Red Flags

So I’m on this dating site. You probably know the one. Cherubs are involved. It’s not the first time I’ve tried online dating. A few years ago, I launched a mini research project on the subject. Joined all the gay dating sites, using the free trials, to amass an instant cache of experience quickly. My hope was to write an article that I could try to sell to a magazine or something.

That article never happened. My overall experience was so disheartening, I no longer wanted to write a deep and revealing expose of my journey through the seven levels of hell. There were so many miserable oafs and creepy pervs and shockingly rude neanderthals out there. Guys with breathtakingly poor communication skills, and non-existent social ones. Quite a few exchanges left me shaking. I could not believe how hostile and belligerent many of the guys were. While trying to get a date!

Flash forward a bit, and I found the free site named for Eros. I’ve opened and closed my profile several times since then. Have only met maybe seven or eight guys in person, over the course of what must be three years now. One of those guys I dated for five months. He was sweet. I would consider him a success.

It’s the failures that make much better stories, however, and over time I’ve learned to recognize a few red flags. Things that should warn you off pretty quickly, if you pay attention. Otherwise, there is comedy just waiting to happen.

There are red flags waving all around the “Dominant-only-masculine-top” guy. You’ve met him. He claims to be a straight-acting real man, but is just a controlling jerk who has to have everything his own way. This particular red flag says that the jerk is incapable of seeing anything from your perspective. In fact, he cannot see anything from any perspective other than his own. Worse yet, he doesn’t see the point of trying. All he cares about are his own needs.

“Wait, relax your lips.” One of these top-only types instructed me while we were kissing. He was bothered that I was taking charge. Okay, I’ll play along. I went passive and let him kiss me without responding.

“Oooooh, that’s so hot.” Yeah, I’m sure it is. For you.

Now, playing a dominant role while making love is one thing, but do you really want to be with a guy who does not understand how to step out of that role the rest of the time? Before you reach the point where you are in his bedroom, don’t you want to know that he is a decent, kind, intelligent man? Someone you will be able to deal with when it comes to political discussions, or paying the bill at a restaurant, or meeting your family?

There are bright red flags around the needy-clingy-desperate type. One of these wrote to me this morning, and then again this afternoon. His second message read:

“I’m disappointed you didn’t respond one way or another.”

See, this type of guy feels that you are obligated to him. He cannot imagine any reasons why a person might choose not to acknowledge his advances. Say, for instance, they did not find him attractive, but wanted to give him an easy way out. By not sending a rejection notice, the needy guy might be allowed some dignity. Or, perhaps they did not feel his two-word greeting  warranted attention. Conversely, the three-page pleading letter he composed, in which he describes the deep soulful longing he feels for a complete stranger, might have warned of a potential stalker. Best not to encourage him.

My reply to this guy?

“There were seven messages in my inbox today. Including yours. I might have replied to some of them. Yours was promising, but certainly not now. You’re disappointed I didn’t respond the same day? Wow. There’s a red flag if ever there was one. Congratulations, you’re the first guy I’m blocking.”

Then there was the handsome ego maniac who complained on his profile page that too many guys are too sensitive, that they get offended too easily when he is just being honest. I wrote a polite (even hesitant) note suggesting that, if he is finding that people are taking exception to his way of speaking, then maybe he should consider a more diplomatic approach?

He sent an angry reply. Apparently… should I say it?… offended by my honesty. Telling me that he doesn’t need a therapist, that he gets dozens of messages from guys wanting to date him, and they all single out his diplomacy as what they find most attractive. He definitely was a stud, with a hot body, so I don’t doubt the number of interested parties. It’s the assertion that they were drawn to his diplomatic skills that I find highly dubious. Even so.

“I’m happy to hear you are getting such positive results.”

Needing to have the last word, he wrote back.

“Yes, it it great.”

Interestingly, he showed up in my matches when I reactivated my account recently. It’s been about a year since our brief exchange. Turns out he’s gained a lot of weight. He writes on his profile about having to get back in shape. I’d like to think he’s become more humble, but I wouldn’t place a wager on it.

Another type to avoid is what I call “Priscilla, Queen of the Ghetto.” She is the catty bitchy A-list reality show reject who flaunts the kind of self entitled indignation at perceived slights normally reserved for heavy set black women from the deep South. Priscilla speaks in the annoyed/annoying voice of a teenage girl, but can be any age or race. She is usually found in packs, hanging out with other catty bitchy queens. Like schools of Piranha, and about as attractive.

Speaking of race, how about the guys who pretend to be a different one? Seriously. They are out there. I was writing back and forth with one fellow who looked a bit like Joseph Gordon Levitt. Cute, right? He had several pictures where he looked slim and handsome and… well, white. He said he was from the Philippines, but I figured he was probably only half Asian. Those mixed ethnicity guys can be awfully pretty.

