BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER, WE MUST DISCUSS SAFETY:
(a.k.a P. Charlotte being not so funny because she loves you)
(a.k.a Watch, “Looking For Mr. Goodbar!”)
Because I, and half the universe partake in the pleasures of on-line dating, the perception that it is “safe” has slipped into our collective consciousness – at least for those who don’t read headlines or watch Lifetime movies. But alas, online dating has paved the way for a new world of financial scams, emotional abuse, and even physical danger.
I don’t mean to yuck your yum now that you are gung ho to dive into the world of love via technology. You should do it! But if you aren’t savvy, it is easy to be duped. There are red flags to look for and precautions to take so you can stay out of trouble, because let’s face it – you are probably a single mom and your kids need you!
With hundreds of men to choose from on the Interweb, just know some losers pretend to be different people using different profiles on various sites. While most of the universe is guilty of presenting photos or writing profiles that perhaps shine a positive light on the truth (but we would never do that, would we), some create sham profiles looking to exploit vulnerable women. (I know because I’ve been there.)
“Catfishing” is a scam wherein someone creates a fake profile with false information in order to trick another person into a relationship. Motives vary from boredom to revenge to monetary gains or worse. (We will examine this ugly, bottom-feeding fish dude-freak in a later post.)
Meanwhile, “cyberstalking” has become more popular amongst pervs than real-world stalking. Advances in technology, GPS tracking, and available information on the Internet has made it easier for predators to locate, surveil, harass, and scare the bejeebers out of their victims. It’s a frightening phenomenon that sadly has become a troubling aspect of modern day life.
But do not despair, my tender Tinderettes. Do not let fear deter you! Rest assured, there are common sense and tangible precautions to take so you can freely enjoy the world of online dating… and have the fun you so rightfully deserve.
1. LOOK FOR SIGNS:
* His social media profiles are set to private.
He’s hiding something.
* He goes dark for large periods of time.
As in, he consistently responds to your texts, then doesn’t respond for three days, sending you into a state of extreme anxiety, creative rationalizations, and manic texting with your friends.
* You receive a text meant for someone else.
Your name is Charlotte, “Hey Peggy, watcha wearing?”
* He avoids answering personal questions.
If he won’t give you his last name, DELETE.
* He turns even the most innocent text into a sext.
“Hey, P. Charlotte. What are you up to?”
“Oh, yeah? Are you working… in bed?”
“No. I’m paying bills at my desk.”
“Oh, yeah? I like to pay my bills naked.”
“What do you like to wear when you pay your bills?”
“I’m wearing flannel pajamas and pink fuzzy slippers.”
“Oh… baby… that’s making me so hot. Watcha got goin’ on under those pajamas?
“Uh, a maxi pad and some talcum powder.”
“Ohhhh, baby. You’re gonna make me explode…” etc…
* He flakes on plans at the last minute.
As in, his wife came home early from her business trip.
* He sends you an unsolicited dick pic.
Need I say more?
* His idea of a date is to, “Watch Netflix and chill.”
If you don’t already know, this is code for having sex.
* When you don’t respond to one of his texts, he sends you twenty more.
If you don’t already know, this is code for crazy.
2. USE A REPUTABLE SITE WITH ACCOUNTABILITY (Sorry Tinder):
With over 2500 sites to choose from in the U.S. alone, it’s a good idea to stick to those with proven reputations. Ask friends, read reviews, and check into the site’s security measures. For example, Match.com offers temporary phone numbers so you can talk and text without giving out your personal number.
The major dating sites (Match, E-harmony, J-Date, Christian Mingle, etc.) now do background checks on potential members, scanning histories for sexual assault, identity theft, and violent crime.
But even with these precautions, things can slip through the cracks. And let’s face it, the security measures available are using information given by the potential member. Ergo, it’s a good idea to do your own background checking. You haven’t lived until you and your gal pals have done margaritas and cyber sleuthing.
3. CYBER SLEUTHING:
The first stop for everything.
You’re not going to get much personal information, but you will get a sense of his work life, whether he’s lied to you about it, and if he has a job.
* Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.):
While there are some older gentlemen who perhaps do not partake in this new-fangled phenomenon, generally most men do. And unless he’s hiding something, he’ll be out there somewhere.
(True story: One of my girlfriends, upon some crafty Instagram investigation, discovered the man with whom she’d been dating and had “made love” just the night before was in fact in a serious relationship. She contacted said girlfriend (via Facebook), and together they taught Mario the Lothario the what’s what. Needless to say, he is now single, no longer on Instagram, and his Facebook page said “buh bye.” And no, this is not being made into a Melissa McCarthy / Sandra Bullock chick buddy-comedy for a next summer release.)
* Criminal Checks:
If you want to take your sleuthing to the next level but don’t have time to jump through the hoops required for an official state search, there are actual sites designed specifically for the online dater. Just search “online dating background checks” and you will find a smorgasbord of sites willing play a game of bust-a-perv and deliver you a full report.
4. FIRST DATE SAFETY RULES:
* Get to know as much about your date as possible before your initial meeting.
* Drive yourself, meet in a public place, and stay there.
* Never go home with a first date or bring him back to your place. (And if you bring him back to your place while your kids are there, I will personally seek you out and smack you upside your head!!!)
* Tell a friend where you are going. Better yet, synchronize your mobile tracking devices. Even better, have her and your posse show up at said meeting place in disguise. Trust me, it’s fun.
* Do not disclose too much personal information.
* Keep your purse and phone with you at all times.
* Don’t get wasted.
* Keep your panties on.
* If he’s an out-of-towner, let him rent a car and stay in a hotel. Do not go back to his hotel with him, and follow the above rules.
* Trust your instincts!
Many victims of online predators say they felt something was off, but didn’t do anything about it. If your tummy says, “I should get the hell out of here,” then get the hell out of there!
5. SECOND DATE RULES AND BEYOND:
* Let the relationship grow slowly.
* Continue to listen to your gut.
* Do not take any shit.
* Do not introduce him to your children or parents unless you are sure he’s a keeper.
Now go, be safe, and have fun!
You deserve it!