Sunday, August 31, 2014

"I left without letting him see me" -- a first date goes bad

Martha, age 67, is a friend of mine and a beautiful, peppy, athletic woman. We were taking a walk together, and with great embarrassment, she confided this story (posted with permission):
This man contacted me from OK Cupid. In his photo, he had thick black hair with a little grey, and he described his body type as "average."

When I arrived at the coffee shop for a first meeting, I spied him from the doorway. I recognized him, but just barely. His hair was white and thinning, and he was at least 40 pounds overweight. I was totally grossed out by his misrepresentation of himself, and I froze. Then, instead of approaching him, I left without letting him see me.

He sent several texts along the lines of "I'm here waiting, looks like you're running late." When I finally responded, I told a half truth -- "I'm so sorry, I couldn't meet you" and a total lie: "I'm having trouble dealing with a break-up." 

He sent me a scathing email calling me rude and inconsiderate, and I apologized and said, '"Yes, I know, I'm so sorry."

What advice would I give to men on online dating sites? Be honest, really honest. Post a recent photo. Say what you look like. If you're 40 pounds overweight, say so. Otherwise you're misrepresenting yourself, and someone's going to be pissed off. Hopefully they won't do what I did and not even talk to you. There's someone who will love you the way you are, so be yourself.

Do I feel right about what I did? No, I'm terribly embarrassed. I've never done anything like this before. I was scared to tell you.

I confess I came down pretty hard on Martha. I'm always ranting about honesty and authenticity, so neither Martha nor her date scored big points. How could she have handled this instead? 

I suggest that she could have gone through with the meeting, and after some light conversation, said something like this:

"I need to tell you that when I saw how different you are from your photos and your description of yourself, I felt you had misrepresented yourself. It doesn't do any good, really, to post an old photo and not tell the truth about your body type -- it's bound to come out once you meet, and they feel deceived. If you portray yourself honestly, you'll draw people who are attracted to who you really are, and you deserve that. We all deserve that."

Do you think that's cold? There was no potential for a second date anyway, so maybe this could be a teachable moment.

Please realize that I'm not shaming someone for an extra 40 pounds and thinning, white hair -- it's the misrepresentation that doesn't serve him and doesn't get him closer to a first date becoming a second date. 

What do you think? I'd love to know your opinion. 


  1. One of the good parts about getting older is that we don't have to play these reindeer games. We should have gained the ability to speak our truth on any given subject by this time, and not behave like an inexperienced, embarrassed teenager. I am disappointed in both parties, but to be direct (because with my wrinkles and wobbly bits, I've fucking EARNED my directness badge), I am more disappointed in they way she dodged the entire situation.

  2. The other option would be to not go up to him, turn right around, and email him saying that he misrepresented himself and she didn't go through with the date because, if he can't be honest about something so obvious, how is she to trust him about more subtle issues?

    1. As someone who has online dated for several years this story was no surprise to me. Many of the men I have met turned out to be much different than their photos, body wise but especially age wise. I have sat through these first meetings and recommended to my "date" that honesty would be better. The strange thing is that later I would often realize that if a honest picture had been posted I may have been attracted to the real guy, but the disgust of him not owning his actual self turned me off so much.

    2. Another reason why turning around and leaving is appropriate (if you're honest with them later): I've invested 30 minutes getting ready for the date, 20 minutes each way, driving to and from the date, based on what I know of that person so far. When they've lied about themselves, I realize I've just wasted 70 minutes. Now I'm supposed to reward them for the lie by having a 30-60 minute coffee with them, wasting even more of my time and energy? NO.

    3. Mountain Man DanSeptember 07, 2014

      Yet all lovers are liars, Anne. At least in some way; even little ways. And I feel if she says on her pic/profile that she is 59 and when you "click through" she says: "I'm really 61. But let's be honest. You'd not looked further if I told it all straight."

      Love is a bit crooked I think. Even putting on makeup (girls do, guys don't) could be viewed as not honest, no?

      You are right about respecting each others time. What is looking for love but about sharing/giving respect?

  3. I have a number of thoughts on this as I've been in the online dating scene for quite some time and have had that exact moment where you show up and the photo was not the same. This really drives home the 3 rules of online dating that I have followed since the very beginning. Meet in a public place, tell someone where you are going, do not go with them to another location. There is sort of an unspoken 4th rule that if their picture was not representative you should leave immediately, but that more so pertains to if the picture was clearly not of them to begin with.

    While I think she was correct to leave she was clearly NOT correct to lie about why she did not go ahead with the meeting. That person clearly has self esteem issues about how they look, so severe they are willing to lie about it, they need to be made aware that lying is not a healthy, coming or going. That relationships of any kind start and end with the level of trust and communication put into them and starting out with a negative value is no bueno.

    Be you with confidence and it will look hot on you no matter what!

  4. I am with you Joan. What is average though? I would not date this woman cause she did not have the courage to speak her truth. And i am not interested in being her teacher. Be you, whatever that is.

  5. Yes, you're right Joan. But it depends what she wrote in her profile of what she's looking for. If she wrote she's looking for a fit man, etc. then I think you're letting the guy off too light. He totally wasted her time and was misleading. But if not, well, not many people are putting up current photo's, sad to say.

    I've found that I need to ask when they say they're fit, what do they do in their spare time. "Hike" which means walk around the block, or are they kayaking, doing yoga, biking several miles at a time. Bottom line- you really have to interview someone closely.

    I think her response is understandable, but your suggestion would be better.

    I'm a guy, I'd have held his feet to the fire a little more. Maybe with some pointed questions referring to my own profile requests, or his profile declarations.

    Just my 2 cents worth,

  6. I feel she was right in leaving, but should have been forthright with him when they did converse later. He needed to be told why she chose to leave.

