Friday, August 9, 2013

Dating: Safety First! How to Scam-Proof Yourself

With on-line and international dating becoming a fairly common practice, and most people having their private information easily accessible on online social networks, it is becoming easier to be scammed. Aside from a few pictures, a self-description and a few written conversations, how much can you really trust someone you only know in the virtual world?

Because you don’t know who they are or what their real intentions might be, always make safe choices that protect yourself and prevent someone you don’t know from becoming your responsibility or a liability. 

Until you have met, gotten to know and developed trust over time with someone, they are a STRANGER. Always keep that in mind so that you don't give them more trust than they have earned.

NEVER: Agree to meet someone who won’t talk with you on the phone before you meet them. If they claim to not have a phone they can certainly borrow a friend or family members, or go buy a cheap one. If they claim to have lost or broken theirs, say you’ll wait for them to get a replacement and then have your conversation. Don’t accept collect calls. That’s a really tacky way to start off getting to know someone and should raise a bunch of red flags about their stability and tendency to be a leech.  

NEVER: Share personal information with someone you’re just meeting. Information like your driver’s license number, social security number, bank account information, life insurance information are none of their business. If they ask about those things, you should be suspicious! 

NEVER: Give in to their sob story and wire them money. There a lots of programs out there to help people who need financial help. You can point them in the direction of one of those websites and tell them you’ll offer them moral support. If they make no attempt to help themselves, they’re just looking to use you. You want to find someone who will become your partner, not your dependent right?  

NEVER: Let someone know exactly where you live until AFTER you have met them and have gotten to know and trust them. If it doesn’t work out with them, you don’t want them following you home anyway.

NEVER: Agree to pay for someone’s plane/bus/taxi fare if they are coming to meet you. They might take your money and you’ll never hear from them again.

NEVER: Agree to let someone pay to fly or taxi you out to meet them. You will be utterly at their mercy. You should never meet someone where you both know they have the upper hand.

NEVER: Agree to let someone stay at your house or plan to stay at their house. They could seriously injure, rape, rob or kill you.

NEVER: Agree to do sexual acts with each other. You don’t know if they are sane, safe or healthy.

NEVER: Agree to meet anyone for the first time if either of you have children with you. They are after all, still a stranger. Stranger danger…remember?

NEVER: Agree to meet anyone for the first time at a hotel, apartment, house or secluded location. They may be a sick, demented psycho path. 

NEVER: Let someone talk you into agreeing to do an activity you don’t feel is safe or that requires a trusting relationship. Sky diving, deep sea scuba diving, and private plane rides are excellent third or fourth date plans. THIS is just a first “meet”. Remember the distinction. 

There are many ways to do background searches on people to find out if they have a prior history of inappropriate behavior or criminal activity. You can often just run a Google search on their full name and find out at least if anyone online has posted a complaint about them.

The point of meeting someone online is to bring together like-minded, similar intentioned people for their mutual benefit. If at any point you ever feel like things are too strange, the person's story doesn't add up, or your gut/ intuition tells you things aren't right, bail! Get out of the situation, cut off contact and tell the person you're not interested in any further contact. If you don't think they will like being told you don't want to talk to them anymore, simply ignore all their calls and messages. They should eventually get the hint.

If you feel they aren't respecting your wish to stop communicating, many sites offer you the ability to "block" a specific person's messages, many phones allow you to "block" phone numbers. If it comes down to it, you can file a police report of harassment and /or stalking behavior. This will allow you to file a restraining order against the person and have on record that they have a history of bothering you.

If you're looking for a movie that covers one possible "worst case scenario" of "What could possibly go wrong?", Check out Birthday Girl.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dating: Call Me Maybe? Yes Definitely!

So you’ve found the profile of someone who catches your attention. You’ve been exchanging emails and you’re getting excited to meet them in person. But before you dare set that day and time to meet at a coffee shop or arcade, you should get off the computer and on the phone with them first.

Talking with someone on the phone before you meet them in person will tell you some pretty valuable things. And the more information you have about someone, the greater your chances are of being compatible and being a good match. So if all your communication at this point as been in writing, let them know you'd like a short phone conversation. Pick a time and location (not at work or in the middle of a loud music concert) where you'll have little interference, at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted conversation and a good phone connection. You will both save yourselves a lot of trouble by finding out early on all of this:

1. They are a real person and are likely who their profile says they are. It’s pretty easy to fake a profile and write messages pretending to be someone you are not. It’s much more difficult to disguise your gender, average age, primary language fluency and general education level when you actually speak to someone. Their profile may say they are a petite blonde female in their early 20’s, but if over the phone they sound like either a middle-aged chain smoker or a man, you might want to think twice about meeting them. 

