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Dating Online – If it Looks too Good to be True…

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I’ve heard stories of women getting scammed from online dating sites, and I never thought I would be a target.  Most of the stories involved men starting up long-distance, virtual romances with women.  Eventually, the romeos would ask for money, either to come meet their true love in person or to help with a personal tragedy – a dying mother, a sick child, or a cancer diagnosis.

I always thought I was immune to this sort of scam because most of the stories I’ve heard involved older women and I refuse to engage in correspondence with anyone who doesn’t live in my immediate area.  I trust no one.  Then one day I got a message from a profile that looked like a Jaguar in a parking lot full of Hondas.   For the purposes of this article, I’ll call him Mr. Beautiful. He simply wrote,

“Hey.”

It was the classic non-committal male introduction. I probably get 20 messages like that a week, from “Hey” to “Hello” to “What’s up?” Most of them go unanswered but this one peaked my interest because the sender was a full-on pretty boy, light brown hair, striking bone structure and a chiseled hairless torso. Now anyone who knows me well, knows I have a “type.” If you lined up all of my ex-boyfriends and trysts, most of them look like they need a sandwich, or two. I like a lanky man.  A massive chest and chiseled abs have never been my thing.

I’m also overly cautious around men who are drop dead gorgeous. As I’ve said before on this blog,

He who gets the pussy easily, does not treat the pussy well.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but most of us know exceptionally good-looking men who go through women like a rottweiler goes through chew toys.  Mr. Beautiful was so attractive, I wouldn’t put him in the top 10% or even 1% of the men I’ve seen.  I would put him in the top one tenth of one percent of absolutely, crazy, perfect men I’ve ever encountered.  It just didn’t make sense to me that he would be on a free dating site.  He had his occupation listed as “model” which made sense, but models come in contact with plenty of attractive women all day long.  A typical beautiful person for hire will meet other models, makeup artists, photographers, art directors, interns, agents, managers, stylists, and even celebrities.

Suspecting fraud, I started analyzing his profile further.  All of his photos were candid. He didn’t post professional modeling shots.  Whomever created his profile tried to make it look casual and believable.  They used well lit snapshots that appeared right out of his daily life.  I still thought though that someone could have downloaded the images from a social media account and the entire thing was a ruse.

As an experiment, I decided to send him a brief email back. He responded by asking a few questions about what I did for a living.  I thought this was odd, as most men ask where I live, they don’t ask what I do.   Questions about my occupation still wasn’t enough to figure out if this man was the real deal or not.  I told him a few superficial things about myself, but didn’t give him my name.

I then read his profile more closely and discovered he was using his actual name on his account, which is extremely unusual for anyone on a dating site.   A quick google search later and I found out the name and images he was the former face of Calvin Klein fragrance.   The information on his profile and Wikipedia page were almost completely identical. It wasn’t an exact cut and paste, but there was absolutely no additional information about him on either source.  It seemed a bit too perfect, but I still wanted a greater smoking gun.  I didn’t want to go out with this man, I just couldn’t help but try to find the evidence I needed to crack the facade.

I kept digging and found two Instagram accounts. One had 32,000 followers, and the other had only 300. The smaller account was made up of a bunch of the same photos at the dating profile. The smaller Instagram account also had some of the exact same information as the dating profile such as his dog’s name, and more bits of personal information.  Both Instragram accounts were public.  It didn’t appear that one was personal and the other used for publicity.  If that were the case, then why not make the smaller profile private?  It seemed like someone created a phony Instagram account to further legitimize the fake dating profile.

I got a second email from Mr. Beautiful.

“You know I hate this site. Why don’t we just chat on this other app.”

My suspicions were completely verified when I realized he wanted me to follow him to some sort of third-party site.  OKCupid has a chat feature so there was no reason we had to go outside of it to talk in real time.  I googled the app and found that it was rife with porn offers and other adult solicitations.

I responded,

“I don’t think your profile is legitimate. I think this is some type of scam. I’m out.”

I tagged his profile as phony but waited before I blocked any future messages.  I wanted to see if he responded.  I located the real model on Facebook and left him a simple message on his fan page that someone was impersonating him on OKCupid.

I got absolutely no response from the Mr. Beautiful profile or the model he was impersonating.  I doubt the real model even noticed my comment.  He probably had someone manage his Facebook page for him.  It was surprising though that whomever created the phony Mr. Beautiful account didn’t even try to plead innocence.  I honestly expected an email like,

“Hey, I’m real. What are you talking about?”

My bet is when I called the scammer out on their deception they just deleted me and moved on. I’m sure they probably emailed dozens of women hoping some of them would take the bait.

When I started talking about this on my Facebook account, most of the comments I got were from men along the lines of

“So this happens to women too?”

My guy friends all had stories to tell of women from other countries seeking green cards, ladies asking for money and prostitutes posing as every day gals just looking for a date.

Of course an International male model could be on a dating site, even a free one, but the two Instagram accounts, the perfect match to his Wikipedia page and the insistence on using an outside application to communicate just screamed FRAUD.

I couldn’t help but think of the classic line regarding New York real estate

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

Meeting the face of Calvin Klein fragrance on a free dating website is about as likely as finding a one-bedroom in the Upper East Side with a balcony, an eat in kitchen, and jacuzzi tub for $500 a month. I’m sure it could happen in some alternate universe but it’s highly unlikely.

Part of me wonders if Mr. Beautiful really did have a legitimate profile.  Maybe I was just being too suspicious and we would have rode off into the sunset to have our painfully awkward first and only date.  I think instead I dodged a bullet of requests for nude photos, an avalanche of dick picks, pornographic spam, unauthorized charges on my credit card, computer viruses, malware, identity theft or requests for money.  I guess I’ll never know.  HA!  Whomever created the fake account wasn’t an idiot, but one of the many gifts I got from my difficult divorce was – NEVER TRUST ANYONE.  Sure it causes me problems from time to time, but I’m much less likely to fall for a scam artist in an International model’s clothing.  I still prefer a thinner guy with messy hair rather than a pretty boy with rock hard abs anyway.  If someone wanted to dupe me, they would need to use a much more average looking guy who desperately needed to fill out his clothing.  If he had a pair of specs on his face….it could be my undoing.

