This could be part of my series of midlife dating adventures, but this one is quite a lot more somber. Unlike Octopus Ian or Simple Simon, this guy certainly had evil intentions and my personal safety was at risk.
I’ll start at the beginning because all stories need some context and flavour, but if you want the take-home message this is it: if you are a woman, NEVER let yourself be talked into something that just feels wrong.
James (yes, that’s his real name, if you can believe anything he said) messaged me on Plenty of Fish two weeks ago.
We had some back and forth via four longish, detailed messages. If I hadn’t deleted them last night I could have inserted them here – but just use your imagination for a second.
His profile painted a picture in words and images of a successful, busy and affluent businessman (his words), who has high standards and a lot to offer, including sensuality, quality morals and cooking skills.
His messages to me elaborated and reinforced that he was looking for that special someone and he had a strong impression that I was her. I told him my two disclaimers – I have teens at home and I’m not footloose and fancy free (as he stated he was). And I wasn’t interested in sport.
I seemed to have passed the test because after messaging across only two evenings, he asked to take me out to dinner. He was very specific about the time, date and location. He said it was his treat. I said I couldn’t do his first suggested evening, so we agreed on a Thursday at 6.30pm. I saw him online only a couple of other times so he genuinely did seem to be busy working and earning his squillions.
He’d explained that the reason he wanted to meet rather than chat via text or POF is because he would rather look into my eyes, see my face and my body language while learning all about me. He wanted a genuine in-person connection, which sounded reasonable to me especially as I dislike chatting online for too long myself.
I agreed to give him my mobile number as he seemed to be exactly what he said he was – an educated professional who was polite, smooth and trustworthy. He’d said he didn’t do phone calls and I told him not to call me unannounced.
“We will have a lovely seafood dinner and evening together,” he announced. He asked me what seafood I liked; did I like oysters and prawns as well as fish? I wondered why he was so obsessed with seafood! I’d never mentioned it.
Four days before the event, I received a text message at seven in the morning. “Three more sleeps until we meet. I’m really looking forward to meeting you. I’m getting a really good vibe about us.” I replied in a polite sentence and didn’t hear anything back. So far, all consistent – and these messages continued as he counted down the days until our date.
Roll on Thursday evening and I’d arranged to start work later so that I’d have enough energy to stay back and meet him in the city, at the chic hotel (aka watering hole-restaurant) he’d named. I hadn’t bothered suggesting somewhere closer to my place because he’d been very assertive telling me what we were doing that evening. I’m used to doing a bit of tic-tacing about time, place etc but James was possibly showing me what a manly, assertive guy he was so I let it go.
I texted him to remind me of the details, since he’d deleted his POF profile (or blocked me), so I didn’t have the message any more. I thought it was rather odd that he repeated the exact message, right down to the “I’ll be wearing my blue suit and coming straight from work,” bit.
My logical brain immediately registered this detail and suspected that he’d copied and pasted it. But how – and why?
He was 10 minutes late arriving so I got myself a non-alcoholic drink and messaged him that the lounges were taken. He’d been most emphatic that we must meet at the lounges by the open fireplace “to the right of the entrance”. As it’s the depth of winter here in my part of the world, that was a romantic thought, which was his intention.
When James opened the glass hotel door we spotted each other immediately. There were very few people in the place on a weeknight. He was indeed wearing “his blue suit” and looked pretty much like his photos, although perhaps slightly older and slightly shorter than the six foot he’d listed.
He wore his grey hair in a tall, darker quiff and for a moment I wasn’t sure if it was a hairpiece. He effusively greeted me with a hug. “Oh I’ve had an exhausting day!” he announced. “I haven’t stopped for a moment.”
He drew out the word to ‘exx-haaauuu-ssting’ and spoke in a gravelly, unpleasant voice that sounded like he was used to smoking a pack a day – starkly in contrast with his super sporty profile listing the five sports played regularly in his active, outdoorsy spare time. Almost immediately, without even buying himself a drink, he suggested that we head upstairs where it was more private.
He took my hand, stepped back and gave me a thorough once-over.
“Ammaaaaazzing,” he said lasciviously, as if feasting his eyes on me. “I just loooove your dress.”
Upstairs he took me to a one-and-a-half seater leather lounge in a private corner. There were even fewer people on this mezzanine level and although it was well lit, it was indeed out of the way. As he seated himself slapbang in the middle of the couch, he said, “Oh I wanted us to sit by the fire downstairs so it would be romantic!”
I perched myself on the slither remaining and turned sideways to face him, so that we could chat. Immediately his hand started stroking my thigh, and he continued to ogle at me as if I was the main course and he hadn’t eaten for a month.
Over the course of an hour we chatted, or should I say he regurgitated bits of information I’d shared with him and then asked for further information. “Oh I want to know everything about you!” he said, grinning wolfishly. I was amused, and admittedly slightly alarmed, that he’d remembered all the key information of my life – work, kids, home region, hobbies/interests – and so I proceeded to even things up a bit and ask copious questions about his life.
I’d gotten used to his rasping, deep voice and wasn’t objecting too much to the continuous leg stroking, that turned into arm stroking and then hand holding. I discovered that he’d had five relationships in the course of my long one (20 years versus brackets of four to seven years, apparently) and for a while we discussed where we’d each travelled in the world.
He fired topics at me whenever there was the tiniest lull, and seemed well-practised in the art of conversation. A pleasant surprise and often the mark of a genuinely interesting person who’s aware of the lives and feelings of others. Hmm – maybe not so much this last point.