2.You have something to talk about.  If you think it would be awkward to meet up with someone and discover you are absolutely not attracted to them, image how much worse if would be to discover you also have absolutely nothing to say to each other. It’s easy to like the way someone looks, but that is just a small part of forming some kind of relationship. You also need to have enough common interests and share enough ideas and opinions that you can enjoy each others company. Conversation is key to a healthy and lasting relationship. Even if you have a short fling, you still have to be able to talk to each other.  

3. Testing out the personality chemistry. It’s entirely possible to be attracted to someone's voice and see if you have a spark over the phone. You won’t know for sure if it’s a real connection until you interact in person, but you can still get a better idea over the phone if you’re both playful, sarcastic, open minded or talkative people. If it feels like you have no chemistry over the phone or they give short, one word answers, there is a good chance conversation in person is going to be stilted and uncomfortable too.  You might decide that meeting in person would be pointless.
    4. Ask and answer those tough questions you didn’t talk about in writing. This is the time to find out if they don’t have a car because they lost their driver’s license from having too many DUIs. Or clarify what “I got a job” really means as the answer to the question: “What is your occupation?” It’s an opportunity to ask questions and see if they give a long pause before they answer, sound embarrassed or are very quick to become defensive when you ask something you absolutely should know before you meet in person. Such as if they have a criminal record or a spouse and kids at home. Be fair though. If they answer your questions, pony up and answer theirs as well. If you lied about your height, age, weight, sexual orientation or income on your profile, this is your last chance to come clean before they meet you in person and then reject you forever because you lied to them. 

    5. Confirm what are your (and their) intentions for the meet. If you've read some of my other articles, you know that I don’t think you can date someone you’ve never met in person. So if you’ve been set up on a “blind date” by good intentioned friends and family or you’re meeting someone off an online dating site, the very first time you shake hands face to face, is technically a “meet” and not a “date”. IF after you’ve met in person and you’ve decided you want to get together again, (even later that same night) it THEN becomes a date. You can’t after all, know if you want any future contact with someone you’ve never seen in person.

    Over the phone, BEFORE you find out what kind of handshake they have, is a great time to confirm that you’re just checking each other out, testing the chemistry and will decide how to proceed only AFTER that happens. You NEVER want to commit to doing anything with someone you couldn’t pick out of a police line-up. Even if you love each others pictures, have been emailing, texting, instant messaging, Skyping and flirting for months…you *cannot* agree to ANYTHING until you size each other up in person.     

    So there you have it. If they won't take your call, don't take them out. Better to have to block them on your phone if they turn out to be crazy, than to have to figure out how to get out of a really awkward (or dangerous!) dating situation in person. 

    But don't let the potential of a phone call being weird or uncomfortable change your mind about online dating. There are people who find long term relationships and the love of their lives this way, pretty much every day. 

    Who knows, maybe someday meeting people to date in the grocery store or the gym will seem odd, and reading someone's stats online before you date will become the new norm. Maybe. But either way, call them definitely!

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    American Apparel: Selling Teen Sex in Ugly Clothing

    I can’t stand it anymore. I must speak out against the atrocity this company is committing. This “apparel manufacturer” has been a fashion train wreck for years and I cannot stand idly by any longer.  

    I’m not even able to turn a blind eye to them because their ugly ads have been stubbornly cropping up on the dating sites I visit and in the borders of various other sites I frequent.

    I remember the first time I saw their unkempt teenage model striking an odd pose wearing something I mistook for part of a Halloween costume.

    Upon realizing that they were in fact advertising every-day clothing, I shook my head in disgust certain such terrible styles couldn’t take hold in an industry with dozens of televised and internet supported programs giving people (some who appear to be wearing American Apparel) desperately needed make overs.  

    And yet the company seems to be obstinately scratching out a name for themselves, and it’s not one I’d be proud of.

    The badly photographed, awkwardly posed models wear some of the ugliest clothing (rather, parts of clothing) that have been cranked out of a factory since the 1970’s.

