I thought I had met the perfect man. Little did I know, I was in for Internet romance betrayal.
When it comes to Internet romance, the status phrase "It's complicated" might just be the understatement of the decade. I would know, having just survived one of the most bizarre and convoluted online relationships that ever dared to call itself "love." MyDaily: The Truth About Online Dating, From People Who Have Done It
Having come to the end of it, I can finally attest to the fact that for all the praise heaped on the Internet, it is also the perfect hub for people who want to deceive the innocent.
I was among the deceived. I fell in love with a man I'd never seen. We met in an online art gallery, and after one look at the gorgeous photo he used to represent himself, I was immediately interested.
Foolish, stupid, naïve, desperate, lonely, hopeful ... you name it, that was me.
We took it to the phone, talked all the time. He told me that the photo I'd seen was not the real him, and refused to show me what he looked like because, he claimed, he was too shy around cameras. No luck with getting him on webcam, either -- but he promised me that he really was the drop-dead gorgeous thing of beauty that I believed him to be. MyDaily: Meeting Your Partner Online Is More Common Than Ever
So I let myself believe. The voice was good enough: just a husky Southern drawl on the phone that had me convinced that he was the hottest thing ever to cross my path.
It gets better. That sexy, hunky guy with the long, flowing hair -- the one I thought I was in love with -- turned out to be a woman. And not just any woman. A grandmother.
I found out like this: After months of accepting "his" refusals to do a video chat, I demanded a webcam appearance.
"I just want to look into the eyes of the man I love," I told him (her).
At that point, I felt like we were close enough to finally see each other "live. I thought it was the right thing to do.
Still protecting her identity, she refused and fled, leaving me to wonder why the man of my dreams was suddenly so unreachable.
Then, one day, I reached her. And she confessed it all.
She was a woman, a mother of three and a grandmother of two. She also consented to getting on the webcam, and let me tell you, what I saw was so far from the guy I'd pictured that to the day, I still shudder at the thought of her image. Nothing says "What the hell was I thinking?" like watching Grandma confess to a very long string of lies she told to draw you in.
Matching the familiar low voice to the image was even more disconcerting. When I asked her for an explanation, she told me, "I don't know. It just spiraled out of control and I couldn't stop."
So I'd been fooled. And even though I'd spoken with her many, many times, suddenly the sound of the voice started to make sense. Not particularly deep -- but husky enough to pass as male. I suppose that once she realized I was smitten with the fantasy she provided, playing me for a fool became her addiction. Kind of like a crapshoot. Every time she threw the dice, she won.
I so wanted to believe someone loved me that I didn't bother to question the perfection of the fantasy. And in her male persona, she did make me feel loved. In fact, I thought "he" was my best friend.
Why did she do it? Who knows. Self-hatred or self-denial would be my best guess. Boredom with her life, maybe. Was she a lesbian? I don't know. I didn't stick around long enough to find out.
One friend described the situation as one that ended in a "tragic farce." Another wondered how I was coping with the whole thing so well.
I gave the pain a good two weeks, allowing myself ample time to indulge in feelings of betrayal and humiliation. But there's something about being so disrespected by another human being that it becomes virtually impossible to waste another precious second thinking about it. I made a mistake, yes, but I'll be damned if I don't learn a lifetime's worth of lessons from it.
Had she told me right from the start that she was a woman, we'd be friends today. But she didn't; she chose a path of deceit instead. And between my inability to let go of a Prince Charming ideal and the stealthy cover of the Internet, she was able to get away with pretending she was my "dream hunk" for way too long.
The lesson: Don't judge a book by its cover, especially when you don't have the book in your own hands. My advice to anyone who goes online in search of love? Be careful, and keep your eyes open. Not everyone out there is as he or she appears.
If you do find yourself "falling in love" with someone online, make sure that person is real, with a real identity. Unless you're prepared to find out one day that you've been dating Granny, be smart about your online relationships. The truth will set you free.
Written by Dori Hartley for MyDaily
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