I have been online dating off and on for nearly a decade at this point, and yes, I have tried all the major sites. There is a certain thrill when you discover someone has matched with you. Much like being picked for a team in grade school, there is a certain pleasure that comes from feeling chosen, along with a feeling of hope and curiosity. What will you discover? What interests will you share? Maybe this match is the first step towards the proverbial “happily ever after” that will get you off the site permanently.
I had been messaging the latest guy I had matched with for a few weeks, as our busy schedules allowed. He was funny, cute, and interesting to talk to. We discussed what we were looking for in a relationship, and I was happy to hear that he was looking for someone who shared his interests, someone with whom he felt a strong personal connection, and a relationship that meant more than friends with benefits and could lead to something more permanent.
We eventually exchanged numbers, and conversations continued to go well. Then he asked, “Can I have a picture?” It’s an innocent question, and I know men are far more visual than women. Yet it made my spidey senses tingle. Why did he want a picture?
At some point, I sent a bathroom selfie of my carefully constructed outfit before I headed out for the day. As we continued to talk, I received a daily picture of him going about his day, whether fishing, standing at the airport, or post-workout. These were accompanied in various ways by a request for a picture in return. I deflected these subsequent requests, saying I preferred to be behind the lens.
Then it happened. Late one night as the conversation had started to conclude for the evening, I received a goodnight text. It was a picture of him lying in a hotel bed. There was no shirt, but (thankfully) he was wearing boxers. I decided not to respond and went to sleep. The message, though not explicit, was implicit: I want a picture in return.
Why did sending pictures bother me so much? We each already knew what the other looked like, thanks to our online dating profiles—that was nothing novel. I certainly did not mind texting a picture to prove I was a) real and b) still looked like my profile picture. Those are valid concerns with online dating. No one wants to get catfished, and there are some people who hide their real appearance in an online profile, but this was something else.
I responded to the latest photo the next morning. In my response, I stated that, while I did find him attractive, I wanted to focus on getting to know him as a person, which included meeting in person. The response I received was enlightening: “Lol, did I make you uncomfortable.” In the past, I would have deflected something so confrontational. Yet with age comes wisdom, and I have learned to be more explicit about what I want in a relationship and what I expect in dating, especially when dealing with online dating and how I want to be treated. I revealed that the latest photo did, in fact, make me uncomfortable.
During that conversation, I could hear myself hammering nails into the coffin of any future conversation with this guy. It is one thing to share photos of your day-to-day life, but it is another to share a more intimate image of yourself in bed—especially with a person you have never met.
On a deeper level, though, what bothered me was his persistence without any sign of intention. Looking back, I realized not once in our conversations had he asked to or indicated a desire to actually meet me. I was expected to create a certain level of intimacy with a stranger via texting. Even if it was not a dating opportunity I ultimately wanted, it made me sad and frustrated to see another possibility slip away and to feel the sense of time wasted.
In my sadness, though, I was also proud of myself. I know what I’m looking for: someone who wants to know who I am, what drives me, what I care about, and what my personality and character are like. Rather than a man who asks me for a picture, I continue to hope I will someday meet a man who asks me on a date so he can get a picture with me. That will be a picture worth sharing.