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Dating in NYC: How to use the Internet to Catch your Partner Cheating

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A few of my friends have criticized me for what they view as “creepy” cyber sleuthing habits.  Well, as I often say on stage, “My fairy tale is dead, my heart is black”, so yeah I’m not the most trusting person. For the purposes of this article, I won’t get into the specifics of my divorce but as the not so eloquent former President George W. Bush tried to say:

Here’s the actual phrase he was going for:
“Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice shame on me.” 

The truth is painful, and can hurt temporarily, but ultimately we are better off.  The key to catching a cheater was almost always technology: phone, email, twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media.  Since I’ve been divorced I’ve learned to find out as much as possible about a person BEFORE I get seriously involved with them.  The problem of course is that you can go too far, and misinterpret completely innocent things.

CAUTION:  I don’t recommend using any of these tactics unless you’re in a serious committed relationship, AND you suspect your partner is cheating.  Doing any of this for someone you are casually dating is total overkill and will just make you a neurotic mess. Cyber sleuthing is the nuclear option.  DO NOT do this with every guy or gal you go on a date with, if you do, you’ve entered a place called CRAZYTOWN.

GOOGLE

Google is your best friend.  You can find all sorts of stuff about a person with this search engine.  Of course you should search for his or her name, but then you can go further with it.  Search for blogs, images, videos, even news articles.  You’d be surprised what shows up.  I once found a blog that was in some ways a love letter to a guy I was dating at the time.  In his case, it was a ex-girlfriend who was still completely obsessed with him.  She lived in another city, but the way he reacted to my discovery made me completely certain that he wasn’t worth my time.  He was clearly still infatuated with her, and it explained a lot of his non-committal behavior.  There are other search engines such as Bing, or Yahoo, which are also helpful.

FACEBOOK

It’s an invaluable resource, as many users post an incredible amount of personal information on their profile.  But again proceed with caution.  If you have just started dating, then none of the following is a reason to worry, but if you’ve been exclusive for more than six months or so, consider any of these a red flag.

  • Does he/she post photos of you as a couple? – If he or she posts other personal information and photos with friends, it’s strange if they aren’t posting photos of you together.  Why are they hiding you?
  • Have they changed their relationship status or is it blank? – Again, not everyone is public about these things, but if it’s a serious relationship that has gone on for a extended period of time and there is ZERO mention of you…that’s highly unusual.
  • Do they have tons of photos of themselves with an ex on their profile? – Of course there are mitigating circumstances with this one.  If they share children with their ex, you should expect to see photos of them on their profile, especially if the kids are in the photo.  If it’s a former spouse, that’s also more understandable.  But if it’s a virtual shrine to some woman or man who is supposedly no longer intimately involved with them, that’s troubling behavior.
  • Are you ever mentioned in a status update?  Do they make any public declarations about you? – It depends on how often they post, and how public your partner typically is on social media.  If your partner is constantly posting, yet you’ve never been seen or spoken about…that’s cause for concern.
  • Do they have a separate album dedicated to a former partner?  – This is just the height of tackiness.  Now if you have just started dating, it’s no big deal.  But if you’re at a point where you’re exclusive and you’ve been dating for an extended period of time, it’s just disrespectful to keep that on social media.

Backdoor tips when using Facebook – If you type a person’s name in the part where you search for something and just hold it, you will get a pulldown menu below, one of the options is simply called Photos of (Person’s Name)  I’m going to use my own account to demonstrate this:

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If you select that, then you can search for photos the person has “liked” in the past year.


I won’t include any actual photos as to protect the privacy others.  But trust me, Facebook will show you quite a bit.

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Another option in the same pull down menu is “Photos Commented on by (Person’s Name)”

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Now of course, if your significant other is just liking another person’s photos that doesn’t mean much.  BUT if all of their likes are gorgeous, women or hot guys….you might want to keep digging.  The comments they make are even more revealing.  Again, one comment, or one photo is no big deal, but if you find an overwhelming pattern or hundreds of examples, that’s a reason to worry.  The handy thing about Facebook is that it dates nearly everything.  So an excuse about correspondence being ancient history, is easily debunked.

What I don’t recommend – making fake profiles and trying to friend people under false pretenses to find more dirt.  If you’re doing that, then you’re almost as bad as the cheater.  You shouldn’t lie and use other people to get information about your partner. You never know how you could unintentionally hurt someone else, and honestly you probably won’t have to go to such extremes.  Most people aren’t that skilled at hiding their philandering.

 

INSTAGRAM

Do a hashtag search of your partner’s full name.  Trust me, you’d be surprised what you might find.  I did this once with a man who was trying to hook up with me.  When I did the hashtag search I found a photo of him with another woman. They looked very much like a couple.  I clicked on the photo and then it was even more obvious that not only was this his girlfriend, but they had been dating for a fairly long time.  On his account, he didn’t have a single photo of her.  He had also neglected to feature her anywhere on his Facebook, or even mention her once.  I felt sorry for her, as half of her account seemed dedicated to this relationship.  When I confronted him about it, he admitted everything.

You could also hashtag nicknames, or search for the name of a person you think might be involved with your partner.  Some more savvy users could block you from their account, but they’re only going to do that if they suspect your looking for information.  In most cases, if your partner is cheating on you, the person he or she is sleeping with might not even know you exist.

TWITTER

Most people wouldn’t be this stupid, but former Congressman Anthony Weiner thought absolutely nothing of sending obscene photos to a user on twitter. You can scan through your partners tweets to find conversations he or she might have had with other users.  Twitter isn’t even remotely private, so most skilled cheaters wouldn’t think of having incriminating discussions on that platform, but it’s worth the look.  If you see the same user constantly engaging your partner, and you already suspect that person, it could just add to your pile of evidence.  Yes, Anthony Weiner was this stupid…he thought sending this photo via twitter was a good idea.

