TEXAS, USA – “I will drive you to wherever you’re meeting. And remember, I want to know where you will be. And call me when you’re ready to come home, and I will pick you up.”
That was my daughter talking while she drove me to my first Internet date. Talk about role reversal! Then my phone buzzed. “Have fun, Mom! Tell me about it later!” My other daughter texted from Arizona. Hmm, word certainly gets around.
We arrived at a pretty little cafe, and as I got down from the car, I spotted a tall, dignified-looking man with platinum hair brushed back, wearing a striped long-sleeved blue shirt, jeans, and boots. He was clutching a bouquet of yellow flowers and was walking towards us. My mind immediately flashed into focus and took a mental picture. Not bad… not bad at all! Even my daughter became at ease.
Flashback to two years back:
Trying to move on from a failed marriage, I was introduced to this rather scary global matching game on the web by my eldest daughter. She was in the US and I was in the Philippines. Having had a very conservative upbringing and marrying my first boyfriend (BIG mistake!), I of course protested in no uncertain terms.
She said, “C’mon Mom; have some fun—it’s about time!”
I was then 60 years old!
“But Mom, 60 is the new 40!” the daughter insisted. “No!” was the last word I remember saying.
But soon my e-mail account was inundated with names, photos and profiles – six every week to be exact – from Match.com. My daughter obviously subscribed for me, created my profile, and thank heavens, didn’t post a picture of me. She even went ahead and submitted “my” preferences – 6 feet tall, blue eyes, salt and pepper hair, etc. “C’mon Mom, take your pick, reply to some – what could happen?”
Well, I was busy with work in Manila, busy working on my petition for an immigrant visa to the US, and trying to put some semblance of order and direction into my life that was recently turned upside down, so eventually this game between my daughter and me was shelved.
But six new matches kept flooding my e-mail every week, which I found annoying. Cleaning up my inbox was a tedious chore. I must admit though that I did check out some of the pictures and profiles, and even toyed with the idea of replying, but good sense always won out. It was fun, actually. And it provided relief from my usual self-pitying mood.
My immigrant visa petition went really fast, and within six months I heard the happy words, “Welcome to America!” as I walked through immigration at the Los Angeles International Airport, US of A!
On vacation mode (read j-o-b-l-e-s-s) and with a lot of time on my hands, I turned the idea of Internet dating over and over in my mind, and told myself, “Why not?” And so my adventure began.
I rewrote the profile that my daughter made for me and uploaded a photo (with huge sunglasses, of course!) with the beautiful sunset of the Grand Canyon behind me—who could resist that?! I chose a name to hide my identity. Within the week, my profile page would report: visited 287 times, 450 times, etc.
Of course, with this came the e-mail I had to sort out. I only chose to reply not to the matches sent to me, but to those who visited my profile. We exchanged e-mail on the website, until we felt comfortable enough to exchange our e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. When we felt we really liked each other enough, we set a date to meet, wanting to get to know each other better.
And so on to my first Internet date!
Let’s call him Tom, a great guy I actually liked a lot, and felt comfortable and safe enough with since he lived 300 miles away from me. I felt comfortable enough… until he said he wanted to take me to meet his children and their families! Wow, that sure gave me cold feet and knocked me back to reality. I’m not ready for this! I don’t know how I wiggled out of that one, but we remain e-mail and call buddies. So I gained a friend here. And a learning experience.
And then there was Carl, Joe, Mark and David… Ah, David. This is a story in itself, on the perils of Internet dating. He came on strong – a master in the art of hardsell. Well-written profile, good-looking, thinning hair but definitely handsome. E-mail and chat every day and night. My 88-year-old aunt, with whom I shared my bedroom, would say, “Ano ba yan! Matulog ka na!” everytime the message signal on my laptop would beep. (What the…!? Go get some sleep now!)
David put his origin and home as California, but would chat from Nigeria. He said he runs a business that takes him to Nigeria months at a time. So he said it would be great if I could fly to California to meet him when he comes home. A red flag popped up when he asked for my bank information so he could send me money, or so he said. There’s no ignoring that red flag, so it was exit time for me.
On the same week, the “Oprah Winfrey Show” featured this scam targeting senior women on these web matching sites. The scammers choose photos of attractive men, craft interesting profiles, and befriend unsuspecting senior women. I can’t believe how many women lost big amounts of money to them! Oprah showed footages of places where these people operated and videos of actual raids by law enforcers, and guess what – one of the places of operation was Nigeria!
Then there was Dick, who stood out for having, mmm, shall we say an interesting hobby? His profile was well-written, and describes him as a writer and teacher. He has traveled to Europe and Southeast Asia, it says, and shows pictures of him in the different places he has visited. His first e-mail said he has been to the Philippines and has a close Filipina friend who owns a resort here in Texas, which he frequents. Some common grounds, not to mention a Philippine connection. So I e-mailed him back.
I got a lengthy reply, starting with “You sound fascinating… hope I will hear from you again.” He said those bare-chested pictures of him were taken at the NUDIST resort he frequents every week, and where he is a member, and which is owned by his Filipina friend. Now that was a laugh-out-loud surprise! The image in full popped out in my head, and I broke out laughing! “No way, Jose, are you hearing back from me,” I told myself. Well he did say he was sort of a free spirit, but I had no idea he was this free! I called my daughter to say, “See what you’ve gotten me into!”
After Tom and Dick comes Harry. For the whole week after his first e-mail, Harry wanted to meet—for lunch, after work, to be his date at a Christmas dinner—in spite of my telling him that I work and can only meet with him on the weekend. He would e-mail back: “How about tonight?”, “How about tomorrow lunch?”
He belongs to the community choir, he says, and they sing in different places, providing the Christmas ambience with carolers-of-old costumes. Which was actually nice and I did want to meet him, so I said, “Would Saturday night work for you?” Finally, we set a date, time and place.
They were singing at the lobby of the Marriott Hotel. So I decided to come a little early to watch them—they were actually good! As usual, my daughter (and her nine-year-old daughter who insisted on tagging along) drove me to meet my “blind” date, as my granddaughter called it. After the polite introductions, they left, and I rode in his car.
He was nice, opened the car door for me, and took my hand to step out of the car, walked on the side of traffic. I actually enjoyed talking with him. He had a great sense of humor and had me laughing a lot throughout our dinner. And then it came – he said he had something to tell me and he didn’t know how. So I said, the easiest way is to just go ahead and say it! He started with, “Remember last week when I wanted to meet you and you couldn’t? Well, I met someone else, and we clicked!”
I said, “You could have just e-mailed me about it, and saved us both the trouble.” And then, to regain my composure, feigning a look of horrible pain, I said, “Oh my goodness, I just got dumped! Did you just dump me?” Truthfully, I didn’t know how that felt, I mean early on in this dating game. I had married my first real, serious date. So this feeling is new! I must have looked it, because he reached out and took my hand and said, “I really am sorry! I really felt I had to tell you in person, and not just e-mail.”
“That would have been kinder. But it’s OK. I am actually writing a story, and this could be my research!” I said.
“You mean I am your research?” he asked incredulously.
“Hah! Just got even,” I thought.
Let the story end there. Of course he picked up the tab – that was the least he could do! But had I seen this coming, I should have ordered steak and not just French onion soup.
I am about to close this chapter of my Moving On saga, and I must say, it has been a fun and most interesting ride… so far. Women’s Feature Service