In July, my friend Bekah (not her real name) calls to announce her engagement. I am shocked by the news.
The last I heard, she was dating a guy named Mike, whom she’d met on the online dating site Match.com. A few weeks into their relationship, Bekah texted me a photo of Mike in striped jeans and a leather vest with nothing underneath. He reminded me of Captain Jack Sparrow.
“The sex is amazing,” she said.
She sent another picture, the two of them in motorcycle jackets, posed in front of an Easy Rider–style bike. In this photo, Mike’s resemblance to Johnny Depp was uncanny.
They broke up a few weeks later.
“The ridiculous way he dressed got old,” she said.
Before Mike, Bekah dated a doctor she met on eHarmony. The site matched them through a personality test. After doing an internet search of the doc, Bekah learned that a local magazine had named him one of her city’s most eligible bachelors.
Their first date was at a wine bar. It went well. The next morning, a Saturday, Bekah was awakened by a text message: “Do you have any STDs or STIs? Are you on birth control? Have you ever had an abnormal pap smear? Being a physician, you wouldn’t believe the things I have seen!”
She never spoke to the doctor again.
Two weeks later, Bekah met a new guy online. She decided to Skype with him to avoid the possibility of a wasted Friday evening. Fifteen minutes into their Skype date, the guy held up a framed picture of his ex-girlfriend and asked, “Do you think she’s hot?”
Bekah told him she was tired and logged off.
She exchanged countless emails with a photographer before meeting him.
“We have a great connection,” she told me.
But it turned out that the photographer looked nothing like his pictures.
“He listed his height as six feet, but he was closer to five-six and had a receding hairline. He took me to tea. That should’ve been a red flag. A cup of tea costs about $2. What a cheapskate.”
When she denied the photographer a second date, he sent a scathing email telling Bekah that she wasn’t “hot enough to be so picky.”
“I am 32 years old! Too old for this BS,” Bekah said. “I should be married by now.”
Then came Mike, the Johnny Depp look-alike.
Bekah gave up hope of meeting a normal guy through a dating site. She stopped looking for something serious. One night, out of boredom, she typed the physical characteristics of her ideal man into Match.com’s search engine. A guy named Christian (not his real name) popped up. She viewed his profile. He sent her an electronic wink. She winked back. They Skyped. Two days later, they went to a tapas bar. At the end of the night, they exchanged a kiss.
Bekah was convinced that she’d found the one. The feeling was mutual.
In eight months, Bekah and Christian are getting married. She has already purchased her wedding gown and booked a reception hall.
“He’s perfect for me,” she says with a happy sigh. “I never thought I would actually meet someone I’d want to marry from one of these sites.”
Twenty-two-year-old Rebecca (not her real name) meets me at Cosmos Coffee Café in La Mesa on a Wednesday night. Her OkCupid dating-profile photos show a raven-haired, blue-eyed sexpot, but when she first walks past, I don’t even notice her. Dressed in a pink blouse over a frumpy maxi dress, Rebecca looks nothing like her online images.
When she started internet dating, she was a 19-year-old college student living in Mobile, Alabama. She signed up with the site Christian Mingle, hoping to find like-minded, faith-based men.
She had never been kissed.
“Immediately, I received lots of sexual messages. I was asked by one man to have phone sex with him, and he asked if I could be loud during it. I was a young, Southern, Alabama girl looking for a relationship. I learned quickly that maybe one out of 50 guys on there really wanted to get to know me. Because of that, I deleted my account within 24 hours.”
The following morning, when she checked her email, she discovered one last Christian Mingle message. It was from a 23-year-old named Chris (not his real name), who lived in Corona, California.
“He told me I had beautiful eyes and a nice smile. He said he wanted to get to know me better. I thought it was cool that he lived in California.”
Charmed, Rebecca talked to Chris through Yahoo messenger. They soon exchanged phone numbers and began to speak daily. Within two months, they were in a long-distance romance. Despite never having met, they discussed marriage.
“I was supposed to go to California for my college spring break to meet him, but my family said no. My dad said, ‘If this guy wants to marry you, he’ll come here.’ I didn’t tell my parents that we met through a dating site till later. My dad was totally creeped out. He said, ‘Whoa, whoa, you haven’t even met this man. How do you know you love him?’ They didn’t understand.”
In the end, Chris flew to Rebecca’s parents’ home for a five-day visit. Rebecca was convinced he was the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. A month later, on the final day of her sophomore year in college, she dropped out of school and caught a flight to California in order to be closer to Chris.
“I had never been out of the Southern states. When I flew to California, it was my first time on an airplane. I didn’t tell my parents I was moving until the day I left. I called my parents on the way to the airport and said, ‘I’m moving to California. If you want, you can meet me for lunch before I leave.’ My dad was so upset, he had a breakdown. My mom was sad. They thought it was insane.”