NOTE: I AM MAKING THE FOLLOWING DISCLOSURE IN THE HOPE THAT IT SERVES AS A WARNING TO OTHERS TO AVOID SIMILAR EXPLOITATION.
RE I've been warned more than once about the scammers and liars and bait-and-switchers who hang out on dating sites like match.com. But I chose to go ahead anyway, figuring I was smart enough to avoid getting caught in anyone’s web. NOT!
If you read this blog with any regularity, you'll know I’d already been scammed by “Lisa” who I thought adored me, but turned out she cherished access to my wallet even more (see the blog entry for 9/15/2019). She tried to extort money out of me for a fake Italian medical bill. I caught on and didn’t let her lighten my cash flow, though she did darken my perspective. But just before Christmas this year, I fell trap to something quite different: an altogether unique scam. Not a shakedown for my dough, but a hustle aimed at destroying my spirit. Good thing I'm resilient.
First, a quick bit of background. As an avid researcher and author, I’ve managed to gain knowledge about women who've suffered sexual abuse in their youth. This arose when I wrote about Nicole Moore (in my book "Shark Assault: An Amazing Story of Survival") since, in the course of the many interviews I did with her, she revealed she'd been sexually abused as a child. I have to tell you I think there is no worse crime than this. In most cases, it penalizes women for the rest of their lives. Only a few, like Nicole, manage to rely on their amazing strength of mind to put matters behind them, carrying on with a “normal” life. But for most others, they’re damaged, many of them left with a need to extract revenge. It's this latter group that finds men whom they gauge to be vulnerable (you know, guys like me, apparently with the words “Sucker” and “Victim” etched indelibly across our brows), work them up to a position of desire, and then dash their hopes on the ground, smashing them into pieces. “You’ll never have me!” is their unspoken mantra.
So, here's what happened... I’ll call her "Susie" (I have no need to out her using her real name or location or vocation: life is already pitiful enough for her). She and I had shared some innocent back-and-forth texts from the match.com site, but soon she said she'd love to meet in person, adding, "That’s the first time ever I’ve actually asked to meet someone LOL. You don’t push... you’re intelligent, yet kind and respectful... it’s not too common on Match". (Looking back, I see now how I was being buttered up, prepared for the slaughter. Much as I'd love to think it's immediately apparent I'm intelligent, kind and respectful, the reality is this was not at all telegraphed by any postings I've made.) Still, I agreed it would be nice to meet, to which she replied, "Sounds wonderful!!! I’m always grateful for the littlest of things.. but you’re kind of a big deal- a rarity - I’m grateful to know you at all Peter- you’ve given me something more to look forward to!" (Uh huh... more being led to the killing fields. I mean seriously, I'd never even met her and already I'm a "big deal - a rarity"? C'mon...)
Next, out of nowhere, she's suddenly expressing concern about me. Huh? Sure, she'd acknowledged that my son Jamie had died on Christmas Eve three years ago, but abruptly she's stating that I should not be alone at this time of year. OK, a nice thought. But truth be told, I was heading down to Toronto for 3 days to celebrate the season with all sorts of family members, although on Christmas Eve and on the day itself, I'd be by myself. Mind you, I wasn't worried: I knew I could handle this. But Susie seemed insistent: "If you told me you were going to be alone... I’d be taking a drive (unless you wanted to be alone lol) I’m just saying... I’m thinking of you and want you to know I’m happy to be there anytime you need. I won’t let you be lonely!!!"
Hmmm... Had I ever said I'd be lonely? Nope. She'll be there "anytime I need"? We don't even know each other!
OK, I have to admit, it was nice to be well thought of. But I texted back, thanking her for her concern, telling her I'd be fine, and added that I was sure she'd want to be with her own kids at this time of year. She replied they'd be with their dad and that December 23, 24 and the morning of the 25th were open, saying "I haven’t made plans. I’ve spent many Christmas’s alone - and I think that’s a bad idea for you!!"
I should have realized this was too good to be true. I mean, we're talking a lady who doesn't even know me save for a few texts. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she's willing to drive 3 hours – each way, in winter – to be with me? Who does that? Fact is, no one. No one who doesn't have another intention in mind, someone with a "hidden agenda". I should have realized there was a concealed purpose to her making such a trip. But I’m a sentimental sap, and I bought it. In retrospect, I believed in what became a set-up. I convinced myself she actually was an extraordinary person who so cared so much about her fellow human being that she’d give up her own time to be at home with her family and friends to be with me, a total stranger.
Now, I must tell you that the other scammers I've experienced never showed up, of course. But Susie actually seemed ready to do so. In my delirium, I had to pinch myself: was this actually going to happen?
She insisted, so I said yes and began planning for her arrival. I enquired about dietary preferences (lots!) and bought all sorts of things I'd never stock up on for myself to be sure Susie could enjoy her time here, even including the special wine she preferred.
Two days later, she arrived at 8:30 in the evening. I got her settled in the guest suite and then began cooking dinner while we talked.
Throughout the evening, we enjoyed chatting about this and that. She made confessions about her personal life that surprised me, such as revealing she'd been sexually abused in her youth, but I put this down to a unique lady who sensed in me that she could confide anything, and felt good about that. Before she retired for the night, I asked if could kiss her (OK, I'm an old fashioned gentleman). She said yes. But that was it. There was never any sexual activity during her time here, never offered nor requested. (Did I mention I'm a gentleman?)
The next day involved more getting to know each other time, heading to the off-leash dog park, grocery store, etc. I have to admit I was a little concerned when she talked so much about the many other men she'd been with, and admitted she'd also had relationships with women. Still, she was here, with me, right now: let's not be judgmental.
