(Mis)Adventures in Online Dating
The Last Straw
ArthurA demisexual professional man who is clearly out of "the dating game"
SettingIt's open mic confessionals night at a local comedy club. The decor is squarely set in the late-1980's to early 1990's, not having been updated in any meaningful way in years, but is generally well kept and functional for its purpose. Splashes of colored light highlights the walls and tables—red, gold, green, blue, purple—creating an eclectic feel. Light jazz is playing softly in the background, lending to a somewhat classy yet laid-back atmosphere. Patrons are coming and going throughout the evening, but there's a core following of regulars. Various comedians and other artists perform, with one in particular returning to the mic several times.
The Last Straw
ArthurRelationships. So much joy and happiness, so much pain and grief… am I right? I'm sure many of us here have our horror stories. Anyone who's frequented the open mic comedy scene will have seen those comedians who go on and on and on about their relationships, humorously using their past—and in some cases, present—partners to get some laughs. Now, I'm not against a good story, be it uplifting or horrific, so long as the teller abides by "an ye harm none…", right? So, would anyone like to hear a really good relationship horror story? Anyone? (To audience member 1) Ah, well, you're not getting that from me tonight! (Raises an eyebrow to audience) Or are you?
Good evening! My name's Arthur. I'm here because I've got a confession to make: I'm a hopeless romantic. If there was a secret society called "Romantics Anonymous", I'd have got my invitation decades ago! Yep, I've wanted that "special someone" since I was 8. Yeah, 8. Puberty hit early for me, and no, I'm so not going into how I knew that was it! Like many newly pubescent boys raised in a conservative Evangelical Christian home, I knew I'd either have to marry or burn in hell to satisfy my… needs… desires… and these were the options because the man in the pulpit said that the man in the sky wouldn't have us any other way. So, I wanted to get married. As. Soon. As. Possible. I mean, I was horny, and I didn't need to make myself go blind! As I continued to develop and mature, I came to realize there was more to a relationship than satisfying my own needs. I understood from my parent's example that there was a price to be paid, a sacrifice to be made—but hopefully it didn't mean I'd be the one being served up!
I idealized marriage as living life with your best friend, your soulmate, someone with whom to share the joys and trials, shortfalls and successes, every meaningful moment, and this long has been the goal to which I aspire in choosing a partner. I've been in several relationships over years, but all of them—save for the first—ended because either they died or left me for someone else. I've tried the usual methods of dating, including online dating and the dreaded "blind date", but dating and I don't seem to get along too well. Of all the methods of searching for love, online dating has consistently proven not to be my thing. I have so many horror stories… but for now, I'll start at the ending, the very end—the last straw—a tale complete with fraud, betrayal and lasting consequences.
So, how many of you like social dating? No, really, for how many of you does the very thought of going out and meeting new, different people just excites you to the point you're all like, "Yippie! I'm going out on a date with a relative stranger and I'm loving it!" Well, I prefer my sadomasochism in
Now I know from experience many of you are probably thinking, "And that's a problem because…," wondering from what corner of weird out of which I just walked. And that's okay. I'll be the first to admit I'm not "cut from the same cloth" as so many others. As a grey demisexual, I don't experience sexual attraction like most people do. If there's not an emotional connection, I'm simply not interested. Indeed, the very thought of casual, emotionally-unconnected sex sickens me. And it's not that I have a low libido—quite the opposite—but even making out with someone with whom I don't have a real emotional connection leaves me feeling empty and hollow, and the psychological pain only gets worse from there. When I date, it's about finding a new potential friend, not a sex partner. So I'm sure you can imagine how much "fun" I am on dates!
With this in mind, I essentially gave up on online dating back in the spring of '16. I still toyed with the idea, occasionally swiping right and getting a hit, but given all I'd learnt, it'd only take a few conversations to realize we were going nowhere fast. I'd already realized it but not having fully come to terms with it, a friend, in response to my lack of success and last blind date horror story, suggested I stop actively trying to find my soulmate—to quit the "dating game" altogether—and just live life doing what I love, letting that person reveal themself to me through shared mutual interests.
So, after months of delaying the inevitable, I closed the last of my online dating accounts that fall. Sure, it's worked for others, but for me, it was generally a disappointment at best. As anyone who's ever tried online dating in earnest, I have my stories, most of which can be quite entertaining—especially if you're a sadist. On the other hand, one common factor in each of my relationships was when I met them, I wasn't looking. I was just being myself, living life, doing what I loved. I had no goals or expectations, no motive other than just being friends. In each case, I made friends who, over time, developed into more.