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EMAIL

Nowadays most people have passwords on their computers and other devices.  But the passwords usually take a few minutes to click in, if your partner just used his or her email you might be able to search it with no problem.  I don’t recommend doing this unless absolutely necessary.  Hacking into another person’s email is highly unethical but if you are 99% sure that there is infidelity going on, and you need solid proof, there might not be any other way.

INTERNET HISTORY

A more savvy cheater knows to hide their viewing history when surfing the net.  However, people get lazy and forget to do this all the time.  I’ve met countless men and women who found out their spouse was cheating simply by checking their internet history online.  Visits to dating or hook-up sites are especially difficult to explain, you might even find their profile.

*Anything online leaves a trail, all written correspondence is subject to screen shots and photographs.  So email, text messages, twitter, blogs, etc. are all proof your partner is not being honest with you.

Always when in doubt use common sense and logic when dealing with a possible cheater.  There’s another old saying:

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck” 

  • Your partner is not being forthcoming about your relationship – they never mention you on social media
  • You haven’t met their friends or family
  • They are overly secretive in general, they tell you very little about their background or personal life
  • They are constantly breaking dates at the last-minute
  • You never go out in public
  • They always have strange elaborate excuses for some of their behavior
  • They are hyper secretive about their phone, email use, or internet searches
  • They accuse you of cheating, or need to know your whereabouts at all times – cheaters often suspect their partners.
  • They have relationships with opposite or same-sex partners that seem too intense or obsessive for a normal friendship

These are all huge red flags, that you’re dealing with a cheating partner.  DON’T LIVE IN DENIAL!  Use the cognitive part of your brain to drown out the fluttery, irrational, romantic emotions and learn the truth.  Everything you love and cherish could be a stake, don’t let someone treat you like a fool.  From my own personal experience with this, I have no regrets about finding out the truth in my marriage.  Both my former spouse and I are better off, and now we can both live our lives authentically.

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To Reality Stars and Sandwich Ladies – Marriage Ain’t All That

French bread sandwich with fries.

French bread sandwich with fries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week has been rough for a divorced gal.  First there was the excerpts on Jezebel.com from “Love Italian Style” by Melissa Gorga of Real Housewives of New Jersey. In her marriage advice book, she gives tips such as:

Do whatever it takes to please your man

To be on the same level, everyone has to get off the high horse. I don’t care if the woman makes more money than the man, if he’s a janitor and she’s the president. After a fourteen-hour workday, if a man comes home and there’s no dinner on the table, and his wife is on the phone, watching TV, or on the computer ignoring him, he won’t feel respected.

Don’t poop in front of your husband

Girls don’t poop. Me, never have. Never will. It just doesn’t happen. Or, that’s what Joe thinks! We’ve been married for nine years, and he has never once seen or smelled my business. How have I pulled this off? I don’t do it when he’s around or awake. In an emergency, I have my ways of pooping so he won’t hear, smell, or see. It’s a challenge.

Marital rape is completely acceptable – From her husband Joe

Men, I know you think your woman isn’t the type who wants to be taken. But trust me, she is. Every girl wants to get her hair pulled once in a while. If your wife says “no,” turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated.

And this from a man who won’t even change a diaper.

I don’t feed babies, or change the diapers. My father never wiped my ass, and I don’t wipe my babies’ either.

Really Joe you won’t change a diaper?  Even my super-macho, traditional, auto mechanic father changed the occasional diaper and that was in the seventies!

Then within 24 hours of the Gorga advice book, Gawker pointed out a piece in the NYPost about a woman who has a noble pursuit.  Her boyfriend promised to give her an engagement ring in return for 300 unique sandwiches.   A few of my friends quipped that she should turn him into a sandwich, if he doesn’t deliver on his promise.

I want to grab all of my divorced friends en masse and and stage an intervention for both of these women. Melissa Gorga has three children and appears completely financially dependent upon her husband.  I’ll give her a bit more leeway, although I do not envy her marriage in the slightest.  It sounds more like a nightmare than a fairytale.

However, I still see some hope for the sandwich lady.  Although she is living with her boyfriend, they aren’t married yet.  The national statistics for marriage are not that promising, with the divorce rate still hovering at 40-50%.  I want to ask her the following questions before she considers making one more delightful creation of bread, cheese and meat.

  • Do you own property? Unless you have a good prenup your property could be at jeopardy.
  • Do you have assets? – Assets you have before a marriage, can also be challenged in a divorce.  In most cases you should be OK, but anything is possible in a divorce.
  • Do you earn significantly more than your boyfriend? – You might end up paying spousal support and child support post-split, depending on the circumstances.
  • Is your income tied to your boyfriend’s income or employment? – Never assume you won’t lose your income post-divorce.
  • Do you have plans to have children?  How would you feel about splitting time with your kids in a shared custody agreement? Courts are imperfect and anything is possible with child custody.
  • Don’t plan on moving post-divorce, if you share custody of your kids – There are exceptions of course, but long-distance moves are tricky as your former husband could contest any move that involves his children.
  • Have you had a history of mental illness, problems with substance abuse or other self-destructive behavior?  – A divorce can bring it all back in spades.

Marriage isn’t a fairy tale and divorce is hell on earth.  Why any woman would view marriage as the ultimate goal in 2103 is mind-boggling.

Marriages fall apart for any number of reasons:

  • Infidelity
  • Financial disagreements
  • Fraud
  • Constant fighting
  • Growing apart
  • Abandonment
  • Untreated substance abuse or mental illness
  • Abuse – physical and emotional
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Neglect

Every future bride thinks, she will do everything it takes to keep her marriage together.  What every divorced person knows, some splits are extremely one-sided and a marriage can dissolve with little to no warning.  One spouse can decide to end a marriage, and there is very little the other spouse can do about it.

We all want happiness and love in our lives, but no one should force us to compromise ourselves for that contentment.  Making 300 sandwiches isn’t that horrible, and she’ll probably get some book deal out of it. But why won’t he propose without conditions?  Why would Melissa Gorga compromise even the simple act of using the bathroom?  Why is she OK with her husband forcing sex on her? Why is having that piece of paper so important to any modern woman?

