By Sylvia G. Hubilla
Round Rock, Texas
Texas, USA — “I will drive you to wherever you’re meeting. And remember, I want to know where you will be. And call me when you’re ready to come home, and I will pick you up.” That was my daughter talking to me while she drove me to my first internet date. Talk about role reversal! My phone buzzed signaling a text message – “Have fun, Mom! Tell me about it later!” My other daughter all the way from Arizona. Hmm, word certainly gets around.
We arrived at a pretty little Cafe, and as I got down from the car, I spot a tall, dignified looking man with platinum hair, brushed back, wearing long-sleeved, striped, blue shirt, jeans, and boots, clutching a bouquet of yellow flowers, walking towards us. My mind immediately flashed into focus, taking a mental picture. Not bad ….. not bad at all! Even my daughter became at ease.
Flashback two years –
Trying to move on from a failed marriage, I was introduced to this rather scary, crazy global matching game on the web by my eldest daughter. She was in the US, I, back in the Philippines. Having had a very conservative upbringing and marrying my first boyfriend (BIG mistake!), of course I protested in no uncertain terms. She said, “C’mon Mom; have some fun – it’s about time!” “I was 60 years old!” “But Mom, 60 is the new 40!” she insisted. NO was the last word I remember saying. But soon my email was inundated with names, photos and profiles – 6 every week, to be exact, from Match.com. My daughter obviously subscribed for me, created my profile, and thank heavens didn’t post a picture of me. She even went ahead and submitted “my” preferences – 6 feet tall, blue eyes, salt and pepper hair, etc.
“C’mon Mom, take your pick, reply to some – what could happen?”
Well, I was busy with work in Manila, and busy working on my petition for immigrant visa to the US, and intentionally keeping busy trying to put some semblance of order and direction into my recently “turned upside down” life– so eventually this game between my daughter and me was shelved. But the 6 new matches kept flooding my email every week, which I found annoying and a tedious chore cleaning up my inbox.
But I must admit, I did check out some of those pictures and profiles, and even toyed with the idea sometimes, but good sense always won. It was fun, actually. And it provided some comic relief to my usual self-pitying moods.
My immigrant visa petition went really fast, and within 6 months I heard the happy words, “Welcome to America!” as I walked through immigration at the Los Angeles International Airport, U. S. of A!
On vacation mode (read j-o-b-l-e-s-s) and with a lot of time on my hands, I turned the idea of internet dating over and over in my mind, and told myself, ”Why not?”
And so my adventure began.
I rewrote my profile that my daughter made for me, uploaded a photo (with huge sunglasses, of course!) but with the beautiful sunset of the Grand Canyon behind me – who could resist that?! I chose a name to hide my identity. Within the week my profile page would report, visited 287 times, 450 times, etc. Of course, with this came the emails I had to sort out. I only chose to reply, not to the matches sent to me, but from those who visited my profile. We exchanged emails on the website, until we felt comfortable enough to exchange our email addresses, and telephone numbers. When we felt we really liked each other enough, we set a date to meet, and hope to get to know each other better.
And so my first internet date!
Let’s call him Tom. Tom is a great guy. I actually liked him a lot, and felt comfortable and safe enough since he lived 300 miles away from me. I felt comfortable enough … until he said he wanted to bring me to meet his children and their families! Wow, that sure gave me cold feet and knocked me back to reality. I’m not ready for this! I don’t know how I wiggled out of that one, but we remain email and call buddies. So I gained a friend here. And a learning experience.
And there was Carl, Joe, Mark, and David …. Ah David, this is a story in itself on the perils of internet dating. He came on strong – a master in the art of hard sell. Well written profile, good-looking, thinning hair but definitely handsome. Email and chat everyday and night. My 88 year old aunt with whom I shared my bedroom, would say, “Ano ba yan! Matulog ka na!”, everytime the message signal on my laptop would beep. (What is that? You go to sleep now!) He put his origin and home as California, USA. But he would chat from Nigeria. He said he runs a business that takes him to Nigeria months at a time. So he said it would be great if I could fly to California to meet when he comes home.
