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February 13, 2017

The horror: Sharing online dating stories with a dose of humor and irony

'Venting, that’s the biggest reason,' explains one online dater of her Facebook posts

Coping with the absurdities of online dating is a real part of digital dating.

There are potential scams, punctilious profiles, demands – NO LIARERS!!! read one, as if that would stop me if indeed I were a "liarer" or even just an ordinary liar – unanswered messages and even angry vegetarians (two!) who overlooked the checked hunting and fishing interest box and a related photo before they contacted me.

While user experience varies, these are a small sampling of mine.

I’ve taken to handling the absurdities by posting some of them on Facebook, where they have become more popular than posts about my dog.

FB rants are not just my coping method: My writer colleague and pal, Tara Nurin, back to online dating recently on OKcupid, is doing the same thing on her FB timeline.

“Venting, that’s the biggest reason. Within reason, I tell my followers what I feel like. I have a lot of followers on Facebook. I’m being honest, but also ironic and funny. It is all about sharing this cultural moment of online dating,” Nurin explained.

Agreed: What Tara said.

Of course, dating in real life is by turns scary, exhilarating and drudgery, maybe more so when the imperative to couple and replicate isn't a factor. And online dating is all that, but on an amped up schedule. Perhaps that explains why the largest growth in online dating is booming with the youngest millennials and folks more than 50.

There are a few unique twists to digital matching, starting with a potential dating pool of 40 million, more than a lifetime of bar stops or book club meetings might provide.

There’s also the downside of meeting online: it’s impersonal, catfishing happens routinely and lies and omissions linger because they are not apparent without meeting and/or vetting.

But divorced a few years, with a just-launched adult daughter out of the nest, settled into a new community without much of a social network, in my early 60s, it seemed time for me to try meeting online.

The results have been decidedly mixed, but mostly positive – especially, one woman – the out-of-towner with Philly ties. She’s a charmingly (mostly) neurotic Annie Hall of a certain age – mine – type. All but the last 10 minutes out of three months were to the good. And none of it on FB. But I digress.

While unintentional, online dating is now a routine source of entertainment and humor.

I mean, what guy in his 60s doesn’t look forward to be catfished by a “woman” – well, maybe – who claims to be 29-year-old, thigh deep in the ocean, wearing a wet T-shirt and a smile, even though there are 20 versions of “her” with identical pictures and identical profiles – allegedly living in 20 different states?

With the excuse of approaching Valentine’s Day – ugh! – culture editor Jenny DeHuff has agreed to let me share.

A few things about me: I’ve been on since late June. Briefly tried Chemistry – negligible results – and Plenty of Fish – very scattershot. I’ve corresponded reciprocally with about 50 women. Met – and the first encounter is usually more a meeting than a date – about 20. Two have bailed on planned meetings: end of those stories. I’ve been out multiple times with about 10 women, the youngest 47, the oldest 65. Meetings of three times or more? Just four women.

My profile is brief, at 171 words. Friends say it captures me. I won’t date a smoker, nor someone who checks “currently separated” but offers no further explanation. But I don't otherwise list lots of hard-and-fast rules.

I’ve posted 13 pictures of myself, a middle-ground number. In one, I’m standing atop a fire tower in the middle of the Pine Barrens; in another wearing hunting clothes and with my dog in Vermont. There's me winter kayaking, and several with my adult daughter, with a group of college buddies I've been friends with for 40 years and there's also one picturing a book I wrote, my byline showing distinctly on the cover. They are my life in pictures, not five successive car selfies.

At first, responding to Match messages felt like a second job, likely because I took it too seriously. But in it was also the completely inappropriate winks, likes, favorites and chat requests, ostensibly from women, supposedly in their 20s, generally from five or more states away, often invoking their “good Christian values” in their otherwise barebones “I’ll tell you later” profiles attached to a flirty photo which soaked up my time.

So, I added caveats: Be at least in your late 40s, post photos – the one photo profile is suspect – and the clear warning that I don’t respond to requests to e-mails or texts immediately.

The stream slowed, but continues.

This brings me to my favorite recent catfishing attempt and an absurdly long string of FB responses after I posted about it.

I’m guessing the wet T-shirt pic helped, too.

