I took some flak from a Grumpy Old Man about my dating website blogs. He says I don’t underline the dangers and the risks enough, I make it sound fun. Most singles, he says darkly, are single for good reason, scammers are a real danger, and psychopaths, sociopaths, malignant narcissists, and a whole range of people with psychological disorders stalk the websites looking for victims. Older singles (or if you prefer, those of us who have been young for a long time) returning to the singles world in a flurry of hope and nervous excitement are prime targets.
I did think I had made those points, but fair comment. He’s a Cynical Single and he has been on my favourite singles website a while longer than I have, using the same name throughout, which is in itself both a point in his favour and a reason to give up on him immediately. Only one of the characters in my books, ironically enough considering they are all single and in my favourite age group, would fall into a website type: Donald would be a Cynical Single, and it’s a type I find disastrously attractive. Edge did enter the world of Mature Singles in Five Six Pick Up Sticks as bait in a murder investigation: if any of them were to go onto the websites again, it would be Donald who kept them out of trouble and chased off the liars and chancers.
Dishonest Singles are everywhere. Nobody, nobody, is totally honest on their profile or in the first exchanges. Even if they have no agenda for deliberate misrepresentation, they want to present themselves at their best. They’ll say they’re separated, for example: they won’t say it’s their fifth divorce.
As a rule of thumb, you can be pretty sure anyone who has been on a singles website for more than a year is no longer a straightforward single person looking to meet another straightforward single person, no matter how beguiling the profile. At the very least they have unrealistic expectations: it’s got to be perfect, the potential partner has to be without peer and without flaw, rich, successful, good-looking and adoring, or will be dropped like a hot potato. And those are the honest ones!
Dishonest Singles with an agenda know that to remain too long on the website shelf is a warning sign, so they create new profiles, with new photos, every 8 to 10 months – or when they are in a relationship, so that the unsuspecting other half doesn’t realize they still have their fishing lines in the water.
Some Dishonest Singles are, of course, pure professionals. I still find it hard to take the scammer threat seriously, because their approaches are so obvious, and their follow-up so weak, but let the point be made again. Don’t get smug, or feel you can spot a liar a mile away. Some are good. My Cynical Single says he learned of a man who took a year preparing the ground, then lifted fifty thousand pounds off his victim.
I say my Cynical Single but that’s wishful thinking. He’s remarkably good-looking and has a wonderful dry sense of humour, but that three years on the website has made him Teflon. Men are scammed more often than women, and he’s had some incredibly convincing approaches over the three years, successfully parrying them all. He eyes all and any approaches with such deep scepticism that although we are friendly, I suspect he thinks I’m playing a long game. As if. He’s honest enough (unless, of course, he is softening me up to take money off me and frankly good luck to him, because I’m a writer, I don’t have any) but Cynical Singles are a dead end on the websites as far as romance goes.
The disappointments, the less skilful scams, the cynicals, are part of the learning curve. The most destructive are the Angry Singles, and they can be the hardest to spot, the most charming, the most insistent. I’ve bumped into a few along the way, and one featured briefly in Five Six Pick Up Sticks but I have learned so much more since then that they will get their own blog.
The safest route, with any single met through a website, is to keep an emotional distance until you’ve met their friends, their family, and, perfect world, their ex. If they don’t have any friends, and family, and are tight-lipped or irrational on the subject of the ex, move on. That can be easier said than done, but you will, in the long run, save yourself a bad experience. Trust me on this. I have talked to a lot of single people of both sexes. You don’t have to make your own mistakes, there is no law against learning by the mistakes of others!
The last of the warning blogs follows shortly. Then it becomes time, and more than time, to start exploring the wonders of this lovely age we’ve reached, and the opportunities that it opens up.