What you are about to read in a personal insight to my personal life and should be viewed as such. This is not an attempt to brag, attack, belittle, or otherwise negatively impact anyone other than the occasional opportunity to make fun of myself. If you are a family member: know that you’re about to read something that could make future interaction weird. If you are someone I have dated in the past and what you’re reading sounds like I am talking about you – I probably am. If you feel the need to be snarky in the comments section, be my guest. Just know I will reply with equal or greater snarkiness. NO names will be mentioned. Dates will be changed. No one is innocent, but I’ll do my best to protect us.
I think since I came up with the idea, or more the actual gumption, to write about my dating history – the hardest part for me to figure out was the order in which to write about almost 20 years of nearly perpetual dating. Do I start at the beginning? Do I work in reverse order? Do I account for years of drinking and being hit in the head a lot (not always at the same time) and figure that just getting something written is a good place to start? YES. That last one…
So I figure I’ll start with a recent dating debacle that actually took place this year…
Now, 2016 wasn’t exactly the greatest year for me in general but right at the end of the year I was actually doing really well. I was busting my everloving ass on my recovery from heart surgery. I’d lost a lot of weight. I was actually getting healthier, I was getting my shit together. So, of course it made sense to wrap the year up with a short-lived, nuclear failure of a relationship. That relationship is not the subject of this volume, but will get written about eventually – I’m just setting the stage here.
I also need to point out that one of the ways I have met a LOT of the women I have dated in the last several years is by writing what can only be described as EPIC Craigslist personals ads. Go ahead and process your judgement, but I can honestly say that I have actually met some incredible women from posting a goofy, honest, slightly self-deprecating personals ad. I’m a writer – what better way to make a first impression than to write and hope that someone reads it and likes it? Trust me, that’s so much easier for me than to try to approach a random woman at a bar and share enough of who I am as a human being without being intensely awkward. Apparently there are women who read those ads – not looking for an actual connection, but to make fun of the jackasses that post them. For some reason, women who would never dream of replying to such a personals ad, reply to mine. Now before I start to sound like I am doing a decent amount of self-back-patting, I get plenty of replies from the bridge trolls of the internet that require a Rosetta Stone and a mild concussion to navigate through the grammatical and spelling errors. With the good comes the bad. I only point all of this out to explain that occasionally I write a goofy ad and get an amazing response that leads to an amazing connection. Again, judge me as you will…
So, all that being said: I’d convinced myself that I was over my last dating debacle and was prepared to forge ahead on that never-ending mission to find a life companion. I wrote myself a fresh, clean, up-to-date CL personals ad and posted it with the greatest of intentions. Amazingly, I got one of those legitimate responses that lead to a string of long, involved, well-thought out emails. The holy grail of CL interactions: a real conversation. Not only that, there was a tangible chemistry developing even in a digital medium.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, obviously, but I will say that there was something about the connection that was being built between myself and this internet stranger. Emailing graduated to texting. Texting to talking on the phone. The next thing you know, this person has become a part of my day-to-day existence. Nearly constant contact. There was an almost complete lack of small talk. Every conversation had substance. A weird thing happens when you interact with someone in a digital medium: you quit worrying about anything other than expressing yourself. Pure communication. This was that. As this person and I got to know one another, it was obvious that there was not only an incredible connection – but undeniable chemistry. I don’t mean, “I am attracted to you” chemistry. I’m talking about “this chemical compound could burn a hole in the fabric of space and time” chemistry.
In the beginning of this situation, I was completely oblivious to anything resembling a red flag. So we met – like for real-real, and that chemistry was a palpable sensation. The attraction was intense. Intense enough that it actually kind of scared me. In fact, in one of my nightly emails (this cute thing we did – email each other every night to be read the next day) I talked about the constant conflict between my heart and my brain. In fact, here is a quip from that actual email:
“You see, I do this funny thing when I’m nervous: I make jokes. I talk a lot. I divert. I say, “hey, look at this funny thing – and not the fucking dragon that’s creeping up on me to roast my ass alive.” It’s as much for me as it is for you. I do it in this case because you terrify me.
You creep through my head like a split-toed-booted ninja in high grass around this compound I call a heart. This compound that’s seen one too many battles. This old, scared, resilient heart. You’re like an invading insurgency, and the funny thing to me is that I’m handing you the key to the gate.
I’m standing here, peeling off my armor and shouting, “here. It’s yours.”
And as I’m peeling off that armor my brain is screaming at me to remember all the times I’ve been so thoroughly burned by love that charcoal gets envious hearing about my relationship history. That same brain that wants to scramble for those shredded articles of armor just because of the comfort they provide to this surprisingly fragile heart of mine…
The heart that’s simultaneously screaming, “JUST. SAY. IT.”
The heart that bears the scars that the brain is worried about accumulating. Between the two I’d rather listen to an old man argue with a teenager. I’m stepping in between them and just saying, “enough.”