By the time Christmas morning came, she had to leave in order to make the 3-hour drive home, then visit her parents, then finish wrapping gifts, and then prepare and serve a full turkey dinner for 10 people, as well as spend time with her sons. I was saddened that she had to go, having enjoyed our time together. I confessed to her that I was developing feelings for her and hoped we might see each other again sometime. But she offered nothing in the way of reciprocal feelings. I wondered what she was doing for New Year's Eve. She avoided a response. Even when I offered to drive down, pick her up, bring her back here and take her home again, she waffled. It seemed that I was into her more than she was into me. And so, off she went to see out her busy day, without so much as a "thanks" for the trouble I'd gone to for hosting her. Should have been a sign right there.
Fast forward to later that day: I receive an email from match.com saying someone wants to ask me something. I check the site and happen to notice that Susie's profile page is back up (she'd taken it down when we agreed to meet. I'd done the same thing). Have to tell you, I was surprised. And disappointed. Though her Christmas Day schedule was crazily busy, she'd still found time to go into the match.com site to re-initiate her online presence. Apparently our time together was not nearly as meaningful to her as it had been for me.
I gave this a lot of thought. The next morning, I decided to send her a text saying I was surprised that with such a busy schedule to fulfill, she'd still found time to visit the Match website and re-post her profile. Still, I conceded what this meant and wished her well in finding the person she sought to complete her life.
Well, wasn't this just the wrong thing to call her on!! Man! did she lash out at me, calling me all sorts of vile things. Then she told me I had pressured her when she was at my place and made her feel uncomfortable. What!? She told me I was angry! Huh!? Then she said all she'd ever wanted was to be "pals". (Yeah, right... let's be honest: everyone on match.com knows it's a dating site, not a "pals" site. That's why you build your profile and put up photos, etc.)
Anyway, I texted back, suggesting she was over-reacting and that I was in no way lashing out. I simply explained that I was surprised she had so quickly re-positioned her online profile, but also accepted this as a signal she was not prepared to expand our relationship. I told her I got that. I added that it was her prerogative and I respected it. "I have no right to be angry with you at all," I said, "and I’m not. I’m truly sorry if that’s what you read into my words, but there’s no anger there. (Am I disappointed? You bet. But angry? Nope.) And Susie, about my pressuring you and making you feel uncomfortable? Where is this coming from? I showed full preparedness to take things slowly while we got to know each other. I respect that's what you wanted too. Did I pressure you into sex while we were together? If so, my memory’s a lot worse than yours (LOL)!! [She'd told me she had an unreliable memory due to an injury.]"
I told her I felt exhilarated to know she was comfortable enough to tell me about personal matters. When I asked to kiss her, and she said yes, that felt wonderful too. When we sat to watch a documentary and I asked if she was comfortable, she replied, "I will be when your arm’s around me", and I felt even closer to her. I asked to take her arm as we walked around the dog park and she readily agreed. It all seemed so natural between us, suggesting we might even have some kind of a future together. But now I realize this was part of the set-up. I told her I accepted that she clearly has a need to date other people, and agreed that’s exactly what she should do. I ended with, "I’m being genuine when I say I do hope you find the person you’re looking for: you deserve the very best."
Figuring that this would at least bury any kind of hatchet, I was wrong. She came back with more vitriol.
Not only did she stress I was making her feel uncomfortable and pressuring her, she claimed she was unable to commit to a relationship anyway (this after baiting me by telling me wonderful things about our future together). None of this made any sense. Re-posting her match.com profile having just left me revealed her true feelings and showed what is a need she has to be with lots of men. (Sadly, that's how it goes with sexually abused women.)
It’s now become clear that I was Susie's victim. I should have realized there was a concealed purpose to her making a 3-hour trip to be with a total stranger. Having now gone back and reviewed the texts between us in the cold light of dawn, I see how she subtly set the trap: early on, talking about us being together and hinting at our wonderful relationship, telling me she wanted to write a book (knowing full well that I’m an author who mentors writers), putting out her contact information without my even asking... oh yeah, she was good. She nailed me. And she set the trap to enable her to catch me, and then throw me away like so much used trash. Just the way abused women do when revenge is the compensation they seek.
“Now just a minute,” I hear you saying, patient reader. “Sure you’re not over-reacting here? Have you considered that maybe she’s just not into you?” Oh yeah, believe me, I’m pretty damn good at blaming myself before taking aim at others. And I've tried really hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that I'm the victim of a lady who was abused and now seeks revenge – even from strangers. After all, being scammed isn't fun. Admitting to it publicly is even worse; sure shows me in a bad light! But going back and reviewing the texts between us, it's very clear how the trap was carefully set when you strip away the emotion and appraise things objectively. And you know what: the test is, if you truly care about another person, you don't just cut them off, leaving them dangling, as Susie's done to me, failing too respond to my text to her. Oh, and there's this: I'd told her when she arrived, "Wow! You're really here. Thank you! I didn't know if this was a scam or something. I'm thrilled you're here!" But as I think back, she looked embarrassed, looked down, avoided my eyes, saying nothing. Guess I'd nailed the truth. And the truth hurts.
No, much as it's hard to admit, the evidence clearly shows a trail of wily deception: calculated set-up, deliberate take-down. I've been scammed.
Now, being the charitable person I am, I am prepared to pose this question: was what I experienced a deliberate act? Or the somewhat involuntary execution of an abused person who’s compulsion to damage another human is congenital?
Guess I’ll never know.
Anyway, here's to a resilient 2020!!