Monday, June 29, 2015

COLUMN: Interpals

 There's a chance that I am a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person.

Last week, I shared the story of my nerdier-than-thou friend Esteban (not his real name) and his ne'er-ending quest for love. Well, except that his quest may have just ended. Esty recently met a girl online who promptly showed up at his doorstep with no job, no plan, no money, and with her two kids in tow. After visiting for 3 days, they moved in together.

That was last week. Since that column ran, she's now proposed marriage -- and he's considering it. "In many ways, she is the lady I've always been searching for," he tells me. "I believe that I love her, and I may well marry her even before two months have passed." Keep in mind that they are NOT yet romantically involved, but instead are, in his words, "friends, formally." But he's certain her affection for him will grow with time.

I'm just hoping my friend doesn't end up on a milk carton before it's all over. This girl is playing him for everything he's worth, and I fear he's about to lose everything, up to and including his heart. I've done everything in my power to point out the many ways in which this relationship (or lack thereof) is abnormal, but he doesn't want to hear it. After SEVERAL back-and-forth e-mails that have pushed the limits of our friendship, all I can do now is wish him well and let things play out.

I should be worried about Esty (and I am,) but it's interesting to note that worry was NOT the first thing I felt upon hearing his news. Instead, my first instinct was to immediately throw MYSELF a pity party. I'm awful. As worried as I am about my friend, I couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy. I mean, at least Esty has someone in his life, even if she's an evil succubus about to wreck him.

I'm not saying that I yearn for a strange woman to show up on my doorstep with a taxicab of baggage. I'm rather content in my current state of bachelorhood. I have amazing friends and an amazing life. But sure, sometimes I'm struck by the notion that it might be fun to have someone to share these adventures with. My usual mindset is something like, "Ah well, if it happens, it happens." But every so often, when that hint of jealousy shows up, I'm prone to doing dumb things -- usually involving the internet and dating sites.

I've had personal ads at one time or another on all the major dating websites. They've never panned out, and the list of horror stories runs deep. On OKCupid, I met a nice girl who stood me up for our second date on account of her being committed to a mental institution. On eHarmony, I spent umpteen hours filling out their intricate personality profile only to receive an e-mail telling me that no-one in their global database matched my personality. On, I met a hot prospect with nearly identical tastes in music and TV. Our first date was exciting -- until she had two drinks, disrobed in my car, and demanded that we get freaky-deaky right there on the streets of the District in broad daylight. Mine is a life of red flags.

I've given up on finding my soulmate online. The odds are just way too slim, and frankly, I've got better things to do with my time. Sure, If said soulmate were to walk up and say hi, I'd gladly hear her out -- but frankly, I'm sick of looking. But when Esteban dropped his bombshell news, I found myself giving it another shot -- but on my own terms.

This time, I stumbled upon a site devoted to finding international pen pals from around the world. This felt more my speed. There's no pressure to be a small talk savant when all you're looking for is a pen-pal. Maybe I didn't need a soulmate. Maybe I just needed a new friend that I could share some funny stories with from time to time. That might be just what the doctor ordered. And if it's international pen-pals I could choose from, there was only one country to take a look at.

Ever since I can remember, I've been a massive Anglophile. I bet it started when my dad let me stay up late whenever a James Bond movie came on TV. 007 was cool and staying up late was SUPER cool, so England must be the coolest place EVER, right? Years later, I've yet to prove that theory wrong. And hey, is there ANYTHING on Earth sexier than a girl with a British accent?

I skipped the profile building and went straight to the search options. It turns out there are a LOT of British girls on the site, many of whom were actively looking for American friends to share stories with. I immediately picked out the three with the best taste in music and sent them a quick greeting rife with awkward small talk.

The next morning, I awoke to three replies in my inbox, each full of equally awkward small talk in return. Huzzah, let the pen-palling commence! The only thing I still needed to do was create a profile, so I typed a little about me, listed off some favorites, and threw up a couple quick selfies. That night, I got home from work and pulled up my account... to find that all three girls had BLOCKED me. No explanation given and no way to contact them to ask why.

There could only be one possible answer: something in my newly-created profile made them all go "eww." I checked - nope, no typos. It wasn't as if I meant to say "I like long walks along the river" and accidentally typed "I like to murder puppies and collect the nose hair of strangers" or anything. And gee whiz, I know I'm not Ryan Gosling or anything, but I'd like to think that my picture isn't SO ugly as to make women halfway across the globe recoil in horror. This is not good.

The next morning was worse. For a split second, I was ecstatic to see five new messages waiting for me. Then I read them.

"Hello! My named Julia and I live from Estonia. You is very handsome man! I like to very much visit America for marriage and sexing you! Write back fast! Kiss! Kiss!"

So let's assess. Apparently all it takes is one photo and a list of my favorite movies to repulse every woman in England, but at least I can rest in the morale-boosting knowledge that a vast contingency of Eastern European mail-order brides still consider me a hot commodity. I guess it's the small victories that count. Please, no one tell them that I'm a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad person.

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