Scared Straight…er. Ish.

Posted on August 12, 2010


As I have said before, while I still get fooled once in a while, when I first started dating last fall I was dumb as a box of rocks, believing what people said and taking them at face value and other such unbelievably naive idiocy.  This is the story of how that changed.

The Architect replied to the same CL ad that Lieu did and I was instantly smitten.  He was smart and eclectic, funny and ribald, tall and worldly.  He called me an enchantress.  He described himself as 36 years old and living in Arlington with a couple of roommates.  We had a hard time finding a time to meet, but it was near Christmas and everyone was busy, so I didn’t think much of it.  Finally, we settled on lunch near my office at Union Station.

Well, actually, I said I’m not going to keep emailing you 1,000 times a day if you can’t find an hour to meet me.  There’s no point. And he said, Meet me now, for lunch.

Let’s review the red flags so far:

  • After TONS of back-and-forth about great restaurants, etc., his suggestion for a meeting is lunch near my office in shitty Union Station.
  • How many successful architects in their mid-30s have roommates?
  • Really, in two weeks you can’t find an hour to meet someone for a drink who works one metro stop away from you?
  • He dodged my request for a phone number to help us find each other at the Station, saying Don’t worry, I’ll find you.

But reader, I went.  I slapped on some eyeliner (always have makeup at the office just in case) slathered on some smelly lotion, thanked God I was wearing my hot boots, checked out his picture one more time so I’d recognize him, and went for it.

So there I stand, cleavaged and perfumed, fake-texting on my phone in the middle of the concourse, and this man I’d never seen before walks up to me and says my name and wraps me in a warm hug.  He was tall and attractive, with a sincere and instantly likable smile.  He smelled good and he had beautiful hands.  He was wearing those hipster glasses that I like so much, and nice shoes.

But he was not the man in the picture.

Like, not even close.  It’s as though Jake Gyllenhaal answered my ad and Leo DiCaprio  showed up–both attractive, around the same age, and white, but that’s it.  Definitely not the same person.  So I did what anyone would do: I drew my dignity around me like a cloak, stood up straight, and said I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but I know I won’t be a part of it. And I strode off into the crowd and blocked his email address when I got back to my desk.

Ha ha ha.  Of course I didn’t do that.  I have the self-esteem of a box of pasta.  We had lunch, and then I made out with him in a dark corner by the old movie theater and kissed him goodbye at the metro.

And that, believe it or not,  is when shit got weird.

That night, The Architect was meeting friends in town from Europe.  I was home, and we were exchanging our normal 20 emails per hour.  I had Craigslist M4W open in another browser, and clicked on an ad for a 33 year old man living in Falls Church.  He used the exact same words to describe himself as my architect, and the post had the same picture he’d sent me.

Have you ever read The Gift of Fear?  I highly do not recommend it for the anxious among us, as I spent months afterward pissing myself with fright every time I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, but the basic premise is this: Your body knows things before your mind can process them, and you have to learn to recognize those signals–the gift of fear–and act on them without worrying that people will think you’re rude.   One example used in the book goes something like this: You’re  a woman alone in your office building.  You call the elevator and a man you don’t know is already in it.  Something about him gives you a weird vibe, a prickle of unease.   Do you wait for the next car, feigning a forgotten item in your office, or tell yourself not to be such a baby and get in?  99% of us would get in the elevator…making humans the only animal that would willingly enter a soundproof steel box with another animal that they fear intends to harm them.  Obey the Gift of Fear!  Run for your life!  (I read this not long after the shooting and may not have been in the best frame of mind.)

Now, obviously I was on Craigslist too.  It’s not like we were exclusively dating, or anything close to it; we had met once.  I couldn’t have cared less if he had an ad up on CL.  But why did he give himself a different age?  A different town?  And why the fake pic (which I never called him on)?  My heartbeat sped up.  My stomach had turned sour and my fingers cold on the keyboard.

I emailed him.

ME: I saw your ad on CL.  And I don’t care, honestly–obviously I was there too–but why did you give a different age and town than what you gave me?

HIM: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

ME: Really?  Because it’s an ad with the pic you sent me in it, using the same words you used to describe yourself to me.

HIM: I don’t have an ad up.  I really have no idea what you’re talking about.

ME: You’re saying this isn’t your ad (attached link)

HIM: That post says it’s been deleted by author.  Can we talk about this later?

So that was the end of that.  He emailed me a few weeks later to say happy new year and ask if I was still up for hanging out.  The worst part of this story is that I really liked this guy.  If he hadn’t been so overtly creepy and wrong, and done things that really forced me to confront it (my unflappable sister freaked when I told her about the ad) I probably would have granted his repeated, insistent request to come over to my place for drinks and dinner, get away from the bar scene, relax at home.  And who knows where I’d be now?