PhillyVoice and I would like to show you the picture, but Match's term's don't allow us to reproduce that profile shot. We also cannot show you the screenshot I made showing eight profiles, identical but for the addresses. At one point there were 20 identical profiles and pics, different only in their hometowns.

The contact came from someone named “Baby,” who claimed to be 29-years-old and from Oradell, New Jersey, about 100 miles from me – well outside the 25-mile perimeter I generally follow and two decades less than the age I’m looking to meet.

There were also lots of non-answers:

Have kids: I'll tell you later.

Want kids: I'll tell you later.

Ethnicity: I'll tell you later.

Body type: I'll tell you later.

Height: 5' 5" (165.1 cm)

Faith: I'll tell you later.

Smoke: I'll tell you later.

Drink: I'll tell you later.

Oh, and a Gmail address listed in the profile.

Red flags, all. So I looked up “Baby,” searching under “her” username.

There were multiple profiles, all the same, each in a different city. The next day it was about 20 profiles, each in a different state. And the e-mail was now on the T-shirt pic and out of the profile.

Here is part of “her” profile:

"I'm not afraid to get dirty and enjoy the outdoors, I also love to read books and cook. I love sports! The older I get the more I realize how important my faith is. If you are on the same page with me and interested in knoswing more about me send me a message."

Which prompted my FB post: “I may want to discuss faith, dirt, the outdoors, cooking, books and knoswing more. But sports? Clearly “she” did not read my profile.”

I updated the following week when a person calling herself “Elissa” contacted me – using the same exact profile as the mythical “Baby.” And the same picture.

My FB friends replied about 100 times.

A sampling follows. One began:

“Good thing that I'm 68.”

I responded: “She may make allowances."

He wrote back: “Her allowance would be one of the major obstacles.”


“She has coupla good points going for her. Seems to have a nice personality, I meant. Her shyness is off-putting.

“There's just nothing to say.”

“I'm sure she wants world peace.”

“She looks... cold?”

“But is she a vegetarian.”

“So she gets around?”

“I can get her a Green Card and draft up the forms.”

Inevitably, I closed the discussion with: “No one puts Baby in the corner.”

In the interest of thorough journalism, I've e-mailed Baby/Elissa. No word yet.

I’d been catfished previously, so I was prepped when “Baby” hit me up. This example is perhaps the clumsiest, allegedly from a 37-year-old Williston, North Dakota woman:

"You can see pretty lady with deep eyes, sincere smile and strong character. I have a very curious and open mind. I like making determinated and eager steps towards my bright future. My energetic soul is full of enthusiasm, good sense of humor, flexibility, and patience. My calm and balanced nature inspires everyone. I believe that my man is very kind, sociable, cheerful. The person I am looking for will be my best friend, my partner till the end of my life. As I am very serious and responsible, I am looking for the same kind of person. He will always help, support me and I promise to give him my love and my care. The man of my life loves children, and he loves to laugh, he is very energetic, hardworking, active. As I like outdoor life, travelling, sea and mountains. And I hope my man is also open to the world, new adventures and new emotions Also I would like to mention that perfect partner for me is the one who never betrays, who is very devoted to family and his dear people."

I voiced skepticism for the usual reasons when I posted on FB, plus the only interest we shared was gardening. 

I mean: Gardening? In North Dakota? C'mon.

A friend who has worked in North Dakota responded to my skepticism:

“You are so right. I know all the 30something women online dating in NoDak.”

And it goes on with other absurdities and amusements from additional potential matches, such as: the woman who threw a tizzy when I failed to ask her out. I could not bring myself to tell her my mad skills as a journalist had provided me with her identity (confirmed on LinkedIn via a picture also on Match) and the fact that she’d been popped for drunk driving after causing an auto accident last year in her hometown.

Then there was the unending coffee meeting which began with a woman declaring herself an introvert and ended one hour and ten minutes later after explaining her husband's -- (yes, still married, despite what her profile read) -- serial infidelities and his looting of hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement savings.

There was the one who wrote: "I was raised Catholic, but now I prefer to go to Christian churches."

I was tempted by the woman who responded to a question about her profession who responded: I HAVE ONE.

And also the one who told me she was: "ecleptic in my taste."

Tempted for sure. But not that tempted.

So readers, got your own online dating tales or tips to share with PhillyVoice readers?

Hit us up at and share a story or two. 

If there are enough good ones, we may publish a follow-up.