As a woman who now and again delves into the world of online dating, I have endured my fair share of Craigslist creepiness. There were the men who responded to my ad with emails containing pictures of their naked butt cheeks. There were the men who made strange promises to “have a bath waiting” for me when I arrived home at the end of each long day. There was even the guy who composed an odd and ungrammatical poem that included the lines, “I can be this man, whash (sic) the plate and my girl cook.”/I can be this man, make the laundry with my girl.”
As you can see, these shaky attempts at an introduction run the gamut–some are gross, some are disturbing, some are downright unintelligible. But still, they are all minor, MINOR turnoffs, true non-offenses when compared to the most recent infraction committed by one of the men of CL.
I came across his ad the other day as I browsed the m4w offerings. Amongst the headlines from men offering to pay young co-eds’ tuition in exchange for “discreet” interactions and those from married men looking for a quiet “something on the side,” I caught a glimpse of some text that looked strangely familiar. I clicked on the link and saw this:
‘Music stores cited as probable cause of bay area man’s lack of LTR’
Immediately, I recognized this faux newspaper headline as my own work, crafted for an ad I had posted nearly two years prior. Here is that headline:
‘bookstore cited as possible source of area woman’s lack of LTR.’
As you can see, the two headlines are nearly an exact match, with certain words changed to reflect the poser’s–excuse me–the poster’s sex and pastime preferences. Being the trusting gal I am, though, my first thought was, ‘How funny–could this man and I have such similar thought processes that we would write nearly identical headlines for our respective ads?’ One sentence into reading his ad, my answer to that question was, “Oh, helllll no!”
Naturally, a comparison is in order. My ad (still saved in my inbox thanks to gmail’s seemingly endless available memory):
‘Authorities have confirmed that a lack of dating opportunities is indeed the cause of a local woman’s current single status. Like many others her age, the area woman has found that she doesn’t often have the opportunity to meet new people, despite the fact that she describes herself as “funny and very social.” In further commenting on her plight, the woman explained, “I have a group of friends whom I’m quite close with. And when my friends and I hang out, we go to the movies or out for dinner or a drink; we’re not out there trollin’ for honeys on a dance floor somewhere.”’
‘Authorities are now thinking that a lack of dating opportunities is indeed the cause of a local Berkeley man’s current single status. Like many others his age, the area man has found he doesn’t often have the opportunity to meet new people, despite the fact that he describes himself as “friendly, very smart, attractive, funny and social.” In further commenting on his plight, the man explained, “I have a group of friends I’m close with. But when my friends and I hang out, we go to see music or out for dinner or a drink; we’re not out there trollin’ for honeys on a dance floor somewhere.”’
As with the headline, the text of his ad is nearly word for word the same as mine, right down to the unusual phrasing, “trollin’ for honeys on a dance floor somewhere.” What nerve! I mean, it’s bad enough to steal my ideas, but to pass off “trollin’ for honeys” as his own??!! The man hasn’t an ounce of shame!
He continues with his ripoff, trading his information where mine originally was, while being careful to keep my phrasing–my voice, even–intact. Once again, my ad:
‘The woman has also been spotted at Amoeba Records, searching the ‘used’ bins for great deals. “Yeah, I’ve seen her here,” said an Amoeba employee Saturday. “She’s cute—brown hair…kinda curlyish, glasses, pettite; I’d ask her out, but I’m only 20, and I hear she’s 32,” he added, wistfully.’
‘The man has also been spotted at Amoeba Records, searching the ‘used’ bins for great deals. “Yeah, I’ve seen him here, usually in the classical, jazz and folk sections” said an Amoeba employee Saturday. “He’s cute, too — brown hair, fit, great blue eyes – looks a little like John Stewart. He’s always very well-mannered when he asks for help; I’d ask him out, but I’m only 26, and I hear he’s 38,” she added, wistfully.’
Because he posted a picture with his ad, a picture which I saw when I clicked the headline to view the text of his missive, I feel that I can make an informed interjection here: the man looks nothing at all like John Stewart. What is much worse, though, is that he clearly lacks the wit, originality, and guts of John Stewart, choosing instead to take someone else’s carefully-crafted phrasing and pass it off as his own.
I ended my ad with a quote, hoping to keep in the style of a newspaper article. Here’s how I wrapped things up:
‘Asked what her next move might be in her attempts to find a funny, smart, and interesting guy to hang out with, the woman remarked, “Well, I’m thinking about dressin’ like a hussy on my next trip to Green Apple. If that doesn’t work, I’ll give Craigslist a try.”’
Because he is a complete loser without an ounce of creativity in his barely-functioning brain, he also used my ending:
‘Asked what his next move might be in his attempts to find a funny, smart, and interesting woman to hang out with, the man remarked, “Well, I’m thinking about dressin’ like a male model on my next trip to Rasputin – I’ve been getting some ideas from “Zoolander”. If that doesn’t work, I’ll give Craigslist a try.”’
But then afterwards he totally kills both the rhythm (ironic for someone who fancies himself a musician) and the style of the ad by straying from it’s “fake newspaper article” voice and clunking along to end his piece with a bunch of “listy” personal ad info.:
‘The man describes his ideal date as being a SWF, between the ages of 28 and 38, someone who takes care of their body inside and out, politically liberal leaning (he apparently has a dart board with a Bush/Cheney photo on it), not overly religious. He admits to being a sucker for pretty eyes and a nice smile, and thus local sources are saying he highly prefers women that send a picture.’
I mean, I’m not sure what pisses me off more–that this guy completely plagiarized my writing in order to portray himself as someone witty and creative, or that he failed to even understand the way the ad was written in the first place by having the usual personal ad particulars (physical description of poster and desired qualities of potential mates) weaved in through the use of fake quotes and narrated information, with the intended effect of preserving the “news article” tone of the text. This man is both a cheat and a dumbass! Both of these qualities infuriate me!
Now, I know they say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” but to me imitation is just a sign of a serious dearth of creativity on the part of the imitator. In this case, the imitation is particularly revolting to me because the imitator is, in my view, being disingenuous with potential dates right from the get-go: by portraying himself as something he is clearly not–that is, someone who is witty and creative–he is no better than the scores of men who are hoping to find a “discreet relationship” that will take place outside of their marriage.
I realize that a lot of people will question my comparison and ultimately conclude that it is a far greater crime to cheat on one’s spouse than to plagiarize one’s personals ad, and I suppose they are right. But words and syntax mean a lot to me, especially when they are my words and syntax, and so it feels like a deep violation to see them used (and tweaked so very poorly) as though they belong entirely to someone else. What’s more, in a marriage as in the search for a partner, we are called on to exhibit honesty and transparency, not deception or the act of posing as something we are not. In an age when we rely more and more on faceless communication for our first interactions with others, what hope do we have of ever making a real connection with someone if we can’t even trust that person’s word this early in the game–at the meeting stage–when so little is at stake?
I don’t mean to sound so fatalistic, but I also can’t deny that if I see my words coming from someone else’s ad again, I may have to swear off dating altogether…but not before I ridicule the imitation’s obvious inferiority to that which it seeks to imitate.