I really need some advice, Dr. Bill. I started dating guys I met on the Internet a few months ago, and more often than not that guy who walks into the bar or coffee shop looks a little -- and sometimes a LOT -- different from the photograph[s] they've posted. I try to be kind and tactful but I really find it annoying, even offensive. How do they expect to get away with it? Should I say something to these guys directly? Should I just walk out and/or pretend I don't know them? How would you handle it? Frustrated in Boston.
Well, there's a good reason why I prefer to meet the men I date in person in a bar, at a party, or some other social situation. I have been in just the situation you describe and it is never pleasant or easy. Here are some thoughts on guys who don't match their pictures.
1.) Some people photograph differently from the way they actually look. They're not trying to pull a fast one; it's something they can't control. Sometimes, happily, an attractive man is simply not "photogenic" and looks better in real life than in their photos, which is a happy surprise. Not so happy when it's the other way around.
2.) On Internet dating sites people naturally try to put their best face forward. Some make the mistake of using shots that are a little too flattering. [Maybe we should all use our Department of Motor Vehicle photos and our dates will all be happily surprised when they meet us. On second thought, if we all did that we'd never get dates.] Some men don't have a great "sense of self" [or are delusional] and they don't realize they're sending an inaccurate impression of themselves. Some people don't update their photos for years because they honestly don't believe they've changed [and boy are they wrong!] That's fine for DMV photos, but not for dating sites.
3.) Then we have people who are [dis]honestly perpetrating fraud. They know perfectly well they look nothing like their photo. Oh, sure, you can recognize them, but they've put on fifty pounds, gone gray, shaved the beard, gone bald etc. etc. I believe you've fallen victim to these jokers.
Guys post old photographs for the simple reason that they feel no one will contact them if they don't. They figure most of us are too polite to say anything when they show up looking ten years older and fifty pounds fatter. They're convinced that they're so nice, so witty, so sexy [hot in bed without being hot-looking] that once we meet them in the flesh we'll completely overlook their flaws and even hop into the sack with them that very night. Of course they're dead wrong. They're almost a kind of predator, frankly.
How should you handle it? Do what I do. I have a drink or two and if the conversation flows, if I'm having fun, I figure at least it will be a pleasant enough evening, if not a sexy one, and I may stay awhile (but never too long). If the conversation doesn't flow and I'm bored I finish my drink quickly and I'm out of there. I can't worry about hurt feelings. They created the whole false situation in the first place, not me.
While thank goodness I've never been in this situation, if a guy shows up who looks nothing like his photo -- I mean you really have trouble figuring out who he is and wondering where he came from -- say good-night quickly. Even if you come to realize that it's the right person [but the change is so dramatic, say a thin guy of thirty now looking like an obese man of sixty] you have an absolute right to walk out. And if it's a completely different person, say the roommate of the guy you wanted to date, you also have an absolute right to walk out. Go, go, go, baby.
These guys are just wasting your time and mine and even their own. The thing is, nowadays people go for all kinds of types, including the follically challenged [like me], the morbidly obese [whom I see being cruised all the time], anything and everyone. We can feel sorry for fellows like these who post seriously out-dated and misleading photographs, but we also have a right to date the person we see on the web site, not a "bizarro duplicate" [like out of the Superman comics].
We can't all be young, slender, pretty boys, so we should just be ourselves, eh?