Monday, April 17, 2006

Caveat Emptor, or Why I Shouldn't Believe A Freakin' Thing You Say

One of the best (and worst) things about the Internet and blogging is that you get to meet strangers whom you might not otherwise have come in contact. For me, this has led to some fun and fascinating friendships that exist in a world all their own. I've come to know a bit about the personal lives of many of my fellow bloggers (Mary-Mia of Do They Have Salsa in China, Rhonda from Skinnydipping with the President) and I've even met one (Millicent Frastley who's Lunacy and Lucidity is well-known to many of you). I don't count Deirdre Cooley from Best Available, because, well, she's my best friend, and I knew her back when she thought blogging was something one did after drinking too much tequila.

I've met some who have commented on my blog and I've met some on whose blogs I have commented. Of the vast majority, I have had very little inclination to throw a shoe at them, which for me is a very good sign. A few fruitful e-mail correspondences have sprung up because of this contact, with people whom I find interesting, funny and intelligent. With one or two of them, I have found myself actually letting down my guard and telling far more than I might tell a total stranger. For that is what we are to one another -- total strangers. People who have never met face to face.

I have to remind myself of that. Because I tend to ascribe characteristics that are strong within me to others that they might not actually possess them. Like truthfulness. And honesty. And an overall aversion to lying. I am one of those people who can never remember the last lie I told, so I find it easier to just tell the truth as I know it, rather than overtaxing my ever-diminishing brain cells. Besides, I have an outlet for my inclination toward fiction (I actually write fiction), so have little need to tell stories on these blogs.

Still, I have to remind myself that one thing that many bloggers find compelling about the Internet as a way of reaching out to others is that provides one with the absolute ability to reinvent oneself. To change from the person one is to the person one might always have wished to be. To concoct a physical or emotional illusion of being attractive and available, when the real-world truth of it is that one may be neither.

Years ago, back in the days when I was Internet dating, I began a correspondence with a man I liked immediately. Funny, quick, charming, and my kind of handsome (I have unconventional tastes in men), I was thrilled. I had high hopes that I'd met someone that I might actually be able to eat a meal with and share a conversation with. For some reason (I can't recall why now -- perhaps some intuition), I plugged his unusual dating site handle into the Internet. He'd mentioned it was an old handle he'd used back in the days when the closest things we had to the Internet was the BBS (remember those?). I put the handle into Google, hit "go," and, lo and behold, this man's entire life history appeared on the screen before me. Including a photograph of his boat.

And his lovely wife.

Needless to say, I didn't write to him anymore. When he wrote to me and I confronted him, he blocked me. I went to the dating site administrator and let them know one of their members was flying under false colors. I was told that it was pretty much out of their hands. It was up to each member to be vigilant and cautious. This might have angered me, were it not for the fact that I agreed with him. It was up to me to take care of me the best I knew how -- which I had done. By being even mildly on my guard, I'd averted what might have been a dastardly situation where I'd ended up an inadvertent mistress to a lying, conniving sonofabitch. As it was, nothing was injured except my pride.

Caveat emptor.

You'd have thought I'd learned my lesson. But today, quite by accident this time, I discover that someone I've been writing to, and who has represented himself as single, is in fact, married. Unlike Mr. Boatguy from the dating site, we've never spoken on the phone, nor have we met in person, which is good. But until I did the Internet investigation, I'd never have guessed it of him. Mr. Boatguy's mistake was that he used a handle that he'd used before. This one made no such careless, egotistical error, other than having a legal marriage as a matter of public record. I'd have never known about her if I hadn't decided to dust off my old Internet search engines to see if they were still current before deleting them from my bookmarks.

Now, I'm really kind of sad, because someone I respected and liked has proven to be a liar and a cheat. He didn't owe me anything. We had no promise. But he did calculatedly misrepresent himself as single, with the obvious intention of allowing me to believe that there was no impediment to any developing affection I felt. And since there is... was... is... (damn!) a fair amount of affection I have for him, it was a good strategic move on his part. So, he got his needs met. Unfortunately, he did it in a way that failed to account for how what was, to him, such a harmless little game might affect another who didn't know that we were even playing one.

Oh, well. The longer I live, the more it occurs to me that I was designed to live alone. I do not have the intestinal fortitude to weather a sea of constant deception and prevarication. I do not have the courage to watch the ship go down again and again amidst someone else's fantastic attempts to free himself, if only for a few minutes, from the constraints of a committed relationship that has settled into complacency. And this is not, as I see it, the role I was born to play. I am not second lead in someone else's psycho-drama.

I'm sad. And I'm angry. And I'm really confused as to what I did to bring this on myself. Because situations like this have no victims -- only participants. What am I doing to participate in this? To encourage it. Maybe I just need to say from the beginning, "Guess what? You could be a really nice guy. But you could also be a lying, evil asshole, so I'm going to just plug you into this special search engine here and find out what I can on you. If you got a prison record, I'll know. If you've got a wife, I'll know. If you're a registered sex offender, I'll know. So come clean now, before I find out the truth about you my way." It's probably not conducive to a relationship built on trust and mutual esteem. But it might be a helluva timesaver.


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