I’m going to tell you that since I’ve met you I’ve felt like a different man. Like a lizard shedding it’s skin. I’m peeling away from the guy I was yesterday. I feel like I am jumping out of an airplane with what could be a parachute or a backpack full of dirty laundry. I’m not going to know until I pull the cord, and I’m reaching for it…
I should be scared. Hell, I am scared, we covered that…”
As it does in most cases, my brain had the advantage one day, and something caught my attention. We were on a phone call, and we got disconnected. I went to call her right back, and got he message that “the google voice subscriber you’re trying to reach is unavailable”. Almost immediately I get a text from another number saying that it’s her, and that she was texting me from her “work phone” because her other phone was dropping connection. We continue to text on the second number for a while, and then she says to switch to the other number.
At first I didn’t even think about it. Then I didn’t hear from her for a day or so, which was very unusual for our conversations. We texted nearly constantly, so a sudden drop in communication was really weird. And they kept coming. Every day at about the same time (6-7pm) I’d suddenly quit hearing from her until the next day. All of the sudden the Google Voice number thing became a little more prominent in my mind…
Now I have to point out that when we first started talking this person told me she was 28, divorced, and had a young son. I’d seen pictures of the son. She told me all about her job as a licensed therapist specializing in addiction recovery- in great detail. She also told me that she was still involved in a business venture with her ex-husband, but not in a day-to-day capacity. He was basically only in the picture when it came to their son. Working long hours was the excuse for not hearing from her in the evenings and at night because she couldn’t carry her phone while on duty in certain facilities. There was always a reason for the lapses in contact. I kept telling myself that she was a busy woman, and that me being suspicious was stupid.
But there was this nagging suspicion that kept creeping up. We all know that if it seems too good to be true – it is. I’d had a woman tell me she was divorced, only to get a phone call from her husband asking me how I knew his wife. I told him everything. In fact, he and I became good friends, despite the fact that I had to break his heart by being honest with him about his wife lying to me. I really didn’t want to re-live that scenario, and somehow that’s what I felt like I was headed toward.
I started losing sleep over it. It ate at me like termites in a woodpile. So I did what any completely rational person would do: I reverse searched the phone numbers I had for her. The Google voice number was obviously a dead end, but the other number was registered to a property management company. Surprise, surprise – the business venture she was involved in with her “ex” was a property management company. A quick records search there got me an owner’s name. Armed with that, I turned to the largest database of human beings on the planet: Facebook. Imagine what I found: A picture of this person, her son, and her husband.
Here’s the catch – it was an old picture. Her son was an infant in the picture, and is 4 now. “Okay”, I told myself, “he has an old picture on his profile. She’d told me on a couple of occasions that she didn’t use Facebook. I rationalized that her “work” phone was a phone that she had from her days of working with her ex, and left it at that. Everything else she’d told me about him checked out, so again I told myself to pump the brakes on the suspicion train.
Then she popped up in my “people you may know” list on Facebook. With her married name…and a profile picture that she’d sent me.
The person that “didn’t use social media” had a Facebook profile, and recent posts. Like within a month of us talking.
Oh yeah…Something is up.
I started to notice everything at this point. The biggest thing became excuses for canceling dates. We’d make plans to get together and something would come up. It became the norm, not the exception. We’d make plans to get together and I’d just wait and see what the reason for it not happening was. At this point it was almost like a game to me. The excuses became more and more intense. At one point a day together was derailed by the death of a family member. I’m not the kind of guy that chances karma enough to call BS on the death of a family member, so I took that one in stride.
Then came a day where, again, we were supposed to meet up and spend the day together and I talked to her at 10:30 or so in the morning. She was running an errand and then headed to me. Low and behold I don’t hear from her. For 12 hours…
Then I get a text from her “brother” telling me that she’d totaled her car and was in the hospital. She was in surgery, but had asked him to text me and tell me what was going on. He said he would have done it earlier but her phone was dead and he couldn’t find a charger. I’m smart enough to know that there are 2 kinds of phone chargers on the planet – so that excuse didn’t work well for me. Again, not being one to chance karma – I put on my concerned face and asked what hospital she was at and not at all surprisingly, didn’t get an answer. Even when she texted me.
At this point I was laughing to myself. I mean, the work that went into lying to me was getting pretty intensive. In my head I was just hanging out to see how far the rabbit hole really went. In my heart I was PISSED. Not at her, but at myself. I wanted so badly to just call her out on her bullshit.
I never did.
I just crawled back in my shell like a turtle and tried to figure out what was so wrong with me that I could be so thoroughly and completely manipulated. What defect do I possess that allows my heart to make a connection that seems so valid to someone who is literally lying about every aspect of their life. I did that weird thing where you have conversations in your head with someone because you can’t stand to have them in real life. I hated myself for being manipulated like that. I happen to be a big fan of mine, so anytime someone shakes that confidence – I take it hard.
I finally just deleted her out of my life. Phone numbers, emails, pictures. Everything. It was a cleansing by fire.
A couple of weeks went by and I got an email from her explaining that she was out of the hospital and staying with her dad and wanted to reach out to me…
I ignored it.
A couple of weeks later I was in the hospital myself and decided to reply to her email. I was in a better place mentally, despite being sick and dealing with a janky heart. Guess who deleted their email account. Guess who also didn’t show up in any searched for licensed therapists in the state of Texas. Guess who was essentially a ghost who snuck into my life, wreaked a little havoc, and then disappeared.
The title “Abagnale” is a tip of the hat to the guy that “Catch me if you Can” was about – Frank Abagnale Jr. for very obvious reasons.