I’m sick of seeing overly elaborate proposal videos with flash mobs, chorus girls and fireworks.  I’m tired of scrolling through ridiculously long engagement websites.  And as beautiful as your wedding was, there is no need to post all 3,000 of your photos on Facebook.  I love weddings and I’ll look through dozens of photos, just don’t give us the proofs!

Marriage is not the end all be all to happiness. Single women have just as much value as married gals, and a marriage is no panacea for all of life’s troubles.   My own life became far more complicated and difficult post-divorce, than it ever was before I said, “I Do.”

Put the panini maker down slowly, walk away from an abusive husband and learn to love yourself, before placing so much value on an antiquated institution.  You really don’t need “the ring” as much as you think you do.  If you don’t believe me, ask any of your many divorced friends and family members, they’ll tell you – marriage ain’t all that.

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Why I continue to write about Being a Straight Spouse

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Some people ask why I continue to write about this issue.  It’s been four years since I found out the truth about my marriage.  My ex-husband and I have made amends.  Although we didn’t go through every detail and every transgression on his part, we have reached a point were we accepted what happened.   He has admitted fault and sought forgiveness, I have accepted my codependency on him and my marriage.  I write about this because I know there are so many others like me out there, and because there is so much misunderstanding about these marriages.

Both partners suffer greatly.  We are left with broken trust, shattered lives and often broken families.  Many of us have great difficulty bonding with a new partner or marrying again.  Some are left to raise children on their own, many are financially ruined.  I have known a few stories where partners have contracted HIV from their spouses, or had to bury a spouse due to AIDS.    Some of us cut off our former spouses and try to rebuild our lives without them.

Our spouses have different repercussions depending on how much responsibility and accountability they take.  Some go even deeper into denial and refuse to accept themselves, and even marry another straight partner hoping to continue to live a lie.  A few partners decide that we caused their homosexuality or their infidelity and get vicious during a divorce.  I’ve heard absolutely horrific stories of long drawn out battles that are devastating.  Some regress to a more immature time in their lives and abandon their families, cut off all contact, even with their own children, a few completely disappear.  In one extreme case a man faked his own death, only to reemerge 16 years later openly gay.  Some spouses do everything they can to restore some type of relationship, they make amends, they ask for forgiveness, they remain positive parents to their children and do their best to rebuild trust.

In the most tragic cases both straight spouses and our partners have committed both suicide and homicide.  People are capable of doing truly horrible things, regardless of their sexual orientation.   There have been examples from straight spouses and their partners of self-inflicted violence, or violence towards their spouse.

For a lot of us, our situation lies somewhere between the extremes. a few couples even decide to stay together and redefine their marriages, although most of us separate or divorce.  The best resolutions usually occur with open communication and accountability for past transgressions.  Straight Spouse marriages are similar but they run the full spectrum of outcomes.

I still write about this because I know it helps other straight spouses find the help they need.  I still write about this because it could also help people who might be considering marrying someone to try to “fix” their gay tendencies or urges.  I write about this because I really don’t want it to keep happening.  I write about this because I’m sick of people making wild assumptions about us or our former spouses.

GLTBQ people should be proud of who they are, and should be able to marry whomever they want in an honest and open way. They should be able to be openly gay, and free to live happy and healthy lives and not try to hide behind a facade.   I do have empathy towards their situation.  But we can’t sweep the ugliness under the rug, and no one should get a free pass for abusive, neglectful, deceitful behavior because they were confused about their sexual orientation.  It’s not easy being gay, and the coming out process for many is long and difficult, but they should also come to terms with those they have hurt along the way.  The closet doesn’t just affect the person living inside of it, but everyone around them.   We all have suffered, but we will end the suffering if we all face the truth.  We cannot continue to live in proverbial closets where the dark sides of mixed orientation marriages are brushed aside or ignored.  The hate and prejudice directed at GLTBQ affects more than just the community itself.  The damage to those individuals and the self-hatred splinters outward affecting their families and loved ones – including Straight Spouses.

An invaluable resource for anyone facing this is the Straight Spouse Support Network.  There you will find access to local support groups in your area, chat rooms full of other straight spouses sharing their stories, literature and books written by and for straight spouses, literature and books written from our spouse’s perspectives and support for children affected by these situations.  SSN is literally one stop shopping for advice on just about every aspect of dealing with these revelations.   Author and therapist Bonnie Kaye has a blog for women who were married to gay men.  There are private groups on Facebook, retreats where we physically get together and meet other straight spouses from around the country.  You are not alone.  I might eventually just run out of things to say on the subject, but I will never stop supporting other men and women who find themselves in this most horrible shared experience.

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Life After Divorce: The Fairy Tale is Dead! Long Live the Fairy Tale!!!!

Picture of the castle of Sleeping Beauty in Th...

Picture of the castle of Sleeping Beauty in The Efteling, the Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fairy tales we tell little girls and boys all seem to end with a wedding.  Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White never have to give up anything to keep their prince.   Somehow we are lead to believe that the sanctimonious wedding ceremony seals us for life and if our love is strong enough, everything will work out in the end.  The stories are of course, bullshit.

My fairy tale ended up being a fraud – based on lies and rotten to its core.  Now that I am on the other side of the rainbow, I now realize how much of myself I lost for the sake of that partnership.  Never again.  I urge anyone who has been in my situation to write a list of things that you REFUSE to give up for the sake of another.