    That said, I had a similar situation a few years back. We had exchanged a few emails in which he came across as inteligent and witty. Photo in his profile was a nice white haired gentleman. He claimed to be 65. When I went to meet him, I waited at a table and could not spot him. There was a white haired gentleman walking around, but he wasn't quite like the photo and looked too old. As it turns out it was him.

    we had coffee, talked and talked. He confessed to using a photo he found online of someone who looked somewhat like himself, because he was worried about family members spotting his ad. Also had one other thing to admit to. He was actually 76! Felt if he gave his real age no one would answer his ad.

    By this time, we had chatted enough that I found him to be an absolute delight. His first foray into online dating, as was mine, so figured I could cut him some slack.

    We saw each other occasionally for about a year and established a friendship. He chose to stop seeing me because of family problems and he felt he was too old for me. Has since tried to re-establish our friendship twice, but I feel best left as it is. He really is a dear though.

    I think, what I am trying to say is, this scenario may not always be bad. We had, through email exchanges, already established a rapport. That is why I was quite forgiving of him.

  7. Hi Joan!

    At first, I am tempted to pick up my torch and pitchfork, and join the rabble condemning a lying cad for putting up a photo that doesn't perfectly represent all his current physical flaws and shortcomings. Then I had to ask myself, "Do any of us reveal those on our profiles?"

    We ALL try to represent our best selves on dating sites. To some of us, it's fair game to use professional headshots with well coiffed hair and perfect makeup. Some of us use photos taken last week, some last year, some a couple years ago.

    If we want to be extreme in our standards, I could insist that all women post pictures of themselves without any makeup, because after all, if we end up in a relationship, I will eventually see what you look like without it. While we are at it, let's dispense with any push-up bras, girdles, or other "shape enhancements". And no more dying your hair either.

    In this story, we only hear the one side of how badly this chap misrepresented himself, and even that description is subjective. Personally, yes, I have a little more gray hair today than I did a month ago. I did put on five pounds during that vacation last month. Do I need to update my photo each month to stay accurate? How much of a difference is acceptable?

    And then we also have to consider the difference between self-perception and the cold hard truth. When I turned 40 (many years ago), a friend confided that, "As a man, you have to realize you are now old enough to be the father of your self image." This is one area where I believe we run into a genuine difference between the genders. Women, for the most part, tend to be extremely over-critical of their bodies and appearance. You get messages every day from fashion magazines and cosmetics commercials that say you don't live up to society's standards of beauty. Men, on the other hand, are often unrealistically forgiving of their own appearance. When I look in the mirror, part of me still sees the virile 20-something me. That is the me that I want my partner to see as well. For better or worse, I believe most men see themselves through similarly flattering glasses.

    Online dating is a scary place. I don't want to be rejected out-of-hand by every woman who sees the stark, unretouched, every blemish and wrinkle on display version of me, before we get a chance to meet. I have this (perhaps unrealistic) hope that, once I get to meet you, and you get to know the me inside this graying, overweight shell, that you might actually give me a chance. Perhaps that chap had similar hopes.

    Do I think he went too far in his misrepresentation? No doubt. Should he be met with universal scorn and condemnation? Then let you who is without a touch of mascara cast the first stone. For me, I would offer a drop of sympathy and a kind word of advice whispered in his ear: "Try a more current picture, sweetie. That is not the person people see today when they meet you."

    We are all guilty of trying to put our best foot forward, and sometimes that crosses the line into reality distortion. Please have some sympathy for the other lonely, occasionally misguided, folks out there who missed that line. You don't have to date them. But you should be gently honest with them.


    1. Oh, Jeff! "Try a more current picture, sweetie. That is not the person people see today when they meet you." -- that is better than anything I came up with! Thank you!

    2. Thanks Joan.

      I have sometimes encouraged women I have met to use a (more current) photo by pointing out a positive that the old photo lacks. For example "That one you are using now doesn't show how blue your eyes are. You need to take a new one." Everybody has a positive to accentuate. Help them see it and show it.


  8. Mountain Man DanSeptember 07, 2014

    For a couple months in my 5yr dating online I actually tried not needing/using a pic online. I converted of course as said profiles w/ pics were viewed 7x more w/ pics. Same w/ Ebay or whatever. We ARE the product and the product includes our bodies. I say.

    Here's what I learned and I agree w/ you Joan. I showed for a coffee date with a lady who was 100 lbs overweight. I knew right away this was a first/last date, or so I thought. I felt she had something to teach me and we talked for 1.5 hrs! She cried even. Both writers I promised I'd come to her place and "lick her happy" if she produced a manuscript draft in the next three months. Yes, I'd have done that for her.

    I had several dates that started/ended on the first coffee; yet some are dear memories due to what I learned there. What human being isn't worth 90 minutes and $1.50 coffee? Especially considering how one spent at least that much time w/ email leading up to coffee.

    Just think what your friend and her prospect could have taught each other, no? They could have talked about honesty, pics in dating, whatever.

    One dear 1st coffee last coffee date was with a lady who asked me how my heart/circulation system/health was. I said: "Oh, I get it. You want to know if I'm OK hydrologically. Do all the parts work? What a sweet thing to ask; and yes." After that I was more bold on 1st dates, asking if a lady was orgasmic and if she "touched herself" and was OK with that.

    Yes, coffee dates are great places to learn even how to date. Gotta kiss some frogs out there; even if there's no physical kiss; all connections are a kiss in some way.

  9. Age really is just a number. That being said, it does bother me when people misrepresent their age. I say, be aboveboard and be straight with folks. Honesty and being real, among others, is a very attractive quality in my book.


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