Late last summer, a friend and I were on a camping trip in the state park, just getting away from the stress of modern life. We'd just finished eating the wild game he'd harvested earlier that day. As we were discussing our adventures in online dating—or misadventures, as they were in my case—he quite proudly regaled me with his tales of conquest. Being the "Good Samaritan" he fancied himself to be, he thought it'd be a great idea to "help me out" in my nonexistent pursuit for romance. He tried to get me to return to online dating, eager "to coach" me through the process. (To audience member 2) Hey, maybe you should try it.
(To audience) I thanked him for his concern and enthusiasm for my love life, but I informed him I was finally talking about a relationship with my best friend. The one woman whom I love most in this world, the one with whom I'd hoped for a relationship while contenting myself to be her friend, was finally broaching the topic of living together! After having insisted for so long that she wasn't datable, that she wasn't in a place to be in a relationship, I didn't want to do anything that might hurt this. He was incredulous, insisting there was nothing wrong with keeping multiple "irons in the fire"—(To audience member 3) we were on a camping trip, after all. (To audience) It was only after I firmly told him that as a demisexual, the very thought of a "hookup" makes me ill; that I wasn't interested in "the dating game"; and that I'd never go back to online dating, he finally relented. (Beat) Or so I'd thought.
My friend was in the habit of hosting parties at his home on various weekends, more often than not. Most of them were laid back and chill; some of them could get a little… wild. I'd been to several, and for the most part, they were enjoyable. After the camping trip, he started inviting me to his parties regularly. Every aspect of these parties was cool and relaxed, with a light, friendly, inviting atmosphere. Helping me with my social awkwardness, he'd introduce me to the other guests, one of whom was invariably a single woman. I caught on quickly enough though—the women to whom he was introducing me were intended to be potential romantic partners. I had to set expectations right from the start, explaining that at most I was interested in a platonic friendship, nothing more.
A short while after I started attending his parties, my friend and I were once again discussing his online dating adventures when he asked me if he could use my card for the monthly payment on his Tinder account. His bank account was way overdrawn because of his "spendthrift wife"—his words, not mine!—and he'd give me cash in return. I, fully trusting him, agreed, going so far as to give him that first month as a birthday gift—a rare thing for me, since I don't even celebrate my own birthday! I also mentioned that his attempts at setting me up weren't going unnoticed and that I'd appreciate it if he'd just respect my wishes and leave me to pursue this relationship with my best friend in peace. He smiled. Oh, that smile of his….
The parties continued. The overt matchmaking seemed to give way to arranging potentially genuine friendships, so I kept going—while all along setting appropriate expectations. The last time I attended one of his parties, my clearly intended paramour in waiting mentioned she really liked my profile, and she wasn't interested in a hookup, either. (To audience member 4) I can see you see where I'm heading with this. (To audience) I told her that was interesting because I hadn't met her before, asking her if it wasn't a little creepy that she'd already stalked me online. Not surprising in hindsight, she was taken aback and asked me why I had a Tinder profile if I don't want to meet people?!
(To audience member 5) Yeah, she noticed the shocked look on my face, too, (To audience) and I wasn't the least bit subtle in my response. I asked her to to show me "my" profile and sure enough, there it was, right on Tinder—in all of its gold-status glory—just as she had said, complete with personal photos ripped right from my social media profiles, and a bio with all the stuff my friend and I had discussed. She then showed me "our" message history. Apparently, I was quite the smooth talker, working her up to wanting a deep friendship based on mutual interests and a shared faith with the possibility, the hope, for more. (To audience member 2) Come to think of it, maybe my friend could help you out. Want his number? Yes? No? (To Audience) I apologized to her, informing her that she had been catfished and that I don't do online dating. I called out my "friend" on this right there on the spot. He admitted he'd created the account to help me find more… friends. Maybe with "benefits", even. All without the slightest bit of shame.
Needless to say, that was the end of that. After quite a bit of passionately heated conversation with less than friendly tones and not a few legal threats, I finally convinced my now former friend to give me the credentials to the account. After changing the password and deleting the payment information—yes, he had actually used my card for this, the lying (Arthur forms a word on lips starting with 'f' but thinks better of it and says) ff… friend—I deleted the account itself. We ended with him giving me my money back, agreeing to never speak to me again in return for my walking away and not pressing charges. (Cocks an eye. To audience member 6) This was a crime, you know. You might want to keep that in mind.
(To audience) I reviewed the content of the conversations before actually deleting the account. I was mortified. He had catfished multiple women with grotesque distortions and outright, patent lies about who I am and what I profess to believe. He took the thinnest strings of what he knew of my past and present beliefs, opinions and sentiments and twisted them into caricatures that vaguely resembled what an outsider might think a "good Christian man" might desire in a relationship. He had lured innocent, unsuspecting women—who they themselves were just looking for a good, decent, stable man to love and who'd love them back—into meeting me.