  • I get onstage with a microphone – at times I tell a heightened exaggerated version of my life for laughs
  • I am not going to lose or gain weight for anyone – this is how I am – if I want to lose or gain weight it’s my business
  • I am not getting plastic surgery to please anyone – again this is how I am if you don’t like it, find someone else
  • I am opinionated and speak freely – we may not always agree
  • I am blonde, not short, not small and I do not speak softly
  • I tend to make people laugh without trying – I don’t need to be the center of attention but I am not a wallflower
  • I have a lot of followers on twitter, Facebook and this blog
  • I write a blog – sometimes it’s about my life
  • I have two cats and love them like children – I make no apologizes for this
  • I have an unconventional job, odd hours, inconsistent income but I will NEVER rely on you or anyone to pay my bills
  • I live in a crappy neighborhood – hopefully this one will change – I’m working on it.
  • I have a large dysfunctional family – they are very important to me
  • I have eccentric, artistic friends – gay, queer, transgender, polyamorous, and everything in between.  Some get nearly naked onstage for fun
  • I am a talkative person
  • I don’t get drunk often, I am not into drugs
  • I play the accordion and ukulele
  • I read a LOT of books – I’m nerdy and smart and dreadful at all sports
  • I am intense and passionate and have a bit of a temper – I try to control it – Usually comes out onstage
  • I absolutely have to have a creative outlet or I cease to function – sewing costumes, baking, writing, singing, playing instruments getting onstage…etc.
  • I will openly admit I am flawed and often make mistakes
  • I can be forced to watch a sporting event…but the only sport I really understand is baseball
  • I am straight forward and direct – almost too blunt but I have no idea how to manipulate or play games
  • I don’t eat meat and I probably won’t eat it any time soon but I don’t care if you do.
  • I prefer monogamy – I don’t judge other lifestyles but I know what works for me.  I am also very realistic about this subject no one is perfect.
  • I don’t cheat – I just don’t have it in me
  • I am politically left of center and insanely pro-union
  • I adore children – I have no idea if I will get to have any but they are simply amazing
  • Nothing pisses me off more than an unanswered text message
  • Once I commit to another human being I am fiercely loyal

None of these things are negotiable…I refuse to get swept up again into the false reality that a marriage or relationship will save me.  In my new fairy tale, the only person I rely on is myself.  If I end up with a loving partner, great but I will not sacrifice who I am to make that happen.  Write your own list, and don’t look back.  🙂

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Rape Jokes: The Freedom of Expression goes both ways

English: A Sennheiser Microphone

English: A Sennheiser Microphone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are not a comedian, you may not have heard about a debate swirling like a tsunami of controversy all over the internet.  Is it ever OK to tell a rape joke?  Is it acceptable if the subject of the joke is the rape victim?

This whole thing started about a year ago at Laugh Factory during a set by Daniel Tosh.  A heckler responded to several rape jokes in a row by shouting at that stage, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny.”

Tosh snapped back with, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got gang raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now?  Wouldn’t it be funny if a bunch of guys just raped her?.”

One thing every comedian should remember: nowadays most of the audience have some type of recording device in their hands and can share any joke or interaction with the world.  Comedy sets intended only for a small live audience can now go viral. This is not going to change anytime soon.  I am not a fan of things being taken out of context, or sets being uploaded to youtube without a comedian’s permission, but that is the world we live in.  In this case, Tosh’s interaction spread to the internet.  He eventually apologized saying his words were taken out of context.  Lindy West at Jezebel.com wrote the following article regarding the incident, How to Make a Rape Joke

To directly quote West:

In case this isn’t perfectly clear yet: You can say whatever you want.  You can say whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You can say whatever you want.  You can say whatever you want.

In fact several times in her article she writes to the effect of, “You (comedians) can say whatever you want.”

West also goes on to show 4 clips of comedians telling rape jokes she thinks actually work – in each case the victim is not the subject of the joke.

Then this May, West wrote the another article about the topic, An Open Letter to White Male Comedians,

Jokes” about rape and gendered violence are treated like an inevitability instead of a choice; like they’re beyond questioning; like they’re somehow equally sacred alongside women’s actual humanity and physical sanctity. When women complain,however civilly, they’re met with condescension, dismissal, and the tacit (or, often, explicit) message that this is not yours, you are not welcome here. It’s fucked up, you guys. And I’m saying that as a friend with the best intentions.”
 
“Please. You are not being silenced. There is no “thought police.” Your freedom of speech is firmly intact. You are a member of the single most powerful political bloc on earth. Your voices and your perspectives saturate nearly all media. You are fine. We are just having a conversation about your art, and your art is what you care about the most, right? Right?”

Recently West participated in a live debate with comedian Jim Norton about the subject of rape in comedy.  Here is the link: Totally Biased: Extended Talk with Jim Norton and Lindy West

West said a lot of things in the debate but never once called for censorship.  The reaction on the internet was the following.

  • She received threatening emails and tweets
  • Many attacked her personally including her weight and appearance
  • Many comments were sexually threatening

Here is a link to West actually reading some of the threats out loud.

If Comedy Has No Lady Problem, Why am I getting so many Rape Threats?

It all seems like a circular argument.  If comedians want freedom of expression, they have to remember it’s not just a one way street.  Audience members can complain, heckle, boo, walk out, or blog about a joke they found offensive.  Everyone has a right to their opinion.  It is not if holding a microphone makes anyone immune to criticism.  Anyone who works as a stand-up comedian knows an audience will shout out whatever they want during anyone’s set.  The behavior is rude, but it has been around as long as stand-up has existed.  If anything our current navel-gazing lifestyle of Facebook, twitter and blogs has made things worse.

The men threatening West with rape and other sexual violence are actually giving her fuel for her side of the argument.  It is difficult to claim that rape jokes are not endorsing rape, and then turn around and use rape language to physically threaten and intimidate another person.  For all their cries of censorship they are basically trying to silence their critic through bullying tactics and degrading language.  Speech does have power – powerful rhetoric has swayed entire nations to do all sorts of wonderful and horrible things.  Many have paid the ultimate price for exercising their right to free speech and speaking out against those who might harm them.

Comedians are just like anyone else with an opinion.  Politicians face repercussions when they say something that offends people, as do actors, musicians, authors, pundits, and anyone else who voices their opinion publicly.  Instead of trying to ridicule and intimidate the random critic, a comedian should instead listen to their audience.  If night after night they are getting groans, hecklers and boos after a joke – instead of patting themselves on the back and telling themselves they are an edgy genius.  Perhaps they should reconsider the joke.  After all a white comedian can walk into a black comedy club and do nothing but a set of racially charged material but they run the risk of getting booed off the stage.  Women also have every right to respond in kind to a joke they think is not funny or inappropriate.

