Dearest Rachel –

Well, if it’s here at church, no one’s seen it. So tonight, I bought myself a replacement Grief Share workbook. The few bucks spent on it are of little concern, but I’m none too thrilled about losing four weeks of notes. Still, this ought to guarantee that the old one shows up shortly.

The group was smaller than usual tonight last night, and several of the others were commenting about how quiet the campus was; I guess I’m the only one who knows the schedule for Sparks and Awana, and the fact that they were off for “Indigenous People’s Day.”

Speaking of that, I read an article yesterday about the definition of ‘indigenous,’ and how that means something to do with living where you were born – more specifically, “produced, living, or existing naturally in a particular region or environment.” So, you were indigenous to Macomb, while Daniel and I am indigenous to the suburbs we are currently living in. When you come down to it, we are all indigenous to somewhere, so this newly named holiday is for all of us. It’s a nice thought to keep in mind, allowing us to thumb our noses at the folks who insist that we should feel guilty about celebrating – or, for that matter, living on this allegedly stolen land.

Wow. Barely two hundred words in, and already I’m going way off tangent. It’s going to be one of those days. At least I don’t have an editor to scream at me for meandering all over the place like this.

For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t say I didn’t get much out of this evening‘s session, but a great deal of the topics covered, I either have had brought to my attention since your departure, or I’ve otherwise dealt with already. It was basically about how other people deal with the loss – and with me, and how these relationships will be affected by this new dynamic. For some, Daniel and I are unpleasant reminders that you’re gone. For others, there’s a difficulty in seeing me (for example) as an individual rather than half of a couple

To be fair, I’m still working on that one myself. It’s not like I can replace you like I can a missing workbook, after all.

Not that there haven’t been attempts; indeed, one of the reasons I didn’t get that much out of last night’s session was because I’ve been (and, more to the point, was being) contacted by two more prospective candidates, as it were – and they would not. stop. texting. I don’t like the thought of comparing the dating field to a job interview, but in a way, that’s a more apt comparison than you’d expect. And some people are apparently more desperate for the job than others.

At the same time, it seems like the more desperate they are, the more likely they are to, if I may extend the metaphor a little bit further, pad their resumes. I’d go on at length about the two that have been texting me, but for all their verbiage, I doubt that either of them are even worth giving a pseudonym to. So I will refer to them by their initials, “T” and “A.”

Make of those initials what you will.

“T” was first, contacting me with a generic ‘mingler’ profile (as opposed to one with the handle and a collection of pictures). She sent a photo, to which I reciprocated, and we swapped cell numbers. Shortly after after we started texting, her ‘mingler’ account was converted to an actual profile with photos and a handle. Except the photos didn’t much look like the one she had sent me. Red flag number one. At this point, I checked her area code, and, rather than being in Chicago, she was supposedly based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Red flag number two, although that’s got a little wiggle room; cell phones by their very nature allow one to move about the country. Call it red flag number one-and-a-half… or maybe, pink flag number one? It’s a light red, as Donut would say.

Image - Donut S4 Bio.png - Red vs. Blue Wiki, The ...

Her texts were dense and verbose and completely lacking in punctuation – you would have been absolutely appalled. Not only that, but she was talking about being loyal and honest, and ‘are you willing to have a serious relationship’ – I could hardly count the number of times she used the word ‘serious’ in her texts. I don’t think I have a lot of turn offs, but this hyper-aggressive approach was already starting to get under my skin.

What finally did it for me was when she demanded that I delete my account on this and any other dating app I might be using, so I could focus my attention only on her. Indeed, at this point, she had deleted her profile, presumably to show how ‘serious’ she was.

Ma’am, I just met you (and vice versa, by the way), and I get the feeling I’m never going to meet you in person. Why on earth should I give into your demands? Red flag number three, strike three, you’re out.

I’m not one for burning bridges, or even blocking people from contacting me. But at this point, she was so pushy that I had to call her out; I let her know I could see where her phone was located, at which point she owned up to the fact that no, she wasn’t anywhere near Chicago after all. In fact, she wasn’t even in the Western Hemisphere. She was in Portugal, allegedly visiting her stepmother, since her father had passed away.

I don’t know if she was aiming for sympathy – I offered perfunctory condolences at this point – but for all her protestations about ‘not playing games,’ this was an interesting little game she’d been playing. Her last text thus far even included the phrase “I am real.” Pro tip: if you feel you have to say that, know that your cause is lost. Like with the Streisand effect, no one’s going to believe you.

Similarly, “A” also contacted me out of the blue, although she at least had (and still has, at this present moment) an actual profile. Don’t know how long that’s likely to last, though… and I’ll explain as I go along.

After swapping phone numbers, I checked the area code as I have now learned to do and discovered it was coming from west central Pennsylvania. Again, not a serious red flag necessarily, but her profile indicated she grew up in Addison, and was now living in Wheaton. At least Erin has the excuse of having lived in Wisconsin for a considerable length of time to have a phone number with a Wisconsin area code. Once again, something is not passing the smell test.

And her texts! The bubble is twice the length of my phone – and I know I don’t have the latest phone with the biggest screen, but seriously, there is no phone that could’ve held any of her messages on a single screen. At least she used punctuation, though. She spoke of being the daughter of a British father and American mother, as well as having been seven years widowed as of this month (again, I offered perfunctory condolences – what else can you say to that?). She also spoke of an active lifestyle, as well as being into into various sports, both participatory and spectator. But when she mentioned being into ‘American Football,’ up went my guard. No one on this side of the pond calls it that, European parentage be hanged.

I did find a subtle way to potentially call her out, though. Since her profile indicated that she had two college age sons, I asked if either of them attended the college located in the town she was (allegedly) living in, mentioning that my brother-in-law works there. I expect that she’s either going to step into a trap, or I’m not going to hear from her again. Either way, probably another bullet dodged.

And I admit now that I’ve wandered away from the title of this letter, since I’m obviously not finding any replacements for you anytime soon (not that I ever truly would or will), but these are the stories of my life these days. Additionally, I guess I’ve come up with a few helpful rules regarding the whole process:

  • Giving out your phone number is fine; just be aware that you can be reached (and alerted) at any time. Remember to put your phone on silent overnight, and if it gets to be too much, you can always bring up either a possible offputting quality of your own, or raise an issue about a discrepancy in their profile. And about that…
  • Take screenshots of their profile once you start communicating; you never know if and when they will take them down, and you need to keep their stories straight.
  • Pay attention to the area code of their cell number. It shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but if it’s from somewhere other than where they claim to be from, proceed with caution.
  • Anyone who talks about wanting someone who ‘doesn’t play games,’ is probably playing games. It’s just like with people who claim to hate drama that are basically the biggest drama queens around. It’s not one of the Rules of the Internet, but it should be: Don’t Feed the Trolls.
  • And similarly to that last rule, be wary of those who talk too much about how God is so important to them. Those who truly walk the walk (like my folks) don’t need to talk the talk. Basically, these last two rules can be summarized by Shakespeare’s Gertrude: if “the lady doth protest too much, methinks” you’d better give her a wide berth.

These probably need to be tweaked to be pithier and funnier than they are, but they will have to stand as they are for now, lest I lose my train of thought. I’ve already gotten derailed what? Two, three times already?

I’ll talk to you later, honey. Thanks as always for listening.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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