When Garvey Rich went on JDate — an online dating service for Jewish singles — he didn’t necessarily expect to meet “the one.” But he did expect to meet someone who was Jewish.
“I went on a date with this attractive blonde,” says the 44-year-old photographer from New York. “We went to a restaurant in her neighborhood and I asked her what she liked to order and she says, ‘The ham crepe is really good.’ And I kind of looked at her and she says, ‘Oh, did I forget to tell you? I’m not Jewish.’”
Exclusive parties have always had gate crashers. Now, singles are discovering that their exclusive online dating sites — those specialty interest sites catering to religious, cultural, political, educational or personal criteria ranging from health to hobbies to height — are attracting date crashers.
Prop kids and fake portfolios
Fudging the truth on an online dating site is nothing new. It’s so common, in fact, researchers have figured out which factors people are most likely to lie about. According to a study in the latest issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, men are “more likely to misrepresent personal assets, relationship goals, personal interests and personal attributes whereas women are more likely to misrepresentweight.”
But just because someone’s a date crasher, it doesn’t mean they’re a big, fat liar.
JDate has been crashed by so many non-Jews over the years, it’s prompted stories in both the New York Times and Nerve.com. According to Rich, the site makes it almost easy for non-Jews to join (indeed, “willing to convert” is an option on the questionnaire).
“It’s not glaring,” he says. “There’s not a checkbox for ‘Shiksa’. But they ask ‘What kind of Jewish are you?’ and you can check religious, sometimes religious, not religious or different affiliation.”
The East Village bachelor, whose date told him she simply liked going out with Jewish guys, says connecting with a date crasher wasn’t an issue for him.
But other singles haven’t been as thrilled.
Vicki Rimasse, 55, a marketing copywriter who lives in a New York suburb with her 15-year-old son, says she signed up for SingleParentMeet.com in order to connect with people who understood the challenges of raising a family.
Rimasse says she was offended by people posting pictures of themselves with “fake kids” and felt like she’d wasted her money.
“These men use kids as props,” she says. “One guy had pictures of these little girls and then he said they were his goddaughters. And another guy’s kids were practically older than I was. I found it really strange and the credibility of the site was lost. I thought I would meet people who understood the challenges of being a single parent and the special circumstances that surround that. If you don’t have kids, you shouldn’t be on the site.”
Heather Wellman, a 38-year-old office manager from Harbor City, Calif., says she, too, has encountered date crashers on the site, SugarDaddyForMe.com, which matches “affluent, caring, and generous” mature men with women who “want to be pampered.”
“When they say they’re a sugar daddy, it basically means they’ve got a successful business, that they’re established, that they’re able to treat you to a privileged lifestyle,” she says. “But I’ve had people post profiles saying they’re sugar daddies and when I actually e-mailed them, they say, ‘I have a confession to make. I’m not really a sugar daddy.’”
She’s also had date crashers try to bluff their way through a date.
“One gentleman said he was a very successful personal trainer but when we met at his apartment, there was no furniture,” she says. “It looked like he had just moved out or was borrowing the place.”
“I think a lot of people either don’t pay attention to the specialty aspect of the site or they just don’t get it,” says Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author of “The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again.”
“Others may be looking for a love object. That is, some parameter they’ve decided they like, like a gentile man or woman may decide he or she likes Jewish men or women so they’re on JDate. Or someone who wants a surrogate family will sign up for a single parent site.”
Tessina says that kind of dating strategy is based on a fantasy and may not work.
“Whether a relationship can make it or not depends on the character of the two individuals,” she says. “Not their external circumstances.”
Furthermore, pretending to share some common interest might make a potential partner angry.
“Even if you’re not taking the subject matter of the site seriously, the other people signing up are,” Tessina says. “You could really hurt somebody or disappoint somebody. Or you could get your hopes up and end up disappointing yourself. Some people have very serious reasons for signing up for these special sites. Once they find you’re not a vegan or a nonsmoker or whatever, they may drop you.”
Just looking for a change
Simone Grant, a 39-year-old social media consultant who blogs about dating at www.sex-lies-dating.com, says some people who crash niche dating sites are just looking for a change.
“Every once in a while there will be an article in a newspaper about some site that has the best people and how you should check it out, and then people will sign up,” she says. “And I’ve also seen lots of people date crash because they think certain groups are easier. I can imagine guys crashing single-parent sites in hopes of getting laid because some guys just think that way.”
Rimasse, the single parent, says she wondered if the childless men she encountered on the parenting site have simply run out of options.
“They might have exhausted every other possible site so they go onto a new site to find a new crop of people,” she says. “Or maybe they just like the challenge.”
A darker motivation has also occurred to her.
“I did start worrying that they might be pedophiles,” she said.
The awful truth
While some people may indeed have a dark agenda (Tessina says a person pretending to have kids on a single parent site raises a red flag for her), others stretch the truth simply because they’re curious.
“I’m a veteran online dater — I’ve been doing it since the ‘90s — and I knew about niche sites, but I didn’t know about this site,” she says. “So I went on and posed as a gold digger. I shaved my age — I figured no man on that site would be interested in a woman in her late 30s — but was very honest about everything else. It was mostly for a lark. I was curious and thought it would make a great story. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought about finding a decent guy there.”
The dating blogger says she ended up going on one “awful” date with a man who took her to a “repulsively expensive restaurant” and spent the whole night talking about his many homes, his many travels, and how much she’d love “the view from this or that veranda.”
“I just wanted to get up and leave,” she says. “I thought, ‘Life would be easier, but I can’t be that girl.’”
How does a self-confessed date crasher feel about people who pose as something they’re not?
“It’s like taking the normal level of misrepresentation to the next level,” says Grant. “If someone’s motives are selfish and potentially harmful, I look down on it. But if someone says, ‘Gee, I wonder what’s going on over there,’ and changes one thing on their profile to check out another community, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Although it could definitely lead to some awkward situations.”
Tessina counsels quick confession as a way to avoid that awkwardness.
“On the first date or even before the first date, you should ‘fess up,” she says. “Tell them before you meet face-to-face. It’s okay to say, ‘Look, I’m not Jewish myself but I’ve always really loved Jewish people and that’s why I’m on the site.’”
But even if you don’t own up to the fact that you’re not nearly as educated, tall, pet-loving, conservative, tattooed, Wiccan or wealthy as your presence on a niche dating site might suggest, chances are the situation will eventually resolve itself.
“You can only fake it for so long,” says Wellman, who advertised on SugarDaddyForMe.com. “It’s not like the girls are going to ask to see your bank statements or anything but if you take them to Jack in the Box for dinner, the jig is up.”
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