Ghost in the Machine

My friend Stephanie and I have noticed a new phenomenon on JDate. Men aren’t sending as many e-mails as they used to; they prefer to IM women. What’s this about? Is it a form of instant gratification? They see a pretty face and want to make contact? Yes and no. They’re either testing the waters or haven’t yet figured out their intentions. Either way, they’re not for me.

It’s less risky for a man to IM a woman or to send her a flirt, a prewritten message such as “I’m intrigued, please feel free to e-mail me” (if he were that intrigued, why didn’t he e-mail me?), than to send her an e-mail, stating his intentions. But even e-mails can be written in such a way that obscures intentions and minimizes risk. What am I supposed to do with such messages as “Very interesting woman,” “Just wanted to let you know that I’m back online,” “Good morning” and, my personal favorite, “Great arms!”? Am I supposed to write back “Thanks,” “Mazel tov,” “Good morning to you, too,” and “I like your nose”?

In a perfect “virtual” world, a man would take the time to read my profile and to send me an e-mail that would sound something like this: “I find you interesting and attractive [or some other set of positive adjectives] and, based on what you wrote in your profile, we appear to have a lot in common [or at least should be able to get through a cup of coffee or a meal together]. Take a look at my profile, see if you agree [or at least think I’m cute], and write me back.”

I understand why it difficult for men to come to the point, but I would like to make my own point. Women like a man who has some chutzpah! Show me that you’re willing to put yourself on the line, because if you’re not willing, then you’re not for me.

As if to drive this point home, something “other-wordly” happened to me. There was a “ghost in the machine.” My JDate page was “haunted” by two men—Harry, a JDate member and boyfriend of 25 years ago, with whom I am now friends, and Jesse, someone who took the time to write me an intriguing e-mail, but who disappeared from JDate the very next day.

Harry and I have kept in touch over the years and, recently, he told me that, when it comes to choosing men, I’m “out of character,” much like Woody Allen, in “Deconstructing Harry,” who was “out of focus.” He said that I needed to let the men come to me and to ignore the men who only IMed me or sent me a flirt. Otherwise, I would continue to end up with men who weren’t sufficiently confident or assertive.

Jesse’s e-mail had “confident and assertive” written all over it. “When I saw your photo, I just had to send you an email! I want to say hello and would like the chance to get acquainted. Write to me. It will be fun!” But when I wrote him back, I never heard from him again. Then, when I clicked on his profile, I got “JesseJames123’s profile is no longer available.” He had disappeared, at least from “this world.”

The “haunting” of my JDate page took the form of a miniature version of Harry’s and Jesse’s picture substituting for two icons. Harry’s picture appeared instead of the icon for each man I “Hot Listed,” and Jesse’s picture appeared in place of the icon for each man who “Viewed My Profile.” I’m not making this up.

Whenever I saw Harry’s picture instead of the Hot List icon, I could hear him saying, “If this man were right for you, he would have contacted you.” And whenever I saw Jesse’s picture instead of the Viewed Profile icon, I heard, “Hey, I liked you, but I was too scared to stay around.”

After a few days, my ghosts disappeared. And although I had lost the ghosts, I didn’t lose the lesson. When the right man comes along, he will have enough chutzpah to e-mail me, state his intentions, and stick around for my answer.

Sharon Lynn Bear, Ph.D. is a researcher, writer, and editor living in Irvine. She can be reached at

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