Now for those who get to know me, my belief in Jesus is unwavering. While I hate organized, institutionalized religion with a passion, I embrace the Gospel as revealed in the Bible and detailed in the stars—yes, I'm a Jesus-believing astrotheologian. I enjoy sharing my faith with like-minded believers and all who care to do so. I yearn for authentic community, and I enjoy discussing and singing about my faith, so it should come as no surprise I enjoy talking and singing about Jesus with other like-minded believers—all facts which he manipulated and perverted in his project to "help" me.
(With a mix of bemusement, growing bewilderment and exasperation) In one conversation, he presented me as a former pagan who had "found the Lord" and wanted nothing more than to be loving husband and father as he served as a deacon in his church. In another conversation, he had went so far as to represent me as some sort of "super Christian" as he made me out to be everything she described of her ideal partner in life, a person who she believed could fulfill her greatest desire—a man who wanted a nice, quite life with a woman who would provide domestic servitude while he fills a pulpit. In yet another exchange, he talked up my desire to find a woman who also shared my desire to share this life only with a fellow believer who wanted a "traveling singing ministry"! I do wish I'd taken screenshots of the conversations, because wow, there really were some doozies. In each case, those poor women believed it—hook, line and sinker. I felt so bad for them.
(Sighs with tired resignation) I could kick myself for being so foolish. I feel foolish. Once again, I'd given too much trust to someone who hadn't earned the privilege of my trust. I've always believed in giving the benefit of the doubt, but, "Trust is something learned and something earned," and even then, "Trust, but verify." (Shakes head to self) (To audience member 2) I know you know exactly what I'm talking about. (To audience) I hate it when people make decisions for me on my behalf. I especially hate it when they do so against my clearly stated intent. So why do I allow myself to fall into these traps? Why am I so easily taken, so… gullible? Why must my love life be… so complicated? (Shrugs)
(Turns to walk away, pauses and turns back to audience) Oh, about that last blind date, the straw that broke this camel's online dating back? Well, that's another story for another time. (Winks at audience) Thanks everyone for being such a great crowd! And please don't forget to stay thirsty, drink more, order often and tip your servers well. Have a great night!
(End of Scene)
An early draft of this monologue was first performed by the author before a private audience of close friends in one of their homes on January 19th, 2019. This version was performed before a live audience at the open mic night of a comedy club in the Columbus, Ohio area in early February, 2019.
A Note from the AuthorThis work is very personal to the author, based on actual events from his life. As a story, it has been "sanitized" to a degree to avoid revealing the identities of those involved. The author bears no ill will towards his former friend, wishing him nothing the best in all of his endeavors and the fullness of happiness in both this and the life to come insofar as he is acting in love.
About the creative processThis work has gone through several revisions. After his having complained about the difficulty of formally writing about certain stories in his life, a friend of the author suggested that he try to write about his life through a process of dictation and revision, starting with more recent, relatively less painful memories. The author first took several journal entries, edited them into a rough outline, and recorded himself reading and further commentating on them. He then transcribed and heavily revised that transcription for clarity and tone, creating the first draft. He recorded himself reading the draft, further rewriting the work. After changing some language to be more conversational rather than strictly grammatically correct, he performed it before a groups of friends. With another round of revisions, he performed it before a live audience at the open mic night at a comedy club. The final revision reflects his interpretation and audience interaction that night.
A Note to the Director/PerformerIt is the author's intent is to keep the overall tone light and conversational. At times the character will feel extreme emotion but generally displays it as strength under control. The stage directions and setting given are how and where the author interpreted and performed this piece when he presented it publicly, and they are not strictly limiting in future performances. Directors and actors who respect the work of living artists, especially playwrights, will consider the spirit of them in interpreting this piece.
The balance between presenting this as a classical theatrical monologue and as a stand-up comedy routine is left to your discretion. Improvisational interaction with the audience is encouraged if the context and atmosphere of the show in which this monologue is performed is appropriate thereto. The audience member asides were added in response to the live audience and may be increased or cut at your discretion. References to specific dates and timing may be updated to no more than several years before the present—this should feel like it occurred in the near recent past. Any other changes or cuts must be submitted for review and approved in writing.
LicensingThis work is protected under International, Federal and Common Law Copyright. Any unauthorized performance, amateur or professional, including public readings, whether or not admission is charged, or any other use of this work may constitute an infringement of the copyright and a violation of the law, with potentially serious legal consequences for the infringer.
This work cannot be produced unless written application is made to and written authorization is received from the author. All performance rights are granted by written contract only. There is no such thing as "verbal approval".
You are permitted to perform this work without a written license for auditioning, educational instruction, or a limited audience of adjudicators at festivals and competitions, to which the public is not admitted; however, you are required to inform the author in writing at least one week in advance of the date of performance.
©2019 James Reed. All rights reserved.