Thursday night I got a text from a number I didn’t know, and the person just typed “Red.” Red is my blog name, and what my friend Tim calls me, so I assumed it wasn’t a wrong number and replied, “Sorry, who is this?” The reply said “Sorry, old crush.” Huh. I started to feel creeped out (it was on the late side, I was home alone, etc.) so I told him I felt a little uncomfortable and asked again who it was. His rambling reply started with “Ouch,” presumably because I didn’t know who he was, and I was pretty sure from the typos that followed (ha) that it was J, a guy I had gone out with a couple times in January.
Once I realized it was probably him, I put my phone down and mostly laughed it off. So you want to restart a conversation with me, but only if I correctly guess your identity? Smooth, Nancy Drew. And talk about resurfacing with timing worthy of a chick flick, considering that I’d picked out my wedding dress earlier that day.
By the light of day, my nervousness seemed really silly, but I’m also someone who gets freaked out by everything, including 30 second commercials for scary movies (enough already with the possessed dolls, creepy staring girls, mirrors attacking people, houses that kill everyone, etc). But then I started thinking about how the “conversation” was handled. This was presumably someone who wanted to have a conversation with me, contacted me late at night, and didn’t even identify himself when I directly told him I was was a little creeped out. Some idiot made me feel uncomfortable in my home. I’m sure it was mostly his ego being bruised that I didn’t know him because he wasn’t in my phone anymore (10 months ago, people) but regardless, this isn’t adult behavior. So I got on my sassy horse and decided to tell him. Responses are verbatim.
Me: I just want to suggest to you that it’s a very unkind and unfair thing to text a woman at night cryptically, especially when she says that she’s not sure who you are and is made uncomfortable by it. I’d suggest you remove it from your repertoire. Have a great weekend.
Him: I have no idea who this and what you’re talking about.
Me: You texted me last night.
Him: Ummm no and not in contacts.I have no idea who or what you’re talking about
Me: Uh, does this help? [sent the screen shot from the night before]
Him: I have no idea and some is screwing with you.I can’t text a number 8 don’t know or in my contacts
Me: So someone stole your phone and texted me last night.
Me: Except this is J, right?
Him: Ummm no and stop harassing me.Now thank u
Me: You texted ME and were harassing ME.
Him: Omg stop in now and no I wasn’t
Now, I should really know by this point in my life not to even bother engaging in something like this. But is his response not THE BEST THING EVER? The next time I have a disagreement with someone, I’m going to claim that not only did it not happen, but I don’t even know who they are, and they’re actually the ones bothering me. Those typos are just a decoy for genius!
It made me think about how one of the pitfalls of online dating is random guys who still have your number because you went out with them a few times, and the accessibility that those randoms still have to you, to say whatever they want, whenever they want. To be fair, I certainly gave him and others my number at some point, and none of them tortured it out of me. But the ease and distance that texting provides removes a human element from this process, which is not helpful for people, like this gentleman, who probably have some level of social deficit to begin with. If I remember correctly, J is in his mid-40s, and he’s clearly getting worse, not better, at dating. I would’ve had no problem with a “How are you? Long time!” text. But contacting me late at night and not saying who you are? Forget about this guy; how do I make sure not to raise a son who grows up to pull this kind of shit in 30 years? Who are these men? And why are we still in their phones?
The problem is that there are guys like him, but also guys like my fiancee (maybe the dingo ate your baby!) and a bunch of other men that my friends and friends of friends have deemed suitable for marriage over the years. So it’s basically a minefield. You’ve got the wonderful guys mixed in with the creepiest of the creeps, and for however long online dating is a part of your life (and even after, clearly) they all have access to you. I was probably more annoyed than I should’ve been about this, just because of the level of disrespect given to me by someone who initiated speaking with me again. And of course, it’s not just me. There are entire Twitter feeds dedicated to the ridiculous garbage that men say to women on these sites. And it’s funny, until it isn’t, because this situation reminded me that some of those messages can make you feel like you’re being addressed as though you’re not even a person worthy of engaging in an actual conversation, and I bet very few of them have been so offended by women. When I saw Amy Schumer perform over the summer, she wondered why there are no sex acts that objectify men (“What’s the name for the one where you sit on his face and read your tweets?”) If you wouldn’t walk up to us at CVS and say it, gentlemen, then don’t text it. Just don’t. You know your moms, sisters, cousins and female friends? Start with the assumption that these women you’re speaking to online are like them and need to be addressed with the same level of respect. Because they are and should be.
I don’t know, ladies. The crazies are out there. And even months after you’ve cancelled your dating site memberships, it could take awhile to shake them. But at least it makes us appreciate the good ones and, in the meantime, gives us lots of fodder for our autobiographies.