The story of the Tinder bloke who sent me on a wild goose chase
So Here's The Thing
"You can't outsmart getting hurt."
I remember saying this to my best friend in high school when we were 17 years old, and she just got her heart broken for the first time. Most of the dating rhetoric I came up with then to help her untangle the mess was understandably rubbish. What did you expect from a melodramatic teenager? Certainly not to expertly manoeuvre the intricacies of love almost found and love profoundly lost without quoting parts of "The First Cut Is The Deepest". And by the way, I'm referring to Sheryl Crow's acoustic cover. I wasn't even deep enough to listen, much less relate, to Rod Stewart's more soulful cover of the 1967 original by Cat Stevens, for crying out loud. Limited experience with men (ahem, I mean boys) aside, as her closest confidant, I tried my best to ease her pain. She's since moved on and is probably marrying her longtime boyfriend next year, so I did okay. I can sleep at night.
Unsurprisingly, none of my coming-of-age sayings survived. None except that one, because it has merits. You can't outsmart getting hurt in love no matter how careful you try to be. You don't necessarily think with your head even when you want to; driven by emotions, you ponder with your heart. Even the smart girls. Even the cool girls. Even those who skewer their bad dates for entertainment purposes on the Internet.
But there's a silver lining. No matter how susceptible you are to fairy tales, there is always a moment of clarity before you're flooded in feeble feelings, big or small. In that moment, there is reason. Careful considerations, physics before the jump. It's a survival instinct we all possess.
"You don't necessarily think with your head; driven by emotions, you ponder with your heart. Even the smart girls. Even the cool girls. Even those who skewer their bad dates for entertainment purposes on the Internet."
You can't outsmart getting hurt, but you can outsmart a liar, or at the very least, see through some of his preliminary smoke and mirrors... right? Wrong. I have come a long way since 17. Similarly, I thought I had come a long way since my early days dating online. When to banter, when to flirt and perhaps most importantly, when to say no, pull the plug and spend the evening Netflix and chilling — solo.
And then Rob* came along.
So here's the thing: I never met Rob. I will never meet Rob. But our lack of history is precisely why he's one man I won't soon forget. You know where I encountered this brilliant species (scroll to top). Now let me tell you how we will never be.
One of my life's aha moments arrived after completing He's Just Not That Into You, the modern dating bible by my hero Greg Behrendt (he was one of the writers of Sex and the City) and Liz Tuccillo, not the awful Hollywood feature film it inspired. You know, the one starring Jennifer Aniston post-Friends, Ben Affleck pre-Oscar and Ginnifer Goodwin whom I can never fault for anything, not even when she submits herself to the charming neurosis that is Janine Gunders in this excuse of a romantic comedy.
"I thought I had come a long way since my early days dating online. When to banter, when to flirt and perhaps most importantly, when to say no, pull the plug and spend the evening Netflix and chilling — solo."
Anyway, back to my point. Behrendt preaches in his bestseller that women should not make the first move. IKR. The feminist in me disagreed vehemently too, but he makes a good case — one I won't get into right now. His literature got many things about men right, and since I have a history of lousy dating advice (once again, scroll to top), I took his. Hence, I almost never make the first move. And then... you guessed it. I made an exception.
It started innocently enough, with me asking Rob about his oceanic expeditions since he called himself a "suspected sea creature", and his Tinder profile has photos of himself rowing, diving and kissing a giant gold trophy, in precisely that order. He replied (yay) with a reference to my self-declared cross-species spirit animal (a duck-raccoon hybrid). He even laughed off and turned my joke with unintended racist undertones — I blame my foot-in-mouth disease — into a hint at a future date (win).
We continued to chat on and off for a month or so, with each of us taking turns to go MIA. He spent two weeks on a boat around Bali; I travelled to three countries in three weeks for work. When we both returned, numbers were exchanged and plans were made.
12 hours before what would have been the first date, I requested for a rain check on dinner at FOC. Hungover Teresa needed to be horizontal all day. By the second time he asked me out, my BFF Chloe* had been fully updated about Rob, and so we discussed my prospects with our friend Nathan*. He asked to see Rob's photos. I'm not sure why I never noticed it before, but it was just then that I realised Rob's age is missing in his profile. This was our conversation, verbatim.
Me: That's weird. Why would he hide it?
Chloe: It's pretty dodgy. I didn't know we could do that on Tinder.
Nathan: OMG is that a picture of him with Mark Hamill?
We ignored Nathan and promptly poured into Googling Rob. We didn't find much, except a couple of semi-recent photos under the Images tab (fair enough), a thorough LinkedIn page on his illustrious career in a very prominent MNC (damn son), zero pictures of himself on his Instagram feed (odd) and a Facebook page with a privacy setting so ninja, you can't even add him (very odd).
I can't say why I didn't immediately confront Rob about his odd digital presence, but when I finally did on the day we were due to meet, the story took a turn for the WTF.
Me: Oh hey, I've been meaning to ask how come your age is hidden in Tinder. Lol.
Rob: Well... that just might be because I'm not on Facebook.
Me: Haha. Are you sure about that?
Rob: Err, the last I checked, I wasn't. Unless you know something that I don't.
Me: *Screenshot of his Facebook page*
Rob: How curious! Someone has created that account. I'll write to Facebook and ask them to take it down.
Me: Um... That's unsettling.
Rob: Thanks for bringing this to my notice. I would have never known otherwise!
Now if this is where you go, "But Teresa, he can't create a Tinder profile without Facebook," I want you to know that the same thing crossed my mind. It was a fact I was sure of, yet I prodded Nathan anyway. Nathan works for Facebook, thus making him the most qualified person to tell me if it really wasn't possible to get on Tinder without a Facebook account. He confirmed what Chloe had been saying all morning: "That dude is lying. He probably has a wife. Or a girlfriend."
And still, I refused to call Rob out on his lie, considering all answers except the obvious: "That dude is lying." My sweet ex-colleague Katherine*, as mentioned in my last post, called this optimism; Chloe called it naiveté with attributions to other aspects of my more complicated psyche. I've come to expect nothing less than her scathing honesty, one of many reasons why I love her.
"That dude is lying. He probably has a wife. Or a girlfriend."
Whatever you want to call it, dear reader, my next line of defence saw me engaging everyone at work (anyone who would indulge me anyway) to solve the mystery of the century. While I continued questioning Rob, an editor read up on Tinder's terms and conditions, our intern researched on whether it's possible to unlink Facebook and Tinder with a bot, and a writer texted a friend who worked in the same MNC if she knew Rob. Just another typical afternoon at Buro 24/7 Singapore, where every single one of us put our journalistic skills to test... all in the name of my love life.
What happened next was a surprise to no one.
"Just another typical afternoon at Buro 24/7 Singapore, where every single one of us put our journalistic skills to test... all in the name of my love life."
In short, Nathan was right. Chloe was right. Rob defended his right to privacy till the end, before I pulled the plug — this time for good. Oh, and Joanne*, my colleague who has a spy in the MNC, came back with some news. She wouldn't say much, but she said enough. Rob wasn't a very nice guy. In fact, some would call him a power-hungry narcissist.
Marital status: Unknown.
*Names have been changed. You know why.
Tune in to the next entry on 18 May.