If we want true free speech we have to take it all forms.  A comedian can make rape jokes, and a blogger can write a critique of those jokes.  A disagreement should not result in intimidation or physical threats.  If a person has to resort to commenting on someone’s appearance, or threatening their physical safety – they don’t know how to make a point, and they don’t know how to debate.  West was never threatening any comedian with physical assault, or rape.  She wasn’t even calling for censorship.  Even West’s opponent in the debate, Jim Norton, has condemned the threats towards West as disgusting.  If white male comedians wanted to prove that they aren’t misogynistic and immature they just accomplished the opposite.  Since I work in comedy I know that these men are the exception, not the rule, but their treatment of West, is making the everyone in comedy look bad.

For instance in my article about Adam Carolla: Adam Carolla So Women Aren’t Funny?. I never once made a nasty comment about him personally, and I certainly didn’t wish for him any physical harm.  I simply disagreed with his point of view, and tried to make my best argument using specific examples.  I don’t know him, he is probably a lovely human being and I assume he is an excellent father.  The debate was about ideas, not about tearing him apart.

If a comedian is really confident in their material they shouldn’t care about a random blogger.  Comedians are always going to have critics.  The best way to deal with our critics is to prove them wrong by getting laughs on stage.  So grab those microphones and go for it.  If you have rape jokes in your set, then make those rape jokes!  Just don’t freak out if someone in your audience or a blogger dares to criticize you for it.  Freedom of speech goes both ways – get used to it!

Dating in NYC – Damaged Goods

Damaged buildings

Damaged buildings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think I might be beginning to snap.   Not actually have an emotional break down, I am healthier than I have been in years.  I am just so tired of living in New York, but I love New York.  My entire being has become conformed to this strange reality of subway commuting, 3 am evenings, manic intensity and creativity overflowing in every direction.  How could I go back to a more mundane existence?   Not that there is anything wrong with a mundane existence.  There are days I downright envy it.  I have waking dreams of just falling into friend’s photos on Facebook and melding into their lives.

My friends have diapers, school schedules and mortgages to worry about while  I am struggling to keep a float.  It’s like I am watching everyone else grow up around me.  Proud parents showing off their babies with stories of first words and tears.  Why can’t I seem to get anything together?  Why do I snap and run at the slightest provocation?  Have I been burned so badly that the sight of the first sign of flame causes me to bolt?  Why am I surrounded by so many stuck in a permanent state of adolescence?  Those who refuse to live beyond their 19-year-old ambitions.

A few of my friends who got divorced around the same time I did are already getting re-married.  I can’t even go out with the same person for more than two or three times.  I was a serial monogamist but now I just drift around, scared to get too close to anyone.  And I am constantly hunted by the predatory types.  New York is never at a shortage of people who would love to get to know you really well for an evening and nothing more. I have given up on the notion of children, completely abandoned the idea of a second marriage.  I just want to hang out with someone on a semi-regular basis.  I couldn’t really handle a polyamorous lifestyle and I dread sleeping with more perfect strangers.  I want off this ride.

Is it different somewhere else?  I think its worse here but I have gotten emails from people all over the country who confirm my fears that things aren’t much better elsewhere.  Yet I see happy couples all the time here.  All I can think of is “How did they manage that?”

When I first got divorced I fell back on my usual habits.  I would do my borderline co-dependent, nurturing routine – which was too much and I freaked out pretty much every guy I tried to date.  Now I am hesitant, somewhat cold and distant.  I don’t ask a lot of questions, or get too personal because I figure I’ll never hear from the person again anyway.  Why bother opening myself up to more disappointment.  Months ago, one young man from another city who tried to seduce me looked almost astonished at the detached way I dealt with him.  He was so excited, and I was so matter of fact.  Yet none of this matters, I tell myself, they will find an excuse.  Too clingy or too self-involved -they can always find someone new.

Then I go out with perfectly nice men who I feel absolutely nothing for, other than the fact that they seem like decent people.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  The fissures and scars that are still deep down in my bones won’t seem to heal.   And the words echo through my skull that I have heard so many times.

“Well you had an EASY divorce, at least your husband was gay”

Yeah, the primary relationship in my life, the one man I would have given my life for…was a fraud.  Not exactly an “easy” divorce.

Top 10 Worst Things to Say to a Newly Divorced Person

LOL Just divorced. And no, that's not my car.

LOL Just divorced. And no, that’s not my car. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend suggested I write this post, when I mentioned to her some of the things people have said to me post-split.  It’s been three and a half years since my divorce but the hits keep coming!  So I asked some of my divorced Facebook friends to tell me some of the worst comments they have gotten.  Since I have even more readers on this blog, if you have one you want me to add any that I don’t have here, PLEASE SHARE THEM!  More often that not, the rudest most inappropriate comments come from casual acquaintances, not close friends.  Also my friend and fellow divorcee, Carolyn Castiglia has re-posted some of my comments at Babble.com  If you notice any changes in my quotes from this article to hers, it is just because I made edits to my piece in the after she had read it, but before her article got published.  I don’t have an editor over here, so I am constantly revising myself. 🙂

1. You should have tried to keep it together for the kids – There have been tons of studies published about the negative effects of divorce on children. Divorce is never easy on anyone and it usually the last resort for any couple with kids.  Parents know it isn’t exactly healthy to raise children in a combative environment with constant fighting. If one spouse is being physically, mentally or emotionally abusive to another, the abuse could easily spread to the children.  In fact some couples may have divorced for the sake of their kids.  Growing up in an extremely toxic environment can cause a lot more damage than splitting time between two households.  The decision to divorce has probably weighed heavily on the couple for months if not years.  When someone states this obvious fact it is just rubbing salt in a wound.

2. How could you give up that lifestyle?  The money, cars, vacations?  Couldn’t you just put up with it? – So are you a spouse or a prostitute?  For some, it is a fine line, as some men and women marry purely for financial gain.  But for the vast majority of us, we married for love and no amount of money and stability can replace that.  If one partner is treating the other like garbage, the damage to a person‘s self-esteem and sense of well-being is not worth any amount of material wealth.

3. I totally saw it coming – Who are they the divorce Svengali? No one knows what goes on in a marriage besides the two people in that marriage.  No one.  It is one thing if you have confided to your friend that you were having problems.  It’s another thing entirely if you haven’t.

