A guy recently messaged me asking me what I was wearing, I replied with the truth: “Cheetah leggings and a dirty tank top. I look like a filthy drag queen.”
He promptly un-matched me.
My ugly truth landed me nowhere, which was where I’d rather be when faced with a one-liner like that. But let’s be honest, how honest do we really want to be?
The world of online dating profiles is filled with lies, half-truths and exaggerations… and that’s just the bit that immediately follows, “Hello.”
Of course, your lies must be minor enough to go unnoticed on the first date—a light filter here, an inch or two of height there. Slight exaggerations can land you the date but, once in real life, there are no fancy adjectives or perfectly angled photographs to hide behind. You will get caught. I know, for I have been the accidental truth finder and, unwittingly, the exposed.
“John” who I met through Bumble, had a great profile portraying a frisky, lighthearted traveler and lover of art. Taken by his intelligence and thick Russian accent, I eagerly agreed when he asked if I’d like to go out on a date.
I showed up, punctual and ready to impress. John, however, was late and, when he showed up, was obviously much older than he reported. So much older, in fact, that I almost wanted to call him on it right there and then. Instead, I greet him with a smile.
He threw his baseball cap on the table and took off his jacket. He dressed exactly like an old neighbor we had when I was a kid: tucked in blue button-up shirt and khaki pants. Old school, but not a very cool, old school.
He moved his chair from the other side of the table, awkwardly placing it in the way of the servers in an attempt to get closer to me and then clumsily attempted to hold my hand at the exact same time I reached for my water glass.
If romance is a dance, we were moshing.
He grabbed my hand three more times in the next few minutes, each time causing me to tilt my head in confusion.
I made a fist and placed it under my chin in an effort to keep my hands away from his, then coyly asked, “Now, how old did you say you were?” He chuckles and admits he’s 55. I begin to wonder if that’s the truth, but I remain polite until he’s finished his beer. I called it a night shortly thereafter, wondering to myself how the date could have gone so wrong.
The next day he sent me a text suggesting a second date. When I decline, he sends me a long text about the importance of mental connections which my sister forced me to read out loud to her in a Russian accent. She almost peed her pants.
I asked some friends about the little lies they accept or dish out when dating online. I was reminded by M. that there are unspoken rules that must be followed in order to have a decent experience with online dating. “You have to have some level of chill,” she told me. What? So telling the nice fireman I matched with on OK Stupid that “There was a fire in ma pants” was not an acceptable opening line?
Play it cool June. Play it cool.
As for the more serious topics, it’s completely acceptable, perhaps preferable to remain vague in the beginning. When asked why his marriage ended, my friend C. admitted that he had cheated. This revelation has kept him from many a date number two. I asked him why he chose to be so candid and he said, “Listen, that’s how it went down. It was a big mistake I made. I’ve learned from it and I choose not to lie about it.”
That’s admirable, but it also puts a lot of pressure on the person to whom you’re dumping that truth upon to make a decision about you based on very little. For instance, three days after the Russian, I agreed to a date with “Frank.”
He loves animals. So do I! In fact, he loves animals so very much that he admits he is “father” to seven cats and two dogs. His truth is scary and a bit much to swallow, but I am impressed with his honesty. I chose to picture him living on a ranch where his animals roam free and ranch hands are there to clean up after their bathroom “business” because, let’s face it, that would be a whole lot of bathroom business going on.
Over coffee, after we exchanged pictures of our fur babies, he mentioned that he lived with his mother in Bellflower. How’s that for honesty? Removing any judgment on my part, I ask him to explain his living situation. He propped himself up on his seat, crossed his 45-year-old arms over his chest and declared that he had, in fact, never left home and that it was his mother who should consider moving.
“That’s my house. I’ve been there since I was a little kid!”
I nearly choke on my tea.
“Well, all right!” I said. I half-smile and waited for him to say he was kidding. I quickly realize that he was unapologetically giving me his truth. I chose to sit with him for another hour while we talked about our cats and the fact that I was his fifth date in two weeks.
“Nobody likes that I live with my mom,” he said.
I simply shrug my shoulders and give him my best Larry David, “Whattya gonna do?”
A week later, I had my third date of the month. I’m on a roll and the third time’s a charm, only this time, it is I who is the freaky little weirdo with some ill-timed truth.
“Ray” sat handsomely across from me while savoring his old fashioned, politely asking me twice if I was sure I didn’t want one myself.
I smile and reply with a simple, “No, thank you. I don’t drink.”
He gives me a quizzical look but doesn’t pursue it further.
After a lovely meal he orders us dessert and coffee.
“So, tell me why you divorced and never re-married,” he asked as I gazed into his eyes.
“Oh, my Baby Daddy (I didn’t say Baby Daddy, but I might as well have) was an ex-convict and drug addict and I was in the height of my alcoholism.”
The words escaped me before I could reel them back.
What made me blurt that out? So many years I have practiced the art of making dysfunction taste palatable, and here I was offering a big spoon of my ugly truth. Years of working in Corporate America has taught me to disguise my past around those who I know would not understand. I have learned how to give the impression that my not-drinking was simply an admirable trait of mine, one inspired by good living. A romantic prospect doesn’t need to hear the truth about it, hours after meeting.
“So you’re an alcoholic?” he asked. I felt like Courtney Love, smeared red lipstick and all. The rest of the night was a Q&A about addiction. He remained polite but it was obviously a deal-breaker.
Truth be damned, I thought.
Then again, maybe I’d been damned by truth.
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