We can be sociological and academic, and call it an experiment.

We can be evasive and call it “curiosity.”  (In fact, we should start our own and call it “Curiosity.com”)

I just spent a month on a dating site.  Yes I did.  I wasn’t really ready and I knew I wasn’t, but there’s that tickle, that “what-if.”  And there have been good outcomes in that I now know I can communicate with new people without 1) completely alienating them with my politics and is-learning-occurring stuff; and 2) talking or thinking non-stop about Dan.  And I met a few nice people. Thanks, guys.  Enjoyed (and hope to continue to enjoy) the conversations.  They are much needed.

OK, the polite stuff is done now?  Time to trash???

1. OBVIOUS: the scammers.  These men on the prowl (and, I understand, these women too, although I of course didn’t see them at it) want something.  Something electronic.  Your e-mail.  Your credit card digits.  Your birth date. They always have a good reason, and their requests are sandwiched in between plentiful layers of “sweetness” and “beautiful” and “just felt this AMAZING connection w/you.”  The site posts hints on how to avoid them, but they tell their users to be on the lookout for bad spelling or many word-use errors.  (Pause; think about that.)  THIS IS ME.  I find those in letters from my bank.

INTERRUPTION: Actual letter from my bank, paraphrased for comic effect: Dear Yossarian, Deceased: We are sorry for your loss.  We will update your records.  In the meantime, we will need verbal confirmation from you to speak to any non-authorized representative.  Sincerely, Major Major.

I found much subtler disfigurements in the scammers’ messages.  Things that make a former data person and lifelong Microsoft Access fan suspicious.  Double empty spaces around key terms, in sentences like “How long have you lived in  My City   comma  My State  ?” Generic lists of likes that appear in the first message as “country music,the outdoors [sic] and restaurants” and in the VERY NEXT MESSAGE as “Motorcycles, all kind [sic] of music and Traveling.”

2. Less Obvious: The barely-interested.  These guys signed up for the free trial or whatever and apparently they all look alike: kind of grayish and vague, with the words “ASK ME FOR MY PHOTO” tattooed on their foreheads.  The Tri-State area is clearly loaded with this fellow.  They also press the button which includes some pre-written phrases on who they are, and the copywriters, bless their hearts, think that people say things like “Check Me Out” or that being moderately active and outdoorsy translates to “flag football in a rec league.”  I used the search engine.  Of course I did; this is academic research, right?  Found that phrase twelve times within 30 miles of my zip code.  There is no rec league flag football within thirty miles of my zip code.  Part of me wanted to figure out how to get all of them together and see if they actually wanted to start one.

3. The I’ll-Like-Anybody’s-Profile guys.  It’s a tactic; clearly a numbers game; I “like” your profile, you’ll come look at mine; they even suggest that on the site.  No big deal.  But when I got an “I’m Interested in You” message from a guy who clearly indicated in his profile that any girl over 5’5″ was plain old not petite enough, and that he wasn’t going to drive more than twenty miles, we have a Failure to Communicate.  You can see my height and my city and state.  It’s called pattern recognition. Add to that the less obvious failures — messages from gun nuts who use a phrase like  “gunnut” or “2ndAmendmentguy” in their screen name (DID YOU READ MY POLITICAL VIEWPOINT ENTRY????) Or the ones who post pictures of their trucks.  Oh, yes, America.  Just the truck.  My profile says, “I enjoy reading.” Yours says, “I have a truck.” 

4, This one may seem a bit petty, because after all, none of these things, with the possible exception of the intended identity theft, is really bad behavior; it’s just funny to me because it’s so unlike me.  And clearly, men who enjoy exercise and fitness are to be respected, especially at our age when it is ever so easy to let down a little or a lot. To their credit, they find adventurous and interesting ways to keep moving, like skiing, hiking, snowboarding, cycling.  Now, that’s simply not me; I have a doctor’s note that says: she can take the elevator and if she looks pale give her salt and liquid and step away before she falls on you.  When she comes to, ask her to say “chrysanthemum.”  (I wish the note actually said that; it would be a real conversation-stopper at job interviews.) But I digress.  The sheer number of gentlemen who put “fitness” as their FIRST priority, their FIRST passion or interest, scare me a little.  I thought it was just the inferiority complex of the genetically aenemic. Then I realized: they actually care that much about themselves.  Their health, their bodies, are a priority. And I think about people like my father and my uncles, some of them holding white-collar jobs and yet nevertheless always sporting calluses and cuts and nicks on hands that did everything they could, over the weekends, to make our lives, our mothers’ lives, more comfortable.  My Uncle Art had really strong arms.  His favorite weight to lift: Babies.  My Uncle Mike is nicknamed Gepetto because he makes everything from custom kitchen cabinets to handmade rocking horses and wooden fruit baskets shaped like apples and I even forgive him for putting my kitchen cabinet knobs too high for me to reach now that I live alone. I see my brother-in-law lugging junk up and down my stairs.  My friend Gary toting recycling out of my garage.  My father threatening, at the age of 79, to take a chain saw to a tree that fell over in a hurricane. (We talked him out of it). Physical fitness, to me, has always been about being able to do for somebody else. I guess I’m just unimpressed by biceps, but I remember holding my father’s hand in church on Sunday mornings and feeling the ridges between his thumb and forefinger that almost never healed over.  He would use them again later that afternoon, because my mother needed him to move the hostas from around the light pole, so she couldn’t see the light purple flowers that waved there in June; wouldn’t have to stand the memories they brought back to her.