I had a date several years ago with someone I had met on an online dating site. He was handsome, witty, and intelligent—the trifecta in my book—so we decided to meet for brunch. (As a side note, I generally prefer to have a cocktail with someone on a first date, and that’s what I advise my clients, but, if we’re being honest here, I couldn’t resist the bacon biscuits… don’t tell my rabbi.)
When I walked in, I found my date immediately. He looked like his photos… so far, so good! (It’s a low bar, I know.) He stood up to greet me, but when he was standing, I noticed that he and I were looking directly into each other’s eyes. I’m only 5’1, and height is actually not something that I care about when searching for a partner. But, it wasn’t his height that bothered me… it was the fact that he had lied about it.
Most people would secretly judge the guy for lying and pretend like it didn’t happen… until they tell their friends later. I’m not most people. Given that I’m the honest (blunt?) person that I am, I blurted out, “You’re not 5’7!” He replied, “Well, I’m 5’5.” The next thing out of my mouth was, “Okay, you’re not 5’5 either, but why would you lie?” It’s not like I wasn’t going to find out!
Giving him the benefit of the doubt (remember, there’s bacon involved…), I stayed to have a surprisingly nice banter with him. At one point in the conversation when we were discussing our families, I innocently asked if he had any children of his own since I knew he had been married before. Before he responded, he awkwardly looked at me and said, “I have something I have to tell you.” That’s never a good sign. He then proceeded to tell me that, instead of the 39 years old he listed on the dating site, he was actually… wait for it… 45. He told me this because he has a 19-year-old son, and he figured I might be suspicious.
He had lied by six years, which is not a small number, presumably to get dates with women in their early 30s, as I was. Perhaps he hadn’t been caught before, or perhaps no one was as up front about her distaste for liars as I was, but he sat there with his tail between his legs while I kindly but firmly told him that he was wasting my time.
Earlier this year, the New York Times featured a story about a lovely-looking couple in the wedding section titled “Stretching the Truth to Find Love Online.” The article commented on how the groom, 5’5, had fudged his height to 5’8 to get more profile views. While I can’t agree with it, I, of course, am not blind to his rationale. Women often make an arbitrary cut-off of anything below 5’8… or 5’10… or 6’2. For men’s sake, I wish that being tall wasn’t equated with being attractive for so many. Would I be tempted to lie if I there were something about me that I knew many men weren’t inclined to go for? I’d be, well, lying if I said no. But, that doesn’t make it right.
People lie for all different reasons: they want to date younger or older, they have an aspirational weight that they like to believe they are, they want to appear more financially successful. When it comes down to it, the main reason people lie is a lack of confidence. If you’re 100% confident in who you are, then there’s no need to lie to get the date. You may go on fewer dates being the real you, but at least you’ll know that you haven’t hidden anything. Everyone has that “thing” that holds them back or is perceived as a red flag to others: height, weight, age, religion, race, level of education, etc. I would have encouraged the groom in the article to write to anyone he wanted, even if her height minimum was taller than his stature, but to be up front about it. He was trying to come up in people’s searches, when a lot of the success in online dating actually comes from who you pursue.
Here’s the thing: People prefer to cite a one-off story like the one of this couple and use it as a precedent to condone lying—and do it themselves—rather than the hundreds of stories like mine where the lie, or lies, far outweigh the desire to see the person behind the lies. A male client who I found out was lying about his age online—subtracting five years from his age of 67—rationalized his behavior by saying, “Everyone lies.” First, that’s not true. Second, if everyone went around robbing banks, does that give you the go-ahead to rob a bank, too? I don’t need to answer that.
I’m thrilled that things worked out for this couple. In the end, though, lying, especially about something that will become apparent the minute someone meets you, generally only bites you in the behind. While you and your date may get along, you got the date under false pretenses, and he or she may be wondering what else you lied about. And we know most people are us online stalking us anyway, so it’s best to stick to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.