obscured. The recipient was annoyed, but kept asking, and also claimed to understand, what with it being the internet and all of the people who DO wind up with weirdos…

    I’ve also known several people who met their current or former spouses online and have had (in some cases) successful relationships. So… I don’t know. It’s definitely a new era and uncharted waters and those who are alarmed and concerned have a right to be, what with all of the crazies out there and the bad stuff that HAS happened in some cases.

    I like that someone who knows you will be present- I was going to suggest that, anyway. Definitely have someone around as “backup”, even if they just shadow you, don’t make contact and this potential new friend isn’t aware of them. It never hurts to plan ahead and be safe.

  4. I have several friends who met & married people that they met on match.com, and I think that the social stigma that used to be attached to on-line dating is no longer anything to be worried about. That being said, I agree with everyone else, that it’s always a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be and when you’ll be there when you’re going out with someone that you don’t know that well — even if you met him at the local library or at church or at a farmer’s market or something. As for the little lie about how you met him, I wouldn’t let that ruin anything for you — sometimes we tell fibs for no reason other than we just aren’t sure how to answer the question yet. Finally, you totally met him on a 4chan message board, didn’t you? Hacker.

  5. I’ve been in this same boat and I think it’s a huge plus that after a short time talking through IM and email, that you’re meeting up. Some people take SO long that by the time you meet, it’s just too awkward or you just never meet at all. (Sometimes if they take too long, they are talking to quite a few people and don’t have time to meet.) So this is a good sign that you’re meeting up already. The big key is to be safe…so keeping in a public place and possibly having friends come by and check in on you would be a good idea. Be upfront with him and tell him that if your date goes well and you get to the point that you go to the movie, that it will end there and a friend will be meeting you. If he really likes you and things go well, he’ll know that there will be a second date.

    I might see about having a first date that is more about talking and getting to know each other though. A movie is strange because you don’t talk (or shouldn’t) and it gives too much opportunity for awkwardness. Like, does he put his arm around you? Hold your hand? Avoid you like the plague? I just get more nervous about movie dates so early. But that’s just me.

    I think it’s awesome you met someone with such common interests. I really didn’t have much luck with that when I was doing online dating.

  6. I think you should do what makes you feel comfortable. I’m a big believer in listening to your instincts. Definitely take precautions (like letting people know your whereabouts) and be safe, but if it doesn’t feel creepy TO YOU, then you should go for it. How exciting! And not even the maybe-date part, just the fact that you’re meeting new people. That’s not easy to do, even online. Good luck!

  7. I appreciate all of your feedback on this so much! Thank you! I’ve been off and on about this ever since I wrote this. I spent today thinking I was going to cancel. But then, he called me and we talked again for a long time tonight. I can’t recall the last time I had a decent comic book conversation with someone… about the comic books I actually read…(most guys only know about superhero comics, the mainstream stuff, not DC Vertigo.)

    As of now, I’ve decided to go through with meeting at the Starbucks. We’re going to see how things go, but it’s mostly going to be about talking… not sure if we will end up at the movie, or not. There will be no going home with one another, none of that, period. I’ll also keep an eye out and take an unusual route home at the end of the night, just to be sure he doesn’ follow me. Just in case.

    Anyway. I have shared as much info that I have on him with my Mom (his number, email, name, birthday) and I’ll be carrying my secret little mace canister. My friend has been alerted to scope out the situation from afar (although I still need to hear back from him that he can definitely do that for me– I’ve asked, though).

    So, I’ll go, I’ll take a little chance and meet someone who could be a friend. And I’ll be doing it smart, and safe.

    This will be the weekend of new things. The Friday date-ish thing, and then tubing on the river on Saturday. It’s good. I’ll force myself outta my comfort zone a little bit. Wish me luck!

  8. I know a lot of people who met and even married people they met online. So that is not weird at all. It is more average in this day and age than you think. However, the picture thing does concern me a little. Perhaps he had a bad reaction once when he sent his picture and is being cautious? I can’t imagine him not having a picture, unless he means he doesn’t have any of him online, which is a distinct possibility. There are still some die-hards out there who take and have only film photos. Maybe he has not digital images…?

    I like the idea of meeting in a public place. I would avoid the movie theatre if you are feeling uneasy. And definitely do the text thing Lani suggested if you don’t want a person to actually be there in the background (that could make you more uneasy)

    It does sound like a good match-up for a friend if nothing else. I understand your wariness and applaud you for it! We don’t want anything to happen to you. 🙂

  9. Have fun and just be safe sister! You got some good advice from some good people on here. Love you!

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