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By Jareesa Tucker
It started the way so many of my other relationships had –- online.
I have a love/hate relationship with online dating, sometimes throwing myself into several sites, and other times completely shunning them in favor of a more organic dating experience. After a less-than spring on the dating front, I decided to try online dating once again.
I went back to a site I’d used before, a niche dating site that focused on my ethnic group. I’d had a mild amount of success on the site before, even dating a guy for about 6 months before I moved out of state and ended the relationship.
I logged in, updated my info and pics, and sat back for the messages. Every day I logged in and saw varying degrees of messages, most of which were either a turn-off or annoying. I browsed profiles and kept looking, rarely responding to any messages. It takes a lot to get me to respond to a message, so when I do, it’s a big deal.
The first message from Sean was one of the few I responded to. It was sweet and funny, respectful and even had correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Before I replied, I checked out my profile, and was delighted to see he was attractive. I skimmed his profile, noting his location was Maryland. Not exactly close, but doable, I supposed.
I wrote back, telling him a bit more about myself, and asking more questions about him. We messaged back and forth on the site, before progressing to email. Next came giving him my Google Voice number, which is my go-to number for guys. You just never know if you’re going to get a nutjob, right?
We talked on the phone, and texted regularly, and I started to really dig him. But he lived in Maryland, so while I did want to meet him, it was just a flirtation to me.
After a few weeks, we were both out with our respective friends and texting each other. He tells me how much he likes, how much he cares, how he wants something real with a woman who wants to settle down, etc. At the end of all that, he asks me to be his gf.
In that moment, I really can’t tell you what I was thinking. I was screwing with my phone, and my friends ask me what’s going on, so I blurt out, “I think I have a boyfriend now.” With an announcement like that, you can’t NOT tell the story, so I have to begin explaining -- and leaving out the part about us not actually having met yet.
With that first story, I began a downward spiral. Once I told one friend, I had to keep the story going. So I decided to make a meeting happen. Sean and I began to make plans, but he was heading to Jamaica to see family for 2 weeks. I figured, we could plan when he got back.
And then at the end of his trip, tragedy struck. His father died and he had to stay in Jamaica to help his family. He didn’t have any money and he couldn’t come back to the States right away and he had to change his flight. I listened to this sob story and then he asked me to help him out, with whatever I could spare.
My first thought was, “This was a scam," but then my bleeding heart took over. What if he really was just in a bad spot? I mean, I Googled him and reverse image searched all his pics, and he seemed to be a real person. I’d want someone to help me if I was in trouble, right? After sleeping on it, I decided to send him some money and hoped that he wouldn’t disappear once he received it.
To my surprise and relief, he didn’t disappear. We still talked everyday and I helped him through his grief. He told me about the island, his time with his extended family and his desire to get back to the States. With the death of his father, he was now an orphan. He didn’t want to return to MD, so what did I think about him moving to my city? He’d get a job & start over with the woman he loved, or so he claimed.
Weeks turned to months, Sean and I kept talking, Skyped several times a week, and yet still had not met face to face. Each time I inquired, there was always a reason why he couldn’t leave Jamaica yet. In the meantime, I had to keep up the façade with my friends. I’d already told them about him, so I had to keep the story going.
But inside, I felt like a fool, a sucker, an easy mark. I hoped and prayed that I wasn’t being scammed, and that he was a real person who had indeed developed feelings for me but was stuck in a bad situation.
In the fall, I’d had enough of this charade, and I was set to cease communication. But one day he messages me and says that he tried to kill himself. Immediately my sympathy kicked in and I put my feelings to the side, instead wanting to make sure he was OK.
How could I leave a person who was emotionally fragile? I had to stick it out, I didn’t want to be the reason he attempted suicide again.
After months of virtual contact, I’d had enough. I decided to take matters into my own hands, once and for all. I told him that if the only thing keeping him in Jamaica was a flight, I’d pay for it and get him to my city. I booked a flight for after Christmas, and he promised he’d be at the airport. I went out and got him warm clothes, knowing that he’d be ill-prepared for the cold weather when he stepped off the plane.
I told my friends he’d be visiting, and even my mom, hoping that if I spoke it out loud, it would come true. As we grew closer to the date, I grew anxious. Sean told me over and over that he’d be on his flight, and I prayed he was telling me the truth.
The day of his flight arrived, and my stomach was in knots all day. His flight was in the afternoon, and I tried to reach him earlier in the day but couldn’t. When I did finally reach him, it was with bad news –- he hadn’t been able to make his flight.
At that moment, I knew it would never happen. He had no intention of getting on that flight, and because his name was on the ticket, I was out the money I’d spent for him. Surprisingly, I felt little anger. I’d known I was being scammed, and I chose to play along anyway. All I could do is take the loss and nurse my heart feelings.
Friends inquired about what happened, and I decided to simply tell everyone that he’d lied to me about something big and I needed to end the relationship immediately. In my own way, I was telling the truth about the situation.
He had lied to me, but I’d also lied to myself. I was so desperate to be in a relationship, to SAY I had a boyfriend, that I’d clung to the first guy who showed interest in me. It was more important to me to be claimed by any guy, than to simply wait for the right guy. I didn’t trust in my own self-worth to weather my period of singleness, and instead I tried to force a relationship and perpetuated a lie for months.
As they say, experience is the best teacher. And I learned a costly lesson.