Good morning, class. Today’s lesson is sponsored by our mothers. Specifically, S’s mom, who requested that we write a post on how to “be safe” while we navigate the world of internet dating. My initial reaction was: Ugggghhhh mom. I’m 28. I’m a grown ass adult and I can take care of myself. Also, no one wants to read a stupid PSA about watching your back and carrying super sized pepper spray which your dad insisted on giving you and your roommate multiple cans of when you moved into the city. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided it’s actually not a stupid idea at all because let’s face it, the internet can be a terrifying place. There is some effed up sh*t out there, and the three of us are doing our best to avoid becoming the subject of a Lifetime movie. So this is actually a totally appropriate blog topic. You were right, mom, just like you were right about me plucking my eyebrows too thin in middle school. Damn it.
So without further delay, we present to you S and D’s safety tips on how to avoid being murdered while online dating:
- Look for profile red flags. Pure common sense. Obviously the reason online dating is so scary is people can (and do) make up whatever they want about themselves and there’s no way to 100% know what’s true and what’s not. Even so, before you say yes to meeting someone, go over their profile with a critical eye. Have they posted clear pictures of themselves? Do they mention alarming details about dead animals or collecting medieval style weapons? Do they give troubling answers to okc questions?
If so, for God’s sake run, don’t walk, to the next profile.
- Use the buddy system. That is, make sure at least one other reliable human being knows about your date. It can be a parent, a close friend, a roommate, whatever, just make sure that someone knows you’re meeting x at y location (always a public place, obviously) at z time. Tell them as much as you can about your date (okc username is a smart thing to include) so if your ass goes missing, Munch and Fin can start cracking skulls.
- Google the shit out of your dates. Sorry, boys, we don’t care if this makes us sound like stalkers. Believe it or not, we’re not dying for a glimpse at your LinkedIn profile to see where you interned in 2006 (okay I lied, we want to know that too, but it’s of secondary importance). We mainly want to confirm that you are who you say you are and that you seem to have some sort of traceable identity/history that doesn’t include being on a list of registered sex offenders. Obviously this isn’t foolproof before a first date… #1, I often don’t have the guy’s last name yet since I refuse to give out mine (see D’s tip below) and #2, if he has a super common name, this could prove difficult without much else to go off of. But it’s always worth a try. You may even find out some fun shit about the person that you’ll then accidentally reveal that you know on your date. What? That’s never happened to me.
- Never give a first date your full name or address. I may be able to google them, but they can’t google me. Even on the first date, I don’t supply my last name. Unless he manages to see it when I’m ID-ed ordering a drink, that shit stays secret until at least the third date. I have a very unique last name. If you google my full name, I’m the only person that comes up. Granted, most of it’s uninteresting, and some of it’s not even true (I did not graduate from Holy Cross School in Springfield, MA in 1985 – I was 1). But there’s also my parents’ home phone number and other identifying info that no date needs to have before I’ve even met him. And he’s most certainly not finding out where I live until date #5 at the earliest. If I’m being completely honest, that’s 60% related to safety, and 40% related to my piss-poor housekeeping abilities. If we make it to a 5th date, I’m invested enough to put some effort into tidying up and stop treating half my couch like it’s a dresser.
- Accuse every guy you go out with (half jokingly) of being a murderer and/or rapist. This has become my schtick. At some point on a first date, I will casually drop a “Hahaha let’s hope you’re not a serial killer! J slash k! Not really!” into the conversation. I am 100% serious. I can’t even remember a date where I haven’t done that. It sounds silly, but here’s my thought process… I throw it out there, and if by some chance the guy is a rapist or serial killer, one of the following will happen:
- I’ll be able to tell by his reaction.
- He’ll be too worried about my superior crime solving skills to go through with his plan.
- He’ll be so impressed with my intelligence that he’ll spare my life.
This is foolproof, I tell you. Foolproof. It’s science.
- Carry a Weapon. Seriously. In the storage compartment of my driver’s side door is a giant blue maglite that my father gave me when I first got a car. It’s come in handy for lots of flashlight related things over the years – finding something I dropped in the dark, checking out the damage after hitting a deer, etc. But my father was also not shy about instructing me to use it as a weapon, if needed. Maglites are heavy. And if you grip the flashlight head, it stays in your hand easier. Swing that fucker at someone’s temple and he’ll go DOWN. That maglite gets transferred into my purse for first and second dates. It’s a good thing I have large purses. And as I mentioned, my dad literally ordered me enough industrial grade pepper spray to bring down the fleet of Budweiser Clydesdales when I moved to the city, so I carry one in every bag.
Now here’s the six million dollar question you may be asking yourself: have we ever broken our own rules?
Mom, before I answer this, it’s been real but it’s time for you to click away now. In fact, all moms everywhere: please go turn on OWN while your kids have a little chat. Love you guys!
