Relationships

The Day OKCupid Became OKStupid

He was amusing, smart and a little bit snobbish—in other words, just my type. Until I asked him his real name.

I've been using dating sites on and off for the last five years. OK Cupid, Match, eHarmony—I even tried JDate, although I'm not remotely a J. But apparently you can go on that site if you just like Jewish men, which I do.

And yes, you meet a whole lotta men with screen names like BoobMan and 68-Inch-Brutha (two names that, sadly, I did not make up), but you also meet some good people, too. I had a long-term relationship thanks to online dating.

That relationship ended in September, and after a period of mourning—which sounds like I clutched a lace hankie and looked longingly out a window, but what was really months of eating Frito Burritos, reading our old emails and sobbing—I got back to online dating.

In December, I happened upon a profile that was interesting. I won't use his real screen name, but it was a very pretentious word that refers to the melancholy feeling you get in used bookstores. (Did you even know there was a word for the melancholy feeling you get in used bookstores? Did you know about the Frito Burrito? You have a lot to learn, my pet.)

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So, the screen name was cool, and his one photo showed a very handsome man. Too handsome for my taste, really. I'm not into the chiseled, handsome type. I like a little oddness in my men. Give me Jake Gyllenhaal or John Cusack. I'm not into those pretty Ryan Reynolds types, or Ryan Gosling or even Jake Ryan in "16 Candles."

But I wrote him anyway, because his screen name was good and his profile was better. It was hilarious—full of self-loathing and hyperbole about how desperately he drank. I figured anyone who'd make himself look this bad must be sort of fascinating.

The first thing he did was make fun of where I live—I'm about 50 miles away, in a college town (just as he is), but he made it seem like I dwelled among the cast of "Hee Haw." He said I was too far away to date, but that my profile intrigued him, too. (Mine is also self-deprecating, and I may in fact mention my inability to cook or nurture or sew a button. Why anyone answers that thing is beyond me.)

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Over the course of three months, we'd go weeks without talking and then he'd pop back up. He'd tell me about dates he went on, and I'd do the same. We got a real kick out of each other, and it was occurring to me that 50 miles wasn't really that far, for someone this amusing and smart and snobbish. I'm sorry, but a touch of pretense goes a long way with me. I wish I were attracted to Gandhi but he's just not my type.

The last week that we talked, things really revved up. We started emailing several times a day. I suggested we move over to real email, make ourselves more comfortable, and he didn't respond. I asked more about his job (he worked at a university, he said), but mostly the conversation kept turning to me. Eventually, I told him I had a blog, and he said, "Oh, you must give me the address. I'm certain it doesn't suck."

He read pretty much the whole damn thing. He kept emailing me during the day to quote me back to me. He loved it, and I felt certain the 50 miles between us were becoming meaningless. This person I'd sort of given up on from the get-go was becoming a real possibility.

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"So, I did a little Googling, and I think I've figured out your real name," he wrote me, and indeed he had.

"So now you've read my life story, and you know my name," I wrote back, "and I still don't know yours. What is it?"

A day passed. As my mother would say, it was time to go to the bathroom or get off the pot. My mother doesn't like to swear. If he didn't tell me, I wasn't gonna talk to him anymore, as there'd be no other conclusion than that he was married. Right?

Finally, he wrote me.

"I know things have been uneven between us," he wrote, "but if I tell you who I am, it'll change everything. I will tell you, but you gotta give me some time."

Good gravy. Was he famous? Who's famous in North Carolina? Oh, god, don't let him be Nicholas Sparks. Hey, maybe he was David Sedaris' brother.

"OK, you're going to hate me," he wrote me again later that night. "I am not the guy on that site. That photo? Not me. That profile? Also not me. It's all fake. I set it up to weed out unhealthy women. If women write to that guy, I write them off. What sort of woman is attracted to a man who's so self-loathing, such a heavy drinker, who only has to offer his pretty face?"

He told me he had a real profile up as well, and how he narrowly escaped a couple of women who seemed interesting but who blew their chances with him by writing to his fake profile. He said I was the only woman he'd written back to, and as the months ticked by, he started liking me. Fake him liked real me. He dearly hoped I could forgive him this transgression.

Well.

I did write him again. What I wanted to do was ask who the hell he thought he was, trapping women, sussing them out for damage, when what he himself was doing was so dishonest, so bizarre, so damn unhealthy. But what I said instead was that I could never begin a relationship with someone that was based on a lie. I wished him luck. And then I reported his ass to OKCupid.

I wonder if you can actually date a burrito?

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