One of the most common questions when meeting people online is ‘how have you found Tinder?’ (Or whatever app it may be). I have sometimes replied half joking/half serious ‘well I’ve only filed one police report so far!’
And this my friends, is true.
I met a cute blondie on Bumble. He seemed nice and while I wasn’t totally blown away, I agreed to have dinner with him at a terrific Italian place. You need to meet people in person, right? To check for a vibe and get to know them better etc.
Dinner was a little bit awkward. Conversation didn’t really flow very well and I think he was getting a bit tipsy. You can tell when you’re not into something when you keep looking around the room, perhaps for an escape. He talked about how he was so bored at his work he used to sleep at his desk, before eventually quitting without having anything else to go to.
I am unimpressed.
When it comes to the bill he insists on paying. It’s quite expensive though for what we had, and I offer to at least pay half. But no, he wants to be chivalrous or something. But then his card gets declined. Unemployed, remember? The awkward bank app transfer process begins, and I offer to pay but he waves me away. A queue of other customers wanting to leave forms behind us. It declines again. For fuck’s sake, I think. Finally, it goes through. Lordy.
He has had too much wine to drive so I offer to drive him home, and when he asks if I want to come up I say yes because I need to pee, post-birth bladder and all that. He lives in an old unit complex in Ascot and shows me his room. Or rather, his cologne collection. He is obsessed with cologne and has some expensive ones in special boxes, some of which smell foul to me but whatever. I ask about one at the back of the shelf, still wrapped.
‘That’s my favourite women’s perfume, I’m saving it for someone special.’
‘What if she doesn’t like it? How it smells?’ I ask. He seems confused by this. When I say ‘I should go’ he kisses me and makes it seem like we naturally or otherwise ‘fall’ onto the bed. I am so uncomfortable and don’t want anything to happen I’m as stiff as a board. I push gently and say no, and he asks if I just want to lay there with him and cuddle.
I politely tolerate a brief ‘laying there’ session because I don’t want to make him angry, even though I don’t actually know if he would get angry if I say no. ‘Walking on egg shells’ doesn’t quite seem to convey the sense of uncertainty and fear women and men get in these situations.
I head home feeling very weirded out and like I’ve narrowly escaped something bad.
The following day is Mother’s Day but I don’t have Hardy. Even though it is packed, the atmosphere at Sirromet is ‘jolly’ – there are kids’ rides, the sun is out and there’s plenty of good food and wine going around. He texts to ask if I would like to join him for a spot of fishing.
I know it sounds crazy but I say yes. I think because I’m feeling lonely on this particular day, and I think I should give him another chance just to be sure. Maybe he was nervous. He was certainly a little bit drunk.
We head to Wellington Point where you can throw a line in even when the tide is out because the jetty stretches far enough out into the water. He doesn’t wear shoes which I find off-putting, and somehow his feet sound loud on the concrete. More weirdness.
He also proceeds to take photos and videos of us fishing. It’s kind of sweet that he wants to capture the moment but also weird as we don’t actually know each other. I call it in my head and know it isn’t going to work. It’s like he’s trying too hard or lacks certain social cues – he’s skipped dating and is right into the relationship phase.
I text him later that night to say I don’t think we will work or are suited or something rejection 101 like that, and I wish him the best etc. And then he calls me immediately. And he’s angry. I start to panic because I don’t manage confrontation very well. ‘What the fuck?’ He says. I have Hardy sitting next to me so I tell him I can’t talk right now. He hangs up, but then the barrage of text messages start, featuring such gems as ‘you’re a fucking disease’ and ‘you’ve ruined my life.’ He also insists that I transfer half of the cost of dinner from the previous night, and texts through his bank details.
I agree, just to placate him. My heart is still racing though and I feel sick to my stomach.
A few days later at work the messages start up again because he hasn’t received any money. Turns out I missed a number and it never went through. I tell him I’ll re-send it, but I also choose to send a rather long message outlining how his behaviour was completely unnecessary, that I didn’t deserve it etc.
That was a mistake.
He’s off again on his barrage, but it’s one message in particular that chills me to my bones. ‘I’m going to make an example out of you.’
What the fuck does that mean? The ensuing moments make me realise how easy it is to put the digital footprints together to find someone. He knew my car was for sale, if he found it online he would see certain landscapes in the background which would give away where I lived. He knew who I worked for – not too many of those buildings around. I could be very easy to find, actually. The walk to my car that afternoon was harrowing – I didn’t know if he would jump out or be waiting for me somewhere, my tyres slashed etc.
By the time I get home I am sobbing and shaking with fear. My parents are naturally terrified by my state and the story I manage to get out. We keep an eye out for strange cars and tell the neighbours to as well. How does two dates turn into something like this?
I get advice about what constitutes stalking, and I decide to file a special police report which is added to his file but isn’t an official complaint. When I tell the officer what happened and show him the messages he asks me ‘did you ruin his life?’ I feel it’s incredulous to even ask me that! ‘No,’ I say. I give him his name and an approximation of where his lives. ‘Does he have blonde hair?’ the officer asks. Ha. So, he’s already in the system. ‘Yes he does. Has he done this before?’ ‘No.. but it looks as if he may have some mental health problems.’
Yes it would seem like he does, Officer.
I feel kind of relieved to know he has form of some description, that it’s not just me overreacting or being sensitive to some hardcore name-calling.
I haven’t heard from him since or seen him on any other dating apps. I hope he is receiving the help he needs though. For me, it’s taken work with a psychologist to process the experience and overcome the fear that was preventing me from dating again.
Stay safe out there people.