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Monday, June 1, 2015

Adventures in Virtual Dating and Courtship

I used to call into this phone chat line for singles, that was very popular in the late 1990s. This was before free online dating services became hugely popular. The long-term relationship that I was in had ended several months before.  At that time dating was something I was pretty clueless at it.  I was searching for an easy form of dating for busy professionals. Also, I was very reserved, shy and not so good at approaching men and courtship.  

One night I was up late watching TV and saw some commercials for phone chat companies like Telematch and Quest.  I decided to give it a try.  Their systems allow local strangers to phone into a central line and make recorded profile messages about their interests and what they are looking for.  It gave the callers the option to have live phone conversations without exchanging phone numbers or send recorded messages back and forth. 

Most of the time, I didn’t bother responding to any of the other people’s profiles or messages.  There were some people on the chat lines who were like me:  They were bored, lonely and wanted someone to talk to someone of the opposite sex.  I deluded myself into thinking that it would be easy for me to meet a man with good values through the phone chat line.  You know, I am going to call it for exactly what it is:  many of the people who use these types of services are desperate. After a few days, I discovered that most of the people who use these types of services are mostly looking for casual sexual encounters.  I have never been promiscuous. Screwing around with Tom, Dick, Harry and their relatives and friends wasn’t (and still isn’t) my thing.  Yet, I didn’t see any harm in having conversations with people for fun.  I think I used the service on and off for about a year. 

After the first few weeks it almost became an addiction for me where I would spend hours before and after work just browsing through and listening to the recorded profiles of men.  I frequented those chat lines so much, that I had stumbled upon the recorded profiles of a few guys, whose voices I recognized from my job.  I never interacted with them or mentioned anything to them about it.

There were times that I got on the chat line specifically to “play games”.  I kind of feel bad about it, since I was wrong but it was part of being young and immature.  From time-to-time I would get on and change my voice, which I was very good at.  I have a deep voice for a woman- what African-Americans call “bass” and that’s how I usually speak.  Many times I get mistaken for a man when I go to the drive-thrus at restaurants. 

Anyway, there were times that I took on the persona of an 18-year-old white female to get kicks and fun.  I guess you could say that I reduced the bass in my voice and added some treble. I created a recorded profile in a sexy “White” girl voice, saying that I was 5’ 3”, 110 pounds, had blonde hair, blue eyes.  You should have heard those men!  They were all lined up for the chance to have a live conversation.  Now, I had no intention of ever having a live conversation with these men or meeting any of them.  It was like my version of a prank call. A few of them were smart enough to realize that I was joking.  And some of them sent some messages cursing me out.  Yeah, I know it was wrong to play them like that but it was fun as hell.  Heh, heh.

There were even a few dykes on the chat line that tried to get at me but I ignored them.  The line was intended for heterosexuals but somehow or the other a few lesbians wanted to take their chances on the heterosexual side.   I got the chance to talk to some weird and interesting men of different backgrounds.  Out of about 30 or so live conversations on the phone, I actually met with about 3 or 4 guys in person.  Now, I am a smart cookie. The meetings always took place in public spaces, like restaurants of course.  I didn’t go to their place and they never knew where I lived.

None of the meetings really got past the second date.  One of the men that I met was a complete jerk. Thinking back on it makes me feel that I was a little bit adventurous and untethered.  I lucked up, since there is no real screening process with chat line phone services.  There is no real way to know the identities of these people that you meet. My family thought that I was weird after I told them how I got down.  The world has changed so much that it is pretty commonplace for complete strangers to meet each other on the internet.

The strangest live conversation that I had was with this White Italian man who told me that he had Hepatitis.  I asked him why he was on the chat lines looking to meet someone when he knew that he was infected with the Hepatitis virus.  He told me that he was lonely and just wanted someone to talk to.  We never actually met in person but continued to have a few phone conversations.  Well, he seemed like a nice guy but I could tell that he had a lot of emotional baggage.  At least he was honest about his health problems. He said some other stuff that is not appropriate for me to mention on this blog. 

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