In the 1979 melodrama, Hardcore, starring George C. Scott, writer-director Paul Schrader was less than subtle when he gave his villain the name Ratan, which rhymes with Satan.
In my scenario, the man who told me his name was Larry was really Barry. He also failed to mention that he had a wife, who I will give the name Carrie, just to keep it phonetic. One has to try to wrestle (squeeze?) some humor out of this heartbreaking reminder of how cruel humans can be to each other.
"Larry" did something truly dumb for someone trying to "get one over on you and not get caught." He told me what he really did for a living, and where his company was located. Armed with that information and his phone number, when I became suspicious -- for reasons I will soon reveal --all that had to be done (and a friend did it for me) was to find out whose phone number that was. Voila, exit Larry and enter Barry, with the same business in that same area. And of course, enter a new character in this melodrama -- Carrie.
Why did I become suspicious? Well, Larry originally reached out to me on Match.com. I wondered why a man a decade younger would find me so compelling but apparently he did, or said he did, so who was I to look a possible gift horse in the face. By the way, this expression, looking a gift horse in the face, for those who don't know, is a reference to the saga of the Trojan Horse. Not to say I identify myself with Helen of Troy -- far from it. But the expression is apt, because here too what was waiting inside Larry's "Trojan Horse" was also an 'army' of deceit.
And no, no other kind of Trojans were involved, in case your mind went there. Thankfully we never got to that stage. But that in fact was the first thing that aroused (unfortunate word) my suspicion, as Larry/Barry was, from the first "interview" meeting to the fourth and final date, extremely aggressive in trying to... well, let's just say I had to keep asking him to slow down, to please not be so aggressive. To which he replied that he was just an affectionate, touchy-feely guy. I wonder now, knowing what I did not know then, if he is all over his wife too, or is the touchy-feelyness reserved for the women who unwittingly buy his stories? In any case, he was attractive, in great shape, articulate, interesting and he did promise to stop with the hands. Which by the way he never did for more than ten minutes at a time! But more on that in moments.
So... second date, midweek. No Friday night or Saturday for the next date either. Why? That first weekend he said he had to fly somewhere on business. Made sense. Another weekday night, another dinner, another request to see me again midweek. Finally I said that if we couldn't go out on a weekend let's forget it. To which he responded, "Oh absolutely, no problem." He in fact then made a date for the upcoming weekend. After we solidified the day and time he was once again in wrestling mode. I promised him we would have a great time "on the weekend" just to get him out the door. I was not going to be rushed, but I still liked him enough and thought I could change him. Ha! I am a delusional as everyone else. I think past adolescence nobody changes... I mean yes, we keep learning, evolving, hopefully improving, but our essential character is set. What do you think?
Anyway, that was a Tuesday night. By Friday morning I had not heard from him, so I sent an email, asking if we were still on for Saturday night. "So sorry for not being in touch, but I am very sick!" That was the subject line. Inside the email was what, in retrospect, was one of the remarkably detailed descriptions of a cold bordering on pneumonia -- oh and one that could also be strep throat, he said, sparing no detail. He was under a doctor's care, he reported. He might have a fever. He would be spending the weekend with his sister, because she already had a pot of homemade chicken soup on the stove waiting for him. He had already missed several days of work. He would be in touch when he felt better.
A bit overkill on the details for sure, but I still had not put it all together. Hey, cut me a break: hindsight is always 20/20. Despite the roaming hands he was fun to be with, a good conversationalist, and flattering to my ego. That ego thing will trip you up every time, won't it? Take my word for it, go with your gut! My gut keep telling me that this was "too good to be true." It was, and, unfortunately -- it usually is.
After a week went by with no more word from him -- after all that attention over the past month or so that we dated, including affectionate emails -- my gut was telling me he had either died from his terrible cold or something was off. That was when a friend I confided in said, "What's his phone number?" The rest is history. It was clever of him to choose a rhyming name; not so clever to give real facts about himself along with the blatant lies. A more professional liar would have been more careful. In either case, it always comes back to haunt the con. There is bad karma there. However, it's his problem (and "Carrie's") not mine. I consider myself fortunate to have gotten out as quickly and as cleanly as I did. I am not going to let one lying jerk put me off meeting honest men. But it has given me pause. I am more cautious now, and that is a good thing. I am also more suspicious, and that is not necessarily a good thing.
Ultimately, I have to wonder what propels people to do what they do. In the annals of scam artistry this is a blip. It is nothing compared to what you can see on television about criminal masterminds, charlatans, identity thieves, and a host of other frauds, fakes and sociopaths, and how badly they have hurt others. Besides, I have heard far worse online dating "war stories" from both men and women. Larry/Barry did not ask me for money, and in fact took me out in a lovely manner. He was sweet, generous and complimentary. Of course, he wasn't who he said he was. He was out to cheat on his wife with whoever was gullible enough to buy his "act." Had I capitulated, eventually he would have been off to the next "victim." As I said, I was both smart and fortunate. I am telling you this story because I hope it will help you respect any "gut" feelings you may have as you get to know someone new.
Keep in mind too, that even though there was no violence, no extortion, and he and I have gone our separate ways, something sad and unnecessary lingers. There are no victimless crimes--and whether they themselves know it or not the victims, believe me, always include the perpetrator!
Having read this, will YOU be generous and, if you have one, share any similar stories with me?
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