Rebecca’s parents had a hard time grasping that their 19-year-old daughter had dropped out of school and was moving across the country to live with a guy after spending only five days together.
Rebecca arrived in Corona on May 1. By July 4, she realized that Chris had portrayed himself one way over the internet when, in reality, he was a completely different person.
“Chris was happy with my online picture and with the way I planned to look, but never with the way I really was.”
Rebecca admits that she was naive.
“Honestly, it was a little reckless. It was the first time I had been in love...my first kiss.” She sighs. “He was my first.”
After six months, Rebecca moved back to Alabama to live with her parents. She swore off online dating. But she soon grew bored and returned to California. In January 2012, she moved to San Diego.
She signed up for dating accounts with OkCupid and Plenty of Fish. Within a week of living in San Diego, she met a personal trainer on OkCupid. They began a five-month relationship.
“He sent me a message. I thought he was hot. He took me to Benihana on our first date, and to a movie at Mission Valley AMC afterward.”
She liked him immediately. They began to date exclusively. When she discovered, five months later, that he was cheating on her with his high-school sweetheart, Rebecca broke up with him.
“Two months ago, he married the girl he cheated on me with.” She shrugs. “And that’s not even the worst of my dating experiences. I had a guy lie about his entire identity. We started talking because I thought his profile photo was cute. He claimed he lived in La Jolla. But things didn’t add up. He said his rent was $600 a month and that his complex was ghetto. There is nothing ghetto about La Jolla, and you can’t rent an apartment there for 600 bucks.”
The man started sending Rebecca photos. He sent her a penis picture. They had phone sex a few times. Whenever she tried to make face-to-face plans, he came up with excuses about why he couldn’t meet her. After two weeks, he admitted that the photos he’d sent Rebecca weren’t of him; they were of a friend. Also, he lived in New York, not La Jolla.
“He swore the penis picture he sent was his, but the other photos weren’t. He sent me a pic of what he really looks like. He is not attractive.” Rebecca laughs. I am surprised at the ease with which she accepts this.
“I know exactly what to say in my dating profile to get any guy on these sites to email me,” she confides. “I used to be more vulnerable and real about who I was. Now I say things like: ‘I am awesome, I’m so much fun, and you can’t handle me.’ I can get the most attractive guy on these dating sites to email me. It makes me feel powerful. I have dates every night of the week. I leave Wednesday night open, just in case I want to go on a second date with one of them.”
Rebecca says that, most evenings, someone buys her dinner, a different guy every time. If she doesn’t feel like leaving home, she invites the man over to her place to watch movies.
“It’s really fun, though sometimes it can be annoying. I had a Navy guy come over to my place. Less than 20 minutes later, he was begging me for sex. He almost cried when I said no.”
Rebecca shows me her phone. There are dozens of text messages from different men.
“Right now, I’m talking to 12 guys. I’ve met 5 in person. The most promising one is an ugly guy. All the others are just looking to bone me. No one on these dating sites is really looking for a relationship. They’re just looking for sex. That has been my experience.”
Rebecca says that tonight she has her choice between the ugly, sweet guy and a new date. Both are waiting to hear whether she will be joining them for dinner.
“It takes me maybe 30 minutes on any given night to find a guy to go out with. I usually message three different guys. Someone always gets back to me.”
Rebecca has never gone out with anyone outside of internet dating. She has no idea what it’s like to meet someone randomly without checking out stats beforehand: height, weight, smoker, likes or dislikes dogs, does or does not want kids.
“I love it. It’s like a game. My 40-year-old coworker says she wishes she did what I am doing now when she was my age.”
“The problem with online dating in this town is that we live in Man Diego. There are not enough women to go around,” Carlos (not his real name) says. We are sitting in a mutual friend’s living room in Serra Mesa. Carlos is attractive, fit, and could pass for late 30s. He is 48.
“I’ve had a profile on Match.com for over a year and have only gone on five or six dates,” he says. “My profile has been viewed 14,500 times. I recently spoke to a woman who had 12,000 views after just two days on Match.” Carlos sighs with frustration. “The pretty women are snapped up immediately.”
He describes his first Match.com encounter.
“I set up a date with a woman at Wine Steals in Point Loma. She had multiple photos on her profile. It was questionable how recent they were, but I decided to be open-minded. She said she was 45. When she showed up she looked closer to 60. If anything, I thought that maybe the photos she’d posted were of her daughter.”
Carlos knew within a minute that he would never go out with her again.
“I try to date women my age. I want to be realistic. I am looking for a relationship, not just a hook-up. I have my age preference set at 37–48. Women age quicker than men. Unfortunately, they don’t have the same shelf life. I sympathize with older women’s plight, but at the same time, I don’t want to date someone that looks old.”