Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I like long walks in the rain

And yes I do actually, just returned from San Francisco where I walked for hours as it turned dusk and began to drizzle then rain and I honestly never felt better if not exhausted. But that is about cleansing the spirit and the mind and I the only companion I miss on such excursions was my beloved Emma, a Shar Pei-Lab mix whose company I shared much longer than my marriage and the best thing that came from the same.  So no I don't miss marriage, I miss my dog and I would like anyone enjoy an intelligent companion of two legs as many do.

 As Valentines Day approaches and the holidays are behind us the look of love never goes out of style. But as the anniversary of my near death/murder/assault comes on the 8th I have no intention of worrying about it.  I packed in my kit awhile ago and I have no idea if I ever will find myself trusting men in any way shape or form other than professionally?  I don't even trust that as it depends on the profession!

But I wrote about the lonely Bachelors of NYC and thought they were either rare breeds or full of bullshit in the age of swiping and texting and moving on to the next and sure enough I was not alone in that view.  The responses were immense and I reprinted some of them below:

A storm of readers’ comments — over 650 on The New York Times’s site and over 200 on The Times’s main Facebook page — followed the posting of “Meet the Bachelors Who Yearn for Something More,” an article by Sridhar Pappu on aging single men in New York.

Back in the day — June 2, 1986, to be exact — a Newsweek cover story offered up a statistic seemingly meant to terrify women: They were likelier to die in a terrorist attack than to marry over age 40. Since debunked, it no longer makes the rounds. Yet articles on the plight of “aging” women (over, say, 25) still proliferate.

Many of the nearly 900 readers responding to the article about midlife men panicking because they hadn’t found “the one” expressed relief at seeing the shoe on the other foot.

“Finally,” Jane from New York wrote. “The guys are getting the same treatment from the Media that women have been getting for generations: ‘hurry up and get married before you’re too old and nobody wants you.’”

She added: “My take is that you get out of life what you really want, even if you think you don’t want it. So if you’re still single, maybe on a very deep level that’s exactly where you want to be.”

Indeed, hundreds of readers, some with long experience in the dating trenches, questioned if the men profiled had realistic expectations.

“I lived in NYC from when I was 18 to 32,” HeatherR. from New York City wrote. “I am 46 years old now and am shaking my head in dismay at the older guys that were interviewed here because I know very well that they are of the same age group that would drop someone like a hot rock for any excuse back in the day (one guy who had spoken of marriage changed his mind because he didn’t like the eyeliner that I wore one night), just because there were so many options out there.”

She added: “I finally had to move to another country (France) and my sister to another state (Michigan) to find a good man. So sorry guys, none of you are getting the tiniest amount of pity from me.”

SaraJean from Greenville lamented, “I am on the other side … as a middle age woman with teenagers still living at home, I see many men sabotage relationships before they even begin. On dating sites, I am mainly contacted by men at least 10 years older than me … but they don’t want women with kids at home, even if they are not home most of the time. A woman must be able to ‘travel’ on a whim and follow the man’s work schedule … but will not consider the woman’s schedule.”

LNL from New Market, Md., a therapist, scolded, “Men in their 40s living in New York City who have good careers and fairly attractive looks, but who have never been married and want to get married, need to stop blaming fate or outside circumstances and hightail it to the nearest competent psychotherapist.”

Demographically, LNL wrote, “women in their 40s and 50s are in a far worse position looking for decent single men. Men who are good and loving and aren’t out of work or morbidly obese and who truly want a loving permanent relationship are usually in wonderful new relationships within eight months, and frequently within four.”

Plenty of other readers, however, both straight and gay, sympathized with the men’s stories.

“Spot on,” Jim Neal of Chapel Hill, N.C., wrote. “The older I get the more cynical I feel, especially as other gay men are celebrating gay marriage — something I fought for but may never experience. I just feel resigned to living the rest of my life alone and that brings a sort of creeping despair. Well — I’ve got an awesome cat.”