We set a date, and when he showed up, he looked nothing like Joseph Gordon Levitt. He was quite obviously Asian. The difference between his photos and his appearance in person was so drastic, I have to wonder if he used photos of someone else! I’m not sure why he felt it necessary to lie about his ethnicity, nor can I imagine what he thought would occur when we met! Was I not supposed to notice? I don’t screen out people who aren’t white, and understand there are little things people lie about all the time, but this was something I could not get past. Is he that ashamed to be who he is?

Also beware the Cut & Paste pro. You know him. He’s the guy who sends you that dusty, fraying in the binding, worn along the seams, introductory email. The one about how he’s a laid back guy. Likes to hit the clubs, but can also be content to snuggle in front of the tv. He loves walks on the beach and every other cliche that can be found on every dating site ever created. He is astonished, and deeply affronted, when you ask if he could write a few words that don’t sound as if they were saved in a file on his desktop, under the label “Dating site bio.”

Of course, he is only angry because you are correct. He does have that file.

Then there’s the guy who wrote to me yesterday. No photo on his profile. Major red flag right there. (What exactly is he hiding?) He began by offering a nice compliment, which got my interest, but ended with the ubiquitous and banal “Hit me up.”

Oy. I can’t stand when young men write things like that, much less older ones. This guy gave his age as 50. He should avoid trying to sound like a “Chill dude.”

He provided an email address, asking me to write to him there. Instead of on the site. Before considering that, I should find out more about him, no?

When I clicked on his profile, the first thing that jumped out at me is how we are rated zero percent friends. That’s 0%, as in none. Not friends. No chance of being friends. We are only a 52% match, but are 37% enemies. Warning. Danger. Proceed with caution. Better yet, turn back and go home.

I noticed he mentioned that he loves boxing. Three times, he points this out. He also loves to meditate. Five times, he says so. Wow, he must really be serious about his spiritual path, if he feels the need to give the same answer to five separate questions on a single page.

Under the question about what he’s really good at, he writes “Integrity and accountability.” Yes, I can see that. Something about the way he refuses to post a profile photo on a dating site where everyone else has posted a profile photo just screams “Integrity and accountability.”

In his message, he gives his name. It was something like, oh, Charles. Okay, Charles. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps there is a reason you don’t want to participate fully, but would like to meet me anyway. I can think of a few reasons to explain your behavior, ignoring the red flags.

Maybe you’re not gay. Maybe you are, but are not open about being gay, and are afraid someone might find out. That’s fine with me, truly it is, but then why not say as much?

Maybe you are not comfortable using the internet. You do give your age as 50, which could mean you are actually 60, and so a lack of trust in the newfangled contraption might be expected. After all, your email address ends with AOL. Who still uses AOL?

Maybe you’re famous? This is Los Angeles, after all. You wouldn’t be the first gay celebrity to try to hide his identity. Fine, Charles, let’s hear your story.

I send him a short letter. Really, just one paragraph. Each sentence is complete, and shows a mix of keen perception and playful humor. I joke that he values his integrity and accountability, yet does not have a profile picture. I observe that boxing is a violent sport, yet meditation is a peaceful path.

“Contradiction is interesting. None of us are one dimensional.” My exact words. Hardly an attack. Actually, it’s a provocative opening for deeper discussion. So many people look for contradiction as proof of hypocrisy. They try to invalidate a person’s position by drawing attention to apparent inconsistencies. I rather look upon contradiction as a mark of complexity. We each of us have contradictory truths, and it is the sign of an intelligent being to be able to find harmony in dissonance.

He sent me a curt reply almost immediately.

“Please do not email me again.”

Wow. Really?

Sure enough, the red flags were accurate. Didn’t doubt it for a second.


3 thoughts on “Red Flags

  1. Very funny :) , have a look at this, I think you’ll like it:
    I did the internet dating thing for a very short time and experimented with various profile types. What I found most shocking was how much more attention my ‘dumbed down’ profile received. The cliché(d) I’m 5’10, love my dogs, I’m an Aries version was flooded with emails. The “I work with art history research, am a member of Amnesty International “- was almost wholly ignored. My conclusion was that to get attention I had to edit/omit important aspects of my identity and that can only lead to disaster. Particularly because I actually hate long walks on the beach and hiking. I prefer silence to inane chatter and if one is still obsessing about their pec size by the time they’re 30 I really don’t want to hear about it.

    1. Thanks. How fascinating. I’d never thought to dumb down my profile. I guess it makes sense, in a twisted sort of way. Many guys would be threatened by a man who is intelligent and who has higher than average aspirations. They might also resent someone who isn’t playing the same games they play. Thanks for those comments. I’m going to read your piece now, and just in case we have written the same things, let me point out that I have not read it before writing mine!

      1. I agree, it had something to do with fear of being judged. The dumbed down profile is certainly less threatening in the sense that the less a person knows, the less their judgements will be worth…

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