Jimmy seemed too good to be true. Joan met him one morning when she served him a cortado at her coffee shop. He had her swooning over his knowledge of Asian coffee culture in no time.
“He knows things about coffee that even baristas and roasters don’t, and he works in finance!” she said. He was tall, dark and handsome, and hailed from Staten Island. He was mysterious, and said he hated social media. It just wasn’t his thing. Oh and texting and phone calls? Too impersonal. “I’ll see you when I see you,” was his line.
Warning sign number one: He gave Joan a hotmail address as the only way to contact him.
“He doesn’t have Gmail?” I questioned. “That’s suspicious.”
“I think it’s kind of old-fashioned. He sends the most romantic notes. I feel like we’re writing love letters back and forth, like he’s a solider off at war somewhere.”
“Well, technically it is a long distance relationship, you have to take a boat to get there,” I joked.
“I know! It’s so sweet,” she said. I didn’t want to dash her romantic dreams, but I was assuming she had never taken the Staten Island Ferry before. There is simply nothing sweet or romantic about that at all.
“How many dates have you been on with him?” I asked, genuinely hoping Jimmy would redeem himself. I’d lost a significant amount of faith after the Hotmail revelation.
“Every night last week! We had sex in the bathroom at the coffee shop, it was so hot!”
“What’s his place like?” I asked. She gave me the answer I feared.
Warning sign number two: He never invites her over.
“It’s under construction,” Joan replied. “I haven’t seen it yet.”
“Does he ever spend the night at your place, or does he go home right after you hook up?” I said, my fears growing.
Warning sign number three: He never stays the night.
“Well he has to be up super early to let the construction workers in, so he goes home every night. Why are you asking so many questions?” She was beginning to get a little huffy.
“I’m just curious,” I said nervously. “I just think it’s a little odd that you don’t have his number, he never sleeps over, and he has a Hotmail account.”
“You’re so judgmental,” she snapped at me. “You still have AOL, you’re one to talk!”
“Yes, but I have Gmail too,” I said, quickly defending myself. I’d hung on to my old AOL account as if it were an old phone number I didn’t want to get rid of. It was a sentimental attachment, rather than one of convenience. “Don’t get mad at me. Do you even know his last name?”
Warning sign number four: She didn’t even have enough information to Google him.
Sure enough, when it came to Jimmy, she was on a first-name-only basis.
“Does he ever pay for things with a credit card?”
“No, he always uses cash. It’s another one of his old school quirks.” But Joan was starting to sound less sure of herself.
That’s when I knew: Jimmy was definitely married. The signs were all there, and thanks to the illustrious years I spent working as an exotic dancer, I knew all the tricks.
Oddly enough, many of the men who came into the gentlemen’s club where I used to work happily divulged how they’d deceive their significant others. It was as if they had been granted an immediate license to be a bad boy as soon as they paid the admission fee to walk through those doors. “I told my wife I had a late business meeting,” they would share with me.
Most clubs refer to their strippers as “entertainers,” because you work under an alias and assume any backstory of your choosing. It’s part of the job. The men know that, but they play along. And it somehow gives them the freedom to feel like they can tell you things they can’t tell their wives.
As I debated on what to tell Joan, I found that I didn’t have to say anything at all. My questioning had led her down the path to discovery.
“You think he’s married don’t you?” she said looking frustrated. “I guess that makes sense.”
“I want to be wrong,” I said. “But this sounds way too suspicious. What would you tell any of your friends if they were dating someone with a Yahoo address that refused to text or call?” I asked, knowing the answer. “When are you seeing him again?”
“Right after he’s done with work, he’s supposed to come over to my place. I’m going to email him and cancel,” she said.
“You should call him out on it. I’ll help you with the email.”
I’m far from a know-it-all when it comes to dating. Most of us have been in situations with people we’ve crushed on that seem like something may just be a tad bit off. The red flags are often there, waving in the air in front of us it’s just a matter whether or not we chose to actually see them.
Joan’s short-lived fling fizzled after the pointed email we crafted together. He was surprisingly honest when she asked him over email if he was married. He offered no details, except to cry mea culpa and wrote back, “You got me. I’m sorry. Game over.”
It was that easy for him. He would move onto his next victim, leaving Joan with so many unanswered questions—it’s easy to ghost someone when they can only contact you through a secondary email account that you never use. He was out of her life as quickly as he came into it.
“Why are men such assholes?” she cried to me.
“I think people are assholes in general, you can’t really blame the male species, but men certainly make it easier to feel that way.”
“I’m giving up on dating,” she said wiping a tear away from her face.
I hugged her knowing the feeling all too well. Where are all of the nice guys hiding? Why was it so easy to find a never-ending surplus of assholes everywhere you’d turn? It made the idea of a dating break sound more and more appealing. I had friends who had sworn that a 90-day dating detox had helped them get their sanity back, and I’d often thought about giving it a shot.
“Let’s do a dating detox, no flirting, sexting, nothing for 90 days,” I suggested.
“I’m in! Sign me up!” she said with determination. So the game was on. We would see how easy, or maybe how hard it would end up being to stick to the men detox plan. I gave Joan a week to cave, thinking this little experiment would be easy for me considering my well of prospects had run dry. But you never know what’s right around the corner.