4. You need tons of sex, you should just go out there and get laid, go crazy – It’s not terrible advice, but for some sex can turn into another form of self-destructive behavior,  just like drugs or alcohol.  I suspect that some say this because they are secretly wishing they could “live the dream.”  Being single after a certain age is hardly a sexual paradise.  For many of us it is boring, lonely and quite sexless.

5. You’re in denial – For some divorce is the greatest thing that ever happened to them.  No one should assume that they are denying their real grief.

6. You should change your name back – I just got this one the other day.  I just looked at the woman funny when she said it.  I decided to keep my ex-husband’s surname because I had built up professional credits with it.  I didn’t want to start over and rebuild up everything considering I had lost so much. Legally I can keep his name.  Why anyone would think this is nothing more than a personal decision is baffling.

7. Oh you’ll get married again.  There’s someone out there for everyone – This comment is well-meant, but a lot of divorced people NEVER want to get married again.  Since divorce is hell on earth, for so many of us, why would we want to repeat it?

8. I always hated him/her – Ouch.  When someone says this they might expect a divorced person to immediately agree with them and start ripping apart their ex.  Divorce is sometimes extremely one-sided and a person could still be very much in love, or at least conflicted about their former partner.  When in doubt, don’t go there.

9. I never knew why the two of you were together in the first place – I have no idea why anyone would think this is appropriate to say, yet plenty do.  A statement like this completely invalidates a marriage.  It implies their partnership was a freak show that no one could understand.  A newly divorced person is usually in mourning for what they just lost, a comment like this hits below the belt.

10. You really need to get over this and move past it. – Everyone grieves at different speeds.  No two divorces or relationships are the same.  No one should make a judgment call about another person’s suffering .  The most annoying people who make this comment,  are those who have never even been married.

11. Welcome to Hell – I know this bring it to 11, but I personally love this comment because people also say to people who just got married!  I guess it is a matter of perspective.

12. You gave him the best years of your life – OK now it’s 12 things. But my mother actually said that exact phrase to me for months, in fact she still does.  My mother means well, and I have developed a sense of humor about her morbidity about the failure of my marriage.  I did sacrifice most of my child-bearing years to that partnership, but I still think the best years of my life are yet to come.  So thanks Mom, I know you only want the best for me.  🙂

PLEASE SHARE any comments you have gotten!  🙂 

Facebook: Boys and Girls play differently

Danny & Alex on the See-Saw

Danny & Alex on the See-Saw (Photo credit: leekelleher)

In the title of this piece I use the terms boys and girls; but what I am really talking about is men and women.  Something about Facebook etiquette though makes me think of a school playground, so the title seems appropriate.  What is Facebook etiquette?  I don’t think any of us know yet, as social media is a relatively new forum.  It has been my experience that men and women behave completely differently on social media. As a performer I meet a lot of people and I used to friend just about anyone within reason.   I have learned the hard way that I can’t be so open.  Out of my 2700 friends, and I could have many more if I wasn’t so picky, the vast majority of negative activity has come from men.   I have had to deal with the following:

  • The Semi-Stalker – A male user who will comment on nearly everything, including completely mundane posts.  A true semi-stalker is someone who doesn’t know me well and who I may have met for an instant or is just someone I share multiple mutual friends.  Yet this virtual stranger will become fascinated by everything I post.  Most of the time, these men are in a relationship or married which makes their behavior even more unsettling.  I can’t help but picture them at their computer ready to pounce on my latest update.  Their behavior is unnerving and most Semi-Stalkers end up getting kicked off my page.
  • The Full on Cyber Stalker – A male user who goes beyond the realm of Facebook to harass me.  I have had several men exhibit stalking behavior engaging negatively on this blog, my twitter account and in my regular email.  The worst was someone who did all three and even set up two fake OKCupid profiles to torment me.  I had mutual friends with this person, he lived in New York City and was also a performer.  I thought he would be OK, but he got so crazy he resorted to threats of physical violence.  My crime:  I had kicked him off my page when he made a sexually explicit comment on my wall in a political discussion.  At the time it happened I foolishly told him why I was deleting him in angry email.   Now I simply delete/block without comment.  The less I engage the stalker the better.
  • The I want to tell you Missy –  I’ll post anything political and a man will respond with an extremely long diatribe.  Most posts from unfamiliar men are condescending and include disrespectful language.  They act as if I don’t know what I am talking about, haven’t bothered to do research or am acting purely from emotion.  These men obviously don’t know me well, and I don’t think they have ever been published anywhere.  Everything I have written for the Huffington Post goes through an editorial process.  If I use a stat or fact I have to include a hyperlink in my article to a non-biased a source.  I am not exactly a lightweight and this isn’t my first time at the political discourse rodeo.  I never started a fight with them, and I never posted on their wall.  I don’t see the point in getting into it with someone who is diametrically opposed to me politically.  The discussion is going to go nowhere, and will end up being a huge waste of time.  So to my more Libertarian, Republican or conspiracy theory friends I usually just leave well enough alone.  Everyone can post whatever they want.  I don’t have to engage in a Facebook war with them because I don’t agree with their point of view, instead I just ignore their rants.  Although I have kicked people off for posting racist articles or absolute nonsense.   I get plenty of detractors and would be critics on my Huffington post articles and on this blog.  I don’t need it on my personal facebook page.
  • The Negative Commenter – Again usually a man who I don’t know well, maybe I met them at a comedy show…I don’t know.  They will just post something negative for reasons unknown to me. Recently I was really frustrated with my memoir and I posted something along the lines of “man this is hard”.  Some guy I barely knew felt the need to write “First World Problems” as a comment.  I thought it was inappropriate especially since I didn’t know him well and he knows nothing about my life.  I quietly deleted the comment and he un-friended me.  I was happy he saved me the trouble.
  • The Pervert – I don’t feel like I need to describe this one, but I haven’t had a woman give me a problem like this yet.
  • The Bully – I once posted “Congratulations to SAG-AFTRA on our historic merger“.  This seemingly innocuous post ended in a comedian I knew calling me a cunt.  He then got on my wall with an alter-ego profile to try to keep fighting.  Again, I had no history with this man other than doing a paid show for him once.  We had mutual friends.  He had posted anti-union sentiments on my wall in the past and I had politely told him to stop saying something like “Look I come from two unionized parents and I am in two unions you aren’t going to change my mind please stop” he persisted.
  • The Scolder – No matter what I post, including things as controversial as “Being self-employed is difficult” the Scolder will point out to me that I’m being too negative. They are ALMOST ALWAYS men I barely know.  No one is always chipper and happy all of the time, and some people like to vent.  I would never dream of making some sort of judgment like that to a person I barely know.  It seems to me like just another way to put me in my place.

