Men should come with warning labels

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There are men in this world that should come with a warning label. These men come in variations forms, but my personal favorite is the kind who is smart to appear sane through the witty anecdotes and half-truths he posts online.

Recently I met a man named Ben on who suckered me in. 28, single, in school for an elevated sounding degree, he was perfect, at least his description of himself was perfect. But Ben is a dangerous type of man. He's a witty, science nerd, terribly handsome, with a subtle hint of brokenness that gives him a mysterious air. He is a man who's got a sob story to tell and I'm a woman who likes a broken man I can fix.

But he won't hit you with the violins and fake tears yet. No, he flatters you and your charm and wonders why you're single. He tells you that there isn't any way he'd let a wonderful woman like you pass him by - if we lived in the same area. Yes, charmers like this always live at least a state away. But what does distance matter to true love.

He emails you daily, twice a day, three times a day until you're completely satisfied that he can't wait for the next morsel of information to leave your finger tips and fill his inbox. And once they've got you in like that is when they slip in the hints, the details, the shadows that create the mystery of a previous woman who left him devastated. You have to know more. You want to show him that not all women are like that.

Ben confessed to me one day, in a tone I thought sounded like it might have a blush to it, that he had been a virgin until he was 25. That she was his first love and that she had left him a week later for another man. I went several weeks loathing the mere mention of this woman's name. He liked bringing her up and did it often. He used her as a gauge for how he believed every woman would treat him.

But Ben wasn't providing me with useful information, nor was he confiding in me because he really felt like he could trust me. No. Ben wanted to wring out professions of praise and adoration from my all too willing fingers.

One such evening, Ben is feeling down and I can tell because he's not as witty or upbeat the way he usually is. I can't put my finger on it, but I know something's wrong. He returns to the story I'm familiar with, the story of the woman who wronged him. But now there are new details: Persistent emails to her after it's all over professing his love; calling her boyfriend 17 times in one night from a payphone, telling him that they were together, that she's going to leave him to come back to Ben; finding her friends and asking them about her; showing up to her psychology class and sitting in the back and watching her answer questions.

I offer what I think are the right responses in the right places. I suggest, later in the conversation, that perhaps he shouldn't be on a dating site if he isn't over her. He is astounded by this remark. It seems that even though he admits to pining for her, this translates to being over her. He says he hates her and he wishes he'd never met her. I ask politely why, then, there are still pictures of them together on his myspace account. He says he doesn't hate her and wishes she would look past the silly things he's done and just be friends with him. Friendship is all he wants, he says.

This is about the time I excuse myself from the online chat. I quickly log out of my email account. I know that tomorrow there will be emails from him apologizing, that he will want to return to how we were before - because even crazy people know when something's changed (sometimes). He will still want to meet me, and will still continue to court me via email until he realizes my silence isn't simply a product of being busy. I wonder if I will be the heart-breaker in the story he feeds the next online girl he wants to pity him. Either way, I've started checking my classes to make sure he's not sitting in the back, admiring how I answer questions.

That's my story (for now).


Jane Isaacs

(Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.)

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