I online dated for a long time. A really long time. And I learned a lot. I have decided to share some stories with you about some of my experiences so that you can learn how to spot and avoid the Big Red Flags in online dating. I have found that the best way to do this is just to tell my stories. So here we go!
Category 1: Liar, Liar Pants on Fire
Category 2: I Gave Myself a Nickname
Dating Tip 1: When a guy turns out to be in the Liar, Liar Pants on Fire Category, run. This does not need explanation.
Dating Tip 2: If a guy uses a pseudonym, there is probably a reason for it. Run.
This guy contacted me through an online dating site. His profile was well written, and he seemed to have his act together. He seemed normal. He was an attorney, new to town and looking to meet new people. He was 45 years old and nice looking according to his profile photo. All signs pointed to responding.
After I wrote him back, he called right away. I always think this is a good sign. There are so many men who languish in the world of email communication. They will write and check in and maybe even text, but they never make that leap into the phone call. This is a sign that they are actually not ready to date and are testing the waters, that they bored and need someone to talk to but don't want to leave their houses or that they have something to hide and are not the person they have led you to think they are. If you don't get a call early on, drop it. Statistical loss.
So back to "Nickname Guy." We spoke on the phone a few times and set a date for the weekend. Following my own rules, I met him out (no pickup at my house), went to a busy restaurant (public places are a must) and I let me friend know where I was and who I was with (in case they needed to find the body...a joke! Well, kind of). We met at a fun restaurant/bar. He was on time and looked like his profile. This is a plus because that is not always the case, and that is the worst kind of surprise.
When we sat down, he said, "Order whatever you want. Don't worry about the price. I've got it." Well, thanks for letting me know you will pay for the date, but huh. This felt borderline tacky. Was this a bragging line? Money is no object, little missy? It felt a little like that, but I decided to chalk it up to an awkward moment and move on.
BIG RED FLAG
He asked me all about Pensacola since he was new to the area. He told me about his hometown of Boston. At some point he began to refer to some things in his life that were outside my frame of reference. He mentioned watching baseball games as an adult in 1980. In 1980, I was 9. I asked him how old he was. I knew that his profile said he was 45.
"Well," he said. "I am a little older than my profile says."
"How much older?"
At this time, I was 35. The fact that I thought he was 45 put him at the top end of my range. I wanted to stay within ten years plus or minus at the most. Sixteen years! Ugh. That is more than a little white lie. He went one to explain that he changed his age because when he put the correct age, he was only getting interest from middle aged women who looked old and tired. He was just more attracted to younger women and didn't want someone his age.
I asked him if he thought that was fair to the women. Because after you have dated for long enough, you learn to ask these things outright.
"Well, once they get to know me and know that I am active and have money, they will not have a problem with it."
"Well, I think that the women will probably not be happy with the misrepresentation, and you are kind of taking the choice out of their hands about what they are looking for," I pointed out.
He didn't get it. And it didn't matter. My goal now was to politely get through the dinner and make my exit. This was easier said than done. He kept talking. And talking and talking and talking.
BIG RED FLAG
At some point he lowered the boom.
"You can call me by my nickname if you want."
This sounds relatively normal if your name is "Anthony" and people call you "Tony." Not the case. I can't even remember his name because the nickname has overtaken my memory, but it was a normal, American name. It might have even been Tony.
"My nickname is Vlad."
"Where does Vlad come from?" this question was begged.
"No where in particular. I just like it. It sounds cool and tough. I like to be a little intimidating."
"Who started calling you that," I asked.
"Me. I just tell people to call me that. Sometimes I don't tell them my real name until I get to know them. But you seemed trustworthy."
This is not remotely normal. Get me out of here. "Vlad?" For an Italian Bostonian? When people do not give you their real name...what are they trying to hide? Even if I was determined to be "trustworthy" this is a creepy habit. And manipulative. Like you have to pass some undisclosed test to know his real name...or his nickname...I am confused. He continued talking without even noticing the horror on my face. About ten minutes later, without even thinking about it, I found myself standing up, announcing, "I have to go. I have to go now."
He was a little perplexed at my sudden departure, but allowed me to thank him for dinner. I was out the door before he could graciously pay the bill and walk me out.
Stay tuned for more of my crazy online dating stories on HuffPost Divorce. And be on the lookout for my book, "Sweeten the Deal: How to Spot and Avoid the Big Red Flags in Online Dating," to be released April 1, 2015!