Another reader, avery t, from TriBeCa, complained: “Okay, but as a 5’ 7” guy, I know that many, many, many, many, many women’s profiles say ‘be 6 feet tall’ or ‘I like tall guys’ or ‘no short guys.’ In 2011, I tried OkCupid. In 12 months, I saw about 3200 (not 32. Not 320. But 3200!) profiles that said, ‘I like tall guys’ or ‘be taller than me in heels.’”

In “real life,” he wrote, “plenty of women are less concerned with height, but online, women are seeking Thor.”

MVN, also a New Yorker, cheered: “Bravo to these brave men who dare to show vulnerability and desire for more within their lives. New York sure breeds this situation — it’s an ambitious town and everyone here is ambitious for more and certain they’ll find it — including in the romantic sphere. There are so many fun and interesting opportunities for people to socialize and blend and it’s hard for many people to develop the skills of intimacy.”

Others questioned if the search is worth it. “We all want a ‘partner for life,’” Carmen from New York City wrote, “but the reality is that most of us wander into the emotional wasteland that is marriage only to find we’ve never been so alone.”

MCS, a single New York man, commented: “Most of my married friends don’t have much of a sex life. Many of the guys tell me, having kids is great, but being a husband is a challenge. They envy me. I don’t envy them, but I do support them, as a true friend should.”

On a cheerier note, one reader leapt at a chance to turn her own luck around. Addressing one of the men profiled, Kathryn Smith from Atlanta, who described herself as “a single 30 year old woman in finance who studied English,” wrote: “I’ve dated older before, and had a really great time with someone more mature who didn’t incessantly play video games and get blackout drunk. Paul Morris sounds right up my alley. Hit me up, boo.”

And as I am now officially a Senior, sans the AARP membership,  as well retirement is as elusive as a having a date frankly but here is where being left out is fine by me.  But I have posed as "someone" on these sites to try to understand them, not catfish nor con nor manipulate them but to get a sense of what it means to date online.  Frankly the sad tragic characters I did meet and the few that managed some garbled communication told me that this is loneliest and isolation and its peak so really is their social in media or are are all just alone and getting lonelier with each passing day?

In Online Dating, ‘Sextortion’ and Scams

JAN. 15, 2016

DATING websites and apps typically see a surge in activity this time of year as people who felt lonely over the holidays try to follow through on New Year’s resolutions to find someone special with whom to share their life, or maybe just someone agreeable to share their bed on a cold winter’s night.

But whether they’re looking for sexcapades or long walks on the beach, the desire for companionship and connection makes people vulnerable to a most 21st-century crime: the online romance scam, which bilked victims of all ages and orientations out of more than $200 million last year, according to the F.B.I.

“The drive to find a preferred mate is extremely powerful,” said Lucy Brown, a clinical professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who studies the brain activity of people in love. “It’s a reflexive urge, like hunger and thirst,” which can cloud judgment and make people less likely to question the motives of an online match.

Moreover, she said, romantic love can produce feelings of euphoria similar to the effects of cocaine or heroin, which explains why otherwise intelligent and accomplished people do irrational things to get a fix. Of course, people have always been fools for love — it’s just that the global reach and altered reality of the Internet increases the risk and can make the emotional and financial damage more severe.

Have you been targeted on a dating site or app? If so, how did it unfold and how did you find out? Share your story in the comments with this article or on Facebook. Please avoid descriptions that could identify an individual or site. We may highlight your response in a follow-up article.

“I don’t think there is a general understanding of how much of this romance scam stuff is out there, how it works and what the consequences are,” said Steven Baker, director of the Midwest region of the Federal Trade Commission. “It’s staggering how many people fall for it.”

Scammers typically create fake profiles on dating sites and apps like Match.com, OkCupid, eHarmony, Grindr and Tinder using pictures of attractive men and women — often real people whose identities they’ve filched off Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites. This lures victims who swipe or click to begin corresponding.

