“Single men in your area want to connect with you.” It was 9pm on a Friday night and sadly, I was alone, bored, (and apparently, desperate!). Although I am a content, independent woman, it had been almost a year since I had been on a date and I was missing the flirt and banter of a love interest.
Looking at the ad for the online singles site, I thought to myself, “I am a normal, intelligent, nice looking woman. The odds are, there’s probably a normal, intelligent, nice looking man sitting at home alone tonight.” And the ad said “No cost! No obligation! Browse for free!” Since I’m a sucker for triple exclamation marks, I decided to sign up for the free trial and peruse the single guys in my area.
I uploaded my picture, my first name only, and a brief profile on their secured site. But I soon learned that the “free trial” only allowed me to see partial profiles (a frustrating, pointless trial, in my opinion), but IF I would only pay $29/month, I could have unlimited access to all of the profiles and could browse to my heart’s content. No thanks! I left the site, feeling silly that I had even attempted it.
The next day, I had an email from singlewhatever?dotcom telling me “Joe has winked at you!” and three other emails telling me that Ron, Darrel, and Gary had sent me messages. I took a quick look at their photos. Ewww. No.
The next day, I had 5 winks from “Bill, Dan, Keith, Michael, and Greg.” I ignored them all.
The next day, more winks and messages. Delete.
Next day, more. Delete.
Too lazy to return to the site and deactivate my account, I just deleted them every day without opening them. After a month of deleting, I received an email from singlewhatever?dotcom that said, “Reminder….Norman has responded to your message.” WHAT??? I clicked on the link.
There was a picture of “Norman.” Sitting on the edge of his bed in a dimly lit room (that quite possibly reeked of boiled cabbage that had seeped under the door from his mom’s kitchen down the hall)…fists clenched awkwardly on each side of his belly button as if he were clasping an imaginary Play Station control. He was a younger version of Homer Simpson’s dad…yes, the dad…egg shaped head, greasy thin hair squiggling flatly across his pasty forehead…and an uncomfortable smile that said, “I may have nervously soiled myself while taking this selfie.”
Below his picture was a conversation between Norman and me….
Me: You look interesting. Tell me more about yourself.
Norman: Well, I like beets. I like Play Station and WWF wrestling. For starters.
Me: That sounds nice. I’m glad you winked at me.
Norman: You look really pretty. Tell me about you.
Norman (a day later): Hello sunshine. Did you get my message?
Norman (2 days later): Would love to hear from you.
Norman (5 days later): Are you still there, pretty lady?
Norman (9 days later): Hello?
What on EARTH???? I knew I had NOT had a conversation with Norman. I hadn’t even returned to the site after that initial lonely Friday night of disappointment! Why was there dialog from me to him???? I was baffled…agast…alarmed…
I quickly learned that the singlewhatever site had a default setting called “send an automated response for me.” Since I had never unclicked that option (nor even SEEN it), my profile was set to that default mode! I was MORTIFIED—not only at the realization that almost 50 men had received responses from me over the past 31 days but because…poor NORMAN!!!! I mean, really….pitiful Norman.
I looked at his profile picture….him sitting on the edge of his bed, fists clinched awkwardly, uncomfortable smile….so vulnerable….lonely… I wrote singlewhatever a nasty letter expressing my humiliation and my disgust at their playing with people’s emotions like that. I took a screen shot of Norman to show my BFF. And as I angrily told her the story, we both suddenly burst into crying laughter at the awkwardness of it all...the weeping-running-mascara-unable-to-catch-a-breath kind.
I still have that picture of Norman. I saved it. In fact, I’ve noticed that I have come to feel sort of protective of him when I come across the picture. I have never met Norman and never will. We’re not remotely in each other’s leagues (I bet he’s way smarter than me and way more skilled on Play Station), but I know what it feels like to feel lonely and to reach out for human connection on social media. I know what it’s like to hope that just maybe there’s somebody out there who would like me…for me…and that loneliness won’t last forever. Hey, Norman….here’s to you, buddy! Hope you find her! I hope she’s the WWF and Play Station-loving gal of your dreams.