Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Remembrance of Online Dating Past

Maybe it's the "thinker" SMCs still in the Los Angeles dating pool (also known as the Seventh Circle of Hell) I've been talking to lately, or the emergence of MTV's online romance-debunking TV show "Catfish" that I've been obsessed with the last few days, but I am having odd memories of some of my online dating experiences. The most dramatic of which was a Frenchman named Cyril.

In Jan of '05 I came across Cyril's ad on Craigslist in "men seeking women". He said he was a filmmaker currently living in Paris who would be moving to LA to make a movie and wanted to make some connections. I emailed him and he immediately wrote back, asking if I wanted to get on Yahoo chat. I had never done any Internet chatting before (to this day I avoid it like the plague), but I thought what the heck and added him late one night. He popped right on and we got to talking about movies, and soon discovered we were kindred spirits; total film geeks in love with all things 60s. The next night we chatted again...and so it went. He asked me to get a webcam and I did, and was delighted to see that he was indeed just like his picture - ridiculously French looking, with black hair and ice blue eyes, a crazy long nose (kind of an Adrian Brody type, also known as Just My Type). He seemed to like the cut of my jib as well, and soon a charming little romance blossomed. I couldn't wait for him to get to LA so we could start our lives together.

But. Something went wrong with his proposed plans. He couldn't get a hold of his LA producer/partner. Everything was falling apart. Right around three months in I felt a lack of enthusiasm coming from his end. He seemed depressed and resigned to the fact that he'd never make it to LA. Desperate to kick things up a notch, I decided to push the envelope and go to Paris to meet him. I found an upcoming swing dance event I could go to there, booked a flight and hotel, and went.

And we met. And he was just great. We spoke Franglish together and he showed me the city. I saw his tiny little garret of an apartment. But. He wouldn't touch me. I thought he was just shy or a gentleman, but deep down I knew there was something wrong. Unfortunately this is a theme that would play itself out over and over in my dating life - men seeming to be attracted to me, but then refusing to touch me when the moment presented itself. I've never quite figured out what this was about - and once I undertook to be a Single Mother By Choice I stopped giving a crap. But back to Paris - my last day in town he had to take a train to some suburb for work and I went to the Louvre alone, determined to enjoy the day and ponder my time with him and what it had all meant. I turned off my cell phone as I didn't want to be the Ugly American with the ringing cellphone in the Louvre. When I emerged at the end of the day I switched it on, and to my horror found text after text after text from him, saying he'd rather spend the day with me so why don't I give him a call, why haven't I called, maybe I'm mad at him? He misses me already, he feels so deeply for me, he has to see me one last time. But it was too late - he was long gone by the time I got a hold of him. It was heartbreaking. And then the next day I left.

After that things went downhill rapidly. He would be absent from the chat (once our hours-long nightly ritual); when he was on he'd be bored and distracted. Finally I caught him making flirty comments on other girls' pictures on MySpace (yes, that's how long ago this was!). We had a couple of big email fights and then it was over. But in retrospect it was really over a couple of months into it when things fell apart with his LA plans; I should have cut my losses then, but like these poor deceived people on Catfish, I just wanted so much to hang onto the dream.

And what was the dream, exactly? To have this impossibly hip, good-looking, stylish French boyfriend. To get married and live this unbelievably cool LA life with our bilingual kids and our artsy professions. To have a great story to tell all our (my) friends. It seemed so close at one moment. So very close. And yet.

I had a lot of heartache ahead of me. That year I bought the building in New Orleans that days later would be wrecked by Katrina. A year later my mother and I would stop speaking forever and I would come to the realization that I had been raised in a cult, which would require months of extensive exit therapy to recover from. My business would boom and then crash with the economy. And I would endure more pointless Internet dates, more real-life meetings that went nowhere, an affair with an Australian on a cruise to Egypt that also went nowhere, etc etc etc. And a year after Cyril and I stopped talking I looked him up out of curiosity and found he had recently married an American girl and moved to Georgia.

Why do I think of all this now, when it's been so buried, when I had to scour my brain to even remember his name to google him today (back in Paris, getting some accolades for his photography)? Because he was just another brick in the road that led me to having my son. It was a difficult patchwork of a road that had a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of disappointment along the way. It does make me a little sad to think about Cyril and remember how hard that all was on me at the time, but you know, it's really ok. It's just part of my story. And it ended well, because I did get to be a mother. And maybe someday B and I can speak French together when he learns it at school.

And I'll always have Paris.


  1. Lovely post! I was reading about online dating in the news a few days ago about a woman whose experience ended quite a bit differently from yours (she ended up getting stabbed by her date.) My experience has been the typical "one date" thing. I despise talking online or via text before meeting as well.

    Question about your upbringing (and I may have missed this in a post of the past). You say you were basically raised in a cult. Would that be a religious cult? Curious because I identify with it and experienced something similar.

    1. Hi! Yes, it was a religious cult. We're known for not going to doctors if that gives any clue. Most people don't call it a cult but it does meet the criteria of a cult, so I have adopted the term.

  2. What a beautiful little memoir. Please write more stories of your life! Tell us more about the cult, and leaving it. About other beaus, about your building in New Orleans, about your mom. Then you can hang them together and call them a book, if you like!

  3. Great story, so well written! I'm sorry it didn't work out with Cyril... but you got B instead, and I *know* it was a better deal!