A red flag popped up, when he asked for my bank information, so he said he could send me money. There’s no ignoring that red flag, so exit time for me. On the same week, the Oprah Winfrey show featured this scam targeting senior women on these web matching sites. They choose photos of attractive men, craft interesting profiles, and befriend unsuspecting senior women. I can’t believe how many women really lost big amounts of money to these scammers! Oprah showed footages of places where these people operated and videos of actual raids by law enforcers, and guess what – one of the places of operations was Nigeria!
Of all the emails I have had to sort out, one stands out, for the reason he was the only one with an, mmm, shall we say interesting (depending on where you are on this) hobby. Let’s call him Dick. His profile was well written, said he is a writer and a teacher. He has traveled to Europe and Southeast Asia. He had a lot of pictures showing him in different places he has visited, a couple of them bare to the waist. His first email said he has been to the Philippines and has a close Filipina friend who owns a resort here in Texas, which he frequents. So, some common grounds, not to mention, a Philippine connection – so I emailed him back. I got a lengthy reply, starting with “You sound fascinating ….. hope I will hear from you again.” He said, those pictures taken with him, bare-chested, were taken at the NUDIST resort he frequents every week, and where he is a member, and is owned by his Filipina friend. Now that was a laugh-out-loud surprise! The image in full popped out in my head, and I broke out laughing! “No way, Jose,” are you hearing back from me. Well he did say he was sort of a free spirit, but I had no idea he was this free! OK, dear daughter, you have to read this and see what you have gotten me into!
Now the last character I am going to talk about – let’s call him Harry. Have you ever been dumped on the first date? I don’t mean after, but during. For the whole week after his first email, he wanted to meet, for lunch, after work, to bring me to be his date at a Christmas dinner – in spite of my telling him I work, and can only meet with him on the week-end. He would email “How about tonight?”, “How about tomorrow lunch?” He belongs to the community choir and they sing in different places, providing the Christmas ambiance, complete in carolers-of-old costumes. Which was actually nice, and I did want to meet him, so I said, “Would Saturday night work for you?” Finally, we set a date, time and place. They were singing at the lobby of the Marriott Hotel. So I decided to come a little early to watch them – they were actually good! As usual, my daughter ( together with my grand daughter who is nine and who insisted on tagging along) drove me to meet my “blind” date, as my grand daughter called it.
So we met, we, meaning me, my daughter, and grand daughter, and him. My daughter excused themselves, and I rode in his car. He was nice, opened the car door for me, took my hand to step out of the car, walked on the side of traffic, just in the parking area. I actually enjoyed talking with him. He had a great sense of humor and had me laughing a lot throughout our dinner. And then it came – he said he had something to tell me and he didn’t know how. So I said, the easiest way is to just go ahead and say it! He started with, “Remember last week when I wanted to meet you and you couldn’t? Well, I met someone else, and we clicked! “ I said, “You could have just emailed me about it, and save us both the trouble.” And then, to regain my composure, feigning a look of horrible pain, I said, “Oh my goodness, I just got dumped! Did you just dump me?” Truthfully, I didn’t know how that felt, I mean early on in this dating game. My first real, serious date I married. So this feeling is new! I must have looked it, because he reached out and took my hand and said, “I really am sorry! I really felt I had to tell you in person, and not just email.” “That would have been kinder. But it’s OK. I am actually writing a story, and this could be my research!” I said. “You mean, I am your research?” he asked incredulously. Let the story end there. Of course he picked up the tab – that’s the least he can do! But had I seen this coming, I should have ordered steak and not just French onion soup. I am about to close this chapter of my Moving On saga, and I must say, it has been a fun and most interesting ride … so far.
I wrote this story almost three years ago. But I thought, with all the news about “catfishing” lately, especially about Manti T’eo, famous linebacker for the University of Notre Dame, being the latest victim, I thought this story is worth coming out again. There now is a reality TV show about this topic, “Catfish.” The word refers to a kind of identity theft being used in the internet, especially in social media. The scam artist creates a fake profile, using a photo of some innocent individual picked from the web. There are several victims here – the one the scammer communicates with, and the owner of the identity being used.
So let us enjoy social media ….. with caution.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
(This article first came out through the Women’s Feature Service – Philippine Bureau)