The perpetrators may be working out of call centers in West Africa, wooing four or five people at a time. Or it could be some dude at a Starbucks texting victims on his cellphone, or a pajama-clad woman in her apartment sending bogus love bombs from her laptop. They may assume the identity of actual soldiers deployed overseas or pretend to be engineers working on projects in far-flung locales. Scammers have also been known to pose as university professors, clergy members, doctors, chefs, swimsuit models, waitresses, nurses and librarians.

“They have a canny ability to mirror what the victim seems to need and to create a sense of intimacy very quickly,” said Debbie Deem, a victim specialist at the F.B.I.’s Los Angeles bureau. “They are able to manipulate the victim into believing they have found their one true soul mate.”

Victims are as likely to be men as women, young, old or middle-aged, gay or straight, highly or poorly educated. After a few days, weeks or even months of romantic and sometimes hotly erotic back-and-forth via email, text or Skype, come the requests for money.

Maybe the soldier needs a new cellphone so the lovers can better communicate or needs cash to get the necessary papers to go on leave so they can finally meet. The offshore engineer says his child is in the hospital and he’s having trouble wiring money to cover medical expenses. The model or nurse may need money to pay lawyers’ fees to get a restraining order against an abusive ex. Or maybe the scammer doesn’t ask for money at all but requests that the victim receive money and then transfer it to another account, giving marginally plausible reasons.

“It’s common for victims to become money mules where they are unwittingly helping facilitate other crimes,” Mr. Baker said. “There have been prosecutions of victims who kept receiving and sending money even when they were firmly told they were working for crooks.” Yet prosecutions of romance scammers have been rare, thanks to the anonymity of the Internet and the difficulty of tracing wired funds.

In the latest twist, scammers coax victims into taking explicit photos and videos of themselves and then threaten to distribute them to their Facebook or Skype contacts if they don’t pay them money or help them launder money.

“We’re seeing a lot of these sextortion cases lately,” said Wayne May, an administrator who gives advice to the lovelorn on the website ScamSurvivors. “We get about 30 requests for help a day,” usually from young men who sent a picture of their privates to a buxom Tinder match who turned out to be a blackmailer. AARP has been fielding similarly cringe-worthy distress calls from seniors who exposed themselves in front of a webcam.

There are even reports of online recruiting of youths to join the Islamic State using romance and marriage as enticements. Young women, particularly in the West, are promised a so-called jihottie (jihadist hottie) of their choosing for a husband. Young men are offered an attractive and devoted wife, which they might not have the money or social standing to obtain otherwise, particularly if they live in the Middle East, where unemployment is forcing many to delay marriage (and sex if they are devout).

“There is a lot of talk about developing love, falling in love and finding love on the battlefield,” said Katherine Brown, a lecturer of Islamic studies at the University of Birmingham in Britain who researches terrorist recruitment tactics. “They present quite a saccharine image of romance and marriage using the image of the lion and lioness together, supporting each other, being best friends and companions.”

The F.T.C., F.B.I., Homeland Security, State Department and United States Army Criminal Investigation Command have reported an avalanche of complaints about scams in the past two years. Average financial losses are $5,000 to $10,000, but the F.B.I. says many victims have lost more than $400,000. And these are just losses reported by those who fessed up to being had.

“I more often hear from people who call on behalf of a relative or friend who is getting scammed,” said Chris Grey, director of public affairs for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command who learned quickly not to contact the victim in these cases. “I’ve been cussed out that I don’t know what I’m talking about because they are so infatuated with this person they’ve never even met.”

Psychology experts liken this to the crushes or strong feelings of connection people develop for sports figures, rock stars, actors and other celebrities. It’s easy to project perfection on someone you’ve never met, particularly if, along with a pretty face, he or she is emailing, texting and calling every day or several times a day telling you how awesome you are.

“For most of us, there are pockets and maybe whole sections of our minds and hearts that are not really reality-driven,” said Stephen Seligman, a psychoanalyst and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

That puts law enforcement officials in a bind when lovestruck victims so willingly and willfully participate in ruses. “People don’t want to know what’s behind the curtain,” said Mr. Grey. “They really don’t.”

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