Friday, July 28, 2017

Girls, Google is your friend!

So I was back to swiping on a popular dating site when I saw a guy’s profile who caught my eye. On paper, Ben seemed to meet all of the items on my checklist; he was tall, employed, his profile was well-written, and, as an added bonus, he had dimples. A few days after I swiped right, he liked me back, and I wrote him a quick message. 

Our exchanges were effortless: easy banter about our jobs, where we live, the usual "getting to know you" conversation. He was easy to talk to, and had recently moved from Florida. He wanted to share a photo of a fish he'd caught while in Florida, and because you can't directly send photos on the app, I gave him my number. What could be the harm?

Within seconds, a photo of the ocean and palm trees appeared on my iPhone. We seemed to click, but as our texting conversation continued, my spidey senses picked up on something I couldn't quite put my finger on at first. He seemed demanding and began texting a lot (think three long texts to my one short one). He also mentioned drinking often. Yet, at the same time, he came on very strong without even texting me for very long, constantly telling me what a "great guy" he was and that "there are still good guys out there. Let me prove it to you." I started to feel myself backing away.

Those who know me well know I often joke about this deep sense of instinct that I have, this sense of knowing when something is off or when something is about to happen. I have worked to fine-tune that instinctive part of me and to listen to what it has to say. I'm no Stevie Nicks, get the drift. 

After texting for a couple of days, he called me on the phone out of the blue one night. I could tell he had been drinking, and red flags began flying at my face. Usually people are on their best behavior in a first phone conversation with a potential date, but not him; he talked over me, was abrasive, and rude.

At some point during the conversation, we talked about social media, and I admitted to being an active user, and occasionally posting personal things. He claimed he "never posted anything personal," but I had already Googled him and, upon finding his Facebook, noted a very long, very personal public rant that proved otherwise, and I called him out on it. (Head's up: if you're not Googling potential dates, you should be. Employers very often scout out potential employee's social media pages, so why wouldn't you do the same with a potential mate? How someone uses social media and the things they choose to share with the world gives major clues about what kind of person they are - and whether you will click with their personality. In this particular case, I could tell immediately that Ben was materialistic, into sports, and had a deep sense of entitlement and superiority that was an immediate red flag).

His response to my mentioning that I knew he posted personal things revealed all I needed to know about his character.  

“You know what, fuck you,” he said and was silent. I thought he hung up on me and I stood in amazement trying to pick my jaw up from the floor. Who does this on a first phone conversation?

Just when I was about to hang up, he laughed nervously and tried to cover up his obvious anger issues. “Just kidding,” he said.

He began talking quickly, trying to downplay his rudeness. I finally interrupted him saying I was heading to bed and wished him good night. I was so relieved to hang up the phone.

Because of past jobs, I've become a super sleuth when it comes to research and digging things up online, and it didn't take long to find public records to support what my intuition already knew. I located the the county court public records page from the town in Florida where Ben moved from where I found not one, but six separate convictions scattered over a period of five years for various violent and boundary-crossing offenses, including domestic violence against an ex girlfriend, violation of a court-mandated protection order and intimidation of a witness when he contacted that ex girlfriend and demanded she "drop the charges"; tampering with evidence, reckless driving, and two prior convictions of FELONY BATTERY in 2015 and 2016! In the most recent incident, according to the police report, he struck an employee of a presumed bar because he was told not to enter a restricted area and entered anyway. I even found a very unattractive mug shot of him. In every single conviction, the little box was checked indicating alcohol was a factor - that Ben was drunk when he committed the crimes.

To be sure it was him, I quickly texted him to ask what his birthday was, pretending I was interested in his astrological sign.

Bingo. It was the right guy.

My response to his was one final text:

So, here's the thing, Ben: in just two days of texting and one phone conversation, I have figured out that you are very likely an alcoholic with anger issues. In our first phone conversation, you were abrasive, talked over me, and told me "fuck you." I formerly worked for my county prosecutor's office and have friends from the Battered Women's Shelter. I know these red flags, and I know how to research someone.  I found the county website where you formerly lived and it took me less than 30 seconds to find your record, and my, was it impressive! Felony batter, intimidating an ex girlfriend who you had a no contact order with because of prior domestic battery.... the list goes on.

You have major problems and dating should be the last thing on your list of priorities. Please lose my number and do not contact me again. 

And with that, I blocked his number.

What I've learned: 

1. Do your research. You can never be too cautious in online dating. No matter how cute, nice, or normal someone seems (and this goes for women and men alike), do your research, especially if you're a single lady and especially if you have children. Get their last name. Scope them out on social media (but do not friend them before meeting! Ever! I'll explain why later). Tip: if your conversation has expanded into phone texting, you can plug their phone number into the "search" feature on Facebook and usually find their profile.) Even simple normal "getting to know you" conversation like asking a birthday or where someone has lived can reveal clues about their life and what kind of person they are. Find out their history.

2. Speak up! If I hadn't called Ben out on his blatant lie about his social media use, he wouldn't have snapped at me. His F U was a blessing because it became a fast track to knowing he had anger issues and was definitely not someone I wanted in my life!

3. Keep it on the DL. Do not reveal details about your work place or address until after meeting someone and following steps 1 and 2. When someone asks what you do for a living, respond with generalities: "I'm a teacher," or "I work for a non-profit in IT."

4. Pay attention to your spidey senses! We all have that little innate voice inside our gut that tells us when something is amiss. Do not dismiss what your gut tells you! Our guts are a primal tool for survival. They tell us "hey, it's time to eat if you want to keep on living" and similarly, they tell us to be cautious because there may be danger up ahead. Listen.

5. Give the 411. Before meeting someone for the first time, it's a good idea to give a friend or family member the deets on where you'll be. It's also smart to provide them with your date's first and last name and a photo. Too many women become victims of too many crimes. Better to be safe.

Until next time...