Yes, I’ve ignored my own advice. I’ve accepted a ride home after a date. Twice. Usually I’ll walk to the date location, so if at the end of the date it’s cold or raining, and the guy seems legit, and I plan to see him again, and he offers me a ride home, he may get an extra “LOL as long as you’re not about to chop me into little pieces HAHAHA seriously please don’t do that”, but mama’s not about to turn that offer down. I do make them drop me at the corner and drive away so they can’t see exactly where I live (seriously). Also, not to sound like a ho fo sho, but the car is an ideal first kiss/make out locale for those times when you don’t want to risk life and limb and invite a stranger over to your apartment. Speaking of…
I’ve gone back to an okc date’s place after a first date. Once. Get your minds out of the gutter; we literally didn’t even kiss. But this move resulted in perhaps my most absurd first date story of all time which, while PG, I’ve been hesitant to tell you all about since as you now know, my mom reads this blog. In hindsight this was a stupid and careless decision but hey, I made it out alive and got a pretty fantastic story out of it (truth – it’s a really great story).
So, I’m probably going to come off as a prissy, uptight chick here, but I actually haven’t broken any of these rules (aaaand now I feel like an irresponsible floozy). I haven’t ever accepted a ride. This is really related to the fact that I hate the T and drive almost everywhere, so I’m never really in a position to need a ride. I will most likely break this rule if/when I leave my car at home and give the T a chance to get back in my good graces. I’ve also never gone back to a dude’s place after a first (or second) date, no matter how legit the guy seems or how into him I am. This is partially a product of cases I hear about from my best friend who is a DA, as well as my own experience interning at the public defender’s office here in Boston (an internship I loved and the kind of work I hope to do again, but still, there are some seriously sketchy people out there). It is also partially a product of my troubling pattern of being deeply attracted to actual, convicted felons (who’s the real floozy here? feeling less irresponsible now S??) (Yes! A little. Thanks, D)…
For example, I encountered the most attractive man I have ever met, still to this day, in a prison back in 2006 while studying abroad. I interned with a criminal defense firm in London, and one day went with a solicitor to a prison out in Devon to visit a client. The Brits seriously love their tea, and one of the cushiest gigs an inmate can get while serving his sentence is to serve tea to solicitors visiting with their clients. I ordered at least a dozen cups of tea during the hour or so meeting I had with our awful client, just so that stunning specimen of a human being would keep coming back into the room. (Unbenownst to both of us until the train ride back, the solicitor I was with was doing the same thing for the same reason. That beautiful, beautiful man came into our meeting room more than 20 times. It was magical.) S can vouch for the fact that I got back to our flat that day swooning HARD (It’s true. F’d up, but true). I have no idea what he did to land himself in a prison in rural England, but I would have gone home with him in a heartbeat (you know, had he had the option of walking out of the building like I did, minor detail). I 4000% still would if I ever saw him again. Knowing that about myself, I think it’s best to abide strictly to the don’t-go-back-to-his-place-on-the-first-date rule. There’s a good chance he’s done hard time.
What do you single ladies out there do to ensure you don’t become a human lampshade on a first date? Any tips or suggestions that we missed? Do you possess the same level of paranoia that we do about online dating, or are you more relaxed? Leave us a comment and let us know.
Everything I’ve ever learned about dating safety I learned from S. Which means that, if I’m remotely interested in the guy, I have accepted rides home (and done the drop me at the corner thing) and gone over their apartment on a first date. My trick to stay safe is to drop hints that I MIGHT BE A SERIAL KILLER. For example, when I was invited back to some guy’s place for dinner after drinks at a bar, I looked at him while I was chopping vegetables and said DOES IT SCARE YOU THAT I COULD CHOP YOU UP WITH THIS KNIFE? While he looked terrified, I have no doubts he’ll shy away from trying any unsafe business around me. BOOYAH! One upping men on the crazy works every time.
only pepper spray? i was given BEAR spray (level: grizzly) when i came of age and was told it works on frat boys.
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I try to have a short conversation with the person I’m meeting up with beforehand to at least confirm that they can string together non-worrisome sentences. I always use the buddy system even if it’s just telling a friend that I’m going on a date and that I’ll check in with her afterwards. I never give out my full name and I only give them my number if I think we might have trouble finding each other. All my dates have been in very public places. I should probably have a better weapon. Right now I’m relying on my purse being heavy enough to hurt if swung with enough force and maybe stabbing someone with the crazy amount of pens I always have in it.
I’ve only gone to a guy’s house twice without letting anyone know and both times it wasn’t a date but I still reprimanded myself afterwards. Thankfully both guys were perfectly harmless but I should really have considered the danger I was putting myself in. Both times the thought only occurred to me as I was considering whether or not to cross the threshold.