Pretty soon he asked me for a kiss, although he didn’t exactly give me the opportunity to say no. I’d gotten a whiff of his musty breath earlier but it wasn’t so unpleasant anymore since he’d swilled half of my lemon, lime and bitters.
We kissed for a while and it was actually sensual, tongues included, and quite pleasant – except he wanted it to go on and on and more alarm bells were going off in my head when he wouldn’t pull away, or when I’d stop and he’d immediately resume.
There was lots of “Woooooowwww, you are such a good kisser too,” and more blatantly ogling of my body. The hands started to creep onto my throat and décolletage – and bizarrely, up my long-sleeved top, trying to seek out more skin.
Then James announced that he needed the toilet to make some adjustments since he’d become rather warm and aroused. I laughed, thinking we’d be ordering dinner soon and he’d slow down and pull his head in.
Instead, when he returned just a few minutes later, he kissed me some more (not noticing that I was wincing away from him every time) and then said, “I’ve got something really special planned for you tonight. Really special and romantic.”
He mentioned ‘seafood’ again and I asked him what seafood he liked. I still felt it was weird the way he fixated on the topic. He said, “Oh everything…it’s my favourite,” and then pulled me to my feet.
“Now hold my hand cos I don’t want you getting away from me.”
I gingerly took his paw and we descended the stairs together, and then walked out of the front door! It happened so quickly that I didn’t comprehend, but I stood in the poorly lit darkness of the sidestreet and questioned, “I thought we were eating here? Where are we going then?”
James pulled me along by one hand and directed me to the carpark at the rear of the building. My mind was turning over and examining the sudden chill that told me it wasn’t the winter evening that was making me feel as if something was very wrong.
I paused and turned to him as we reached the carpark. He’d been jabbering in a continual monotone about what a great evening we’d have and how he’d been planning this big surprise and it was all ready. It wasn’t far, we could go in his car….
I stopped just by his car as he tried to push me towards it, and thankfully (oh guardian angels), a car pulled out and illuminated us with its headlights. I moved quickly into the middle of the carpark, towards my car and away from his. I said, “So exactly where are we going? I’ll go in my car…” all the while buying time and trying to figure out what on earth he was playing at.
“It’s a special place…Jim’s Place…just near here.” He kept trying to kiss me and his vice-like grip on my arm did not release. I’d already ascertained that he lived in the same inner city suburb so it was likely that his townhouse was just a few blocks away. This was his local hunting ground.
I can’t remember exactly what I said to this revelation, but it was something like, “Hang on a minute! I’m not coming to your house! I’ve only just met you – I don’t even know you! I would never have agreed to do this if you’d asked me.”
Between forcing his lips against mine he muttered, “I’m sorry I couldn’t ask you straight over but I had to meet you in public first…I had to be sure…I’m sorry I didn’t trust you enough.”
I cut him off and protested that I’d never have gone to his house in the first place, but he kept twisting my words to make it sound as if I’d wronged him but he was also at fault for not quite trusting me, sight unseen.
He held both my arms and insisted on kissing my mouth, as I tried to set things straight. “Look, I’m not going to your place, but we can go back inside and eat here if you like.”
“But I’ve got all this seafood at home and flowers and everything…it was supposed to be a big surprise…romantic…did you lose all your romance in those 20 years? Where’s your sense of adventure?!”
I saw a paler version of red (my mind was still reeling at what was happening) and I said, “I’ve had plenty of adventures but tonight is not going to be one of them!”
I could see him reassessing things at lightning speed, and he was verbally backpedalling almost as quickly. “Okay, we can have dinner another night…in a few days…I’ve met you in a public place now….in a week…or a month…whatever you like if you want to take it slow.”
I laughed despite myself, “In a month?!”
By now I was at my car and we were right under a spotlight. I don’t recall how I got into it but I did, and I sat in the driver’s seat and fiddled with my phone in the dim light, while I waited for his car to leave. After about five minutes I left the carpark and began my long drive home.
My mind forensically examined everything I could remember he’d told me.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that there were no flowers and no ‘romantic seafood dinner’ waiting for me at his place. He’d come straight from ‘work’ apparently, so how could he have prepared it?
What was waiting for me, if I’d been stupid enough to follow all of the subtle or overt programming women are fed about being compliant, pleasing people and not making a fuss, would have been something revolting. It would have been something like rape, or worse.
Just writing this story makes me feel defiled by ‘James’.
I feel naive and idiotic to have agreed to go on a ‘dinner date’ with a guy about whom I knew next to nothing. And it was out of character for me to meet at night, plus I’ve been dating for so long I’d gotten lax about telling people where I was going, and what time to expect a check-in call from me. My elder son at home wasn’t expecting me until 10-ish, and it was only eight.
I keep thinking ‘what if’ – James was clearly trying to make me feel guilty for ruining his special plans, his ‘seafood dinner’. What if I’d caved? What if – like so many young women – I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to make a fuss? What if I’d taken the easy route and just gotten into the car with him?
It makes me feel sick thinking of the game he played and how he must justify his behavior to himself. And a strong intuition makes me feel that he’s done this before, and will do it again.
PS – I emailed the hotel tonight (the night after it happened) to give them an outline of my story and to ask that they keep an eye out for James, to keep other women safe. I blocked his number on my phone. I don’t feel that I have enough evidence to go to the police – after all, he was just a guy trying on his luck, wasn’t he? And no doubt there’s evidence of me kissing him back, and I didn’t slap his face and leap away when he kept stroking my leg or pushing his luck. I might have felt uncomfortable, but I tolerated it.
As we women do.