Are Facebook pages free speech zones?  I don’t think so.  Should people post long drawn out political rants on other people’s pages?  I would say no.  If they start the fight, they should expect to finish it.  But why start it in the first place.  In any given year I kick off dozens of men from my Facebook page, sometimes two or three in a day.  In contrast I have kicked off exactly one woman, and in her case she was doing all of her aggressive behavior via private message.  She was not posting anything on my wall. In my experience when women engage in political discussion they are ironically less likely to get emotional.  They don’t talk to me in a condescending manner and they certainly don’t call me a cunt.  To put it simply.

It’s not that all of my male friends on Facebook cause problems for me, but nearly all the problems I have on Facebook involve men.

I can’t twist my reality to conform to a politically correct narrative where men and women act the same.  I enjoy political discourse  and have plenty of close friends who don’t always agree with me.  I don’t mind getting in real debate, but that is rarely what happens.   I have male Facebook friends who constantly post inflammatory things and I don’t see them getting the same types of reactions.  But I will admit, I don’t know what a typical male goes through. Would men also post repeatedly on the wall of a man they barely knew?   I would love to hear men’s opinions on this.  Do men who barely know you pick political fights with you?  Is this a problem?  Do men engage in the same type of abusive behavior such as stalking, harassment and negative posts with other men?  Do women do it to men? I would never dream of engaging someone I didn’t know well in political discussion especially when I can tell they are already extremely passionate about their point of view.  I would never take the fight to someone else on a personal page like that.  Why do they feel the need to take it to mine?  As I have said to many  of my male ranters, ask yourself this question.

“When was the last time Juliet Jeske posted on my wall?”

The answer would be never….so please knock it off.

Dating Online: Nice Guys of OKCupid – Why it’s Horrible

Loser

Loser (Photo credit: jugbo)

I get a lot of love and hate mail due to things I have written on this blog.   My critics come from every direction imaginable from angry males calling me a man-hating shrew to virulent feminists claiming I am eroding the women’s movement.  I find all of this venom ironic since I average a little over 100 readers a day.  Not that bad for a total unknown blogger, but there are blogs out there that get a lot more traffic than this one.  Men often take umbrage with my articles, and I can understand their frustration.  I write from a woman’s perspective and I have repeatedly explained to many of my detractors that since I am female, I cannot write from a male’s perspective.  If men want to read about other the dating lives of males, they should read a blog written by someone with a penis.  I simply cannot write from an experience I know nothing about.

That being said I openly admit that I frequently make fun of the online dating profiles of men I find on dating websites.  I mock poorly written or pretentious self summaries on my Facebook page, in my stand-up routines and on this blog.  My regular readers like it when I point out the absurdity and arrogance of some of the men I encounter online.  I make no apologizes for it.  I do however go out of my way to protect the identity of anyone I ridicule.   I never include photos or even screen names.  My intent is not to make personal attacks or to public humiliate a man who might not have an inkling on how to write effectively on a dating website.  I have also tried to help men in their quest for love online.  Since I have scrolled through hundreds of profiles, I know what turns most women off.  In my articles Online Dating: Why you get ignored, and Dating in NYC: What to Not do on a First or Second Date I am honestly trying to help men not make the same mistakes I have seen time and time again.I completely agree with the creators of The Nice Guys of OKCupid up until a point.  Most of the men featured on their blog are clueless and have negative views about women.  However the crime of writing a poorly written dating profile should not subject anyone to public shaming.  I have no problem with poking fun at the grandiosity, rudeness or misogyny on any profile.  The Nice Guys of OKCupid crosses the line by attaching images to the poorly written content.  Now these men are no longer anonymous, any number of friends, relatives or co-workers can see personal information that was not meant for all the world to see.  Anyone could easily fabricate a dating profile and submit it to the site, in order to humiliate someone.  There is no way of authenticating if any of the information posted is actually accurate.

We all put ourselves out there when we sign up for a free online dating profile.   Vulnerability is not easy for anyone, especially men that might have limited social skills.  When we bare our souls looking for a possible mate, we also open ourselves up to the darker sides of someone’s psyche.  I have gotten pure hate from total strangers on dating sites.  I am not sure why, but now and then some man decides he needs to send me insulting or disgustingly perverted emails.   There is no joy in making myself open to this kind of negative behavior.   It makes me cringe when men I know tell me they stumbled upon my profile while browsing, or that I came up as a good match. I would rather not have to resort to putting so much personal information on a site for someone else to dissect, decipher and judge.

The whole thing reminds me of a bully finding a love note written by a total nerd to a popular girl and then plastering a high school with photocopies to humiliate the author. Are the men featured on Nice Guys of OKCupid clueless?  Yes.  But do they deserve public shaming for not understanding women?  No.  Do most men understand women?  Do most women understand men?  I don’t claim to know what is going on in the mind of most men and I would hate to see my own photo/profile in a

  • Women who think they are all that of OKCupid
  • Bitches of OKCupid
  • Cougars of OKCupid
  • Future Old Maids of OKCupid
  • Cat Ladies of OKCupid
  • Annoying Women of OKCupid

Will this public shaming do anything to change the behavior of those featured on the site?  I seriously doubt it.  If anything it will just make the men that much more disillusioned with the gender they already don’t understand.  When a person signs up for an online dating website they don’t sign up for another third-party to exploit them.   OKCupid should get the site taken down.  It is surprising that someone hasn’t already threatened the site with legal action.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with making fun of someone’s words  as long as their identities remain private.  Dating online is hard enough, do we have to make it that much harder?