    While I applaud their manufacturing clothes in America using American workers (at least, I am assuming they are) they seem to be entirely designed to manufacture crappy scraps for barely legal girls to prostrate themselves in front of the camera.

                                            What is with all the soft porn photos with prison bait?

    So they’re not using sweatshops with underpaid overseas labor. That doesn’t mean they need to exchange one crime for another.

    It’s like the photographers are getting their kicks off having teenage girls pose in the most provocative poses they can think of, while somehow still managing to make them look like bad auditions for armature porn.

    Seriously. The photography is terrible. A mentally disabled person with a disposable camera could take better pictures while sleep walking.  

    The camera flash shows up in some photos, many of the angles are whack. And in some cases portions of the photographers also are featured in the pictures.

    They look like more creepy Myspace shots which catch pedophile uncles taking indecent photos of their underage nieces while the rest of the family is away.  

    As for the fit, cut and fabric choices of their (dare we call them?) designers, they're grossly conceived. It’s almost like someone decided to create a line of clothing that violates every last “What Not To Wear” suggestion. And then some.  

    The clothing is not even flattering on the models, most of which are very young and slim females. How on earth could any of this clothing be flattering to a larger person or a less proportioned one, if it’s doesn’t even look good on the models??

    American Apparel seems to be intent on having everyone dress in the most ugly, tight and unflattering clothing known to man.

    Honestly, who in their right mind would wear any of this???

    None of their models seems to own a bra. Or pants for that matter. At least, not at the same time.
    Who needs Playboy or Hustler around when you have American Apparel you can browse through and see all the elicit photos you used to need a paid membership to view?

    Last time I checked, clothing is supposed to cover your body. And hopefully in flattering and functional ways. American Apparel does neither.

    The clothes tug in the wrong places, fail to cover in other areas and likewise fail to make the wearer seem anything but trampy, cheap and immature.

     If the models happen to be wearing something high-waisted and creeping up their crotch that might be called “shorts” or skin tight, high-waisted and vaguely resembling pants, they absolutely forgot their shirt. And the only time the girls wear underwear, is when they are missing pants and their shirts are unbuttoned. It’s so confusing.

    They wear bras and panties in the swimming pool and swim suits in the shower.

    What’s more, the designers are obsessed with body suits, leotards, gymnastic inspired suits, mom jeans, thigh high socks and striped cable knit sweaters. Yuck! Those are always a bad idea!

    Nothing matches. Nothing fits. Nothing looks good. Just more repeat renditions of the same late 1980’s rejected styles and a few early 1990’s attempts that were quickly (and very sensibly) overruled.

    Their models don’t seem to know how to apply make-up or tweezer their eyebrows. But then they really can’t be blamed became most of them don’t seem to be out of Middle School yet.

    But surely someone would think (eventually?) to hire a hair and makeup stylist. Or perhaps, the only way the company can afford to pay their employees minimum wage is to skimp on their advertising budget.

    But with an operating income of $19.03 million dollars (as of 2010) you think they could manage to look more professional than a bunch of pre-teens taking Myspace pictures. 

    If they’re making all this money, why is it they can’t hire a photographer who’s ever taken a photography class? And why can’t they afford to find a set that doesn’t include exposed outlet wires, cheesy backgrounds and cheap props?

     If they are trying to look ordinary and assessable to the “average” person, they missed their mark horribly.

    They seem to have this check off list for their ads: 1. Awkward poses? Check! 2. Gratuitous partial nudity of what appear to be minors? Check! 3. Crotch in your face? Check! 

    4. Clothing that no one with any self-respect would wear? Check! 5. Bad angles and poor lighting? Check! 6. Overtly sexual and suggestive content? Check! 7. Shock factor? Check!

    8. Exploiting parts of the body formerly considered “private”? Check! 9. Violation of
    everything pure and wholesome? Check!

    The company claims to be all about “ethical manufacturing”, and yet their clothing violates at least a dozen good fashion rules. I’ve determined that their goal is to recycle all the unwanted fabrics America sold foreign countries back in the 80’s and early 90’s.

    I cannot decide what is more disturbing. The photographs themselves or the hideous clothing on the models who don’t EVER seem to have natural poses.

    Crotches and butts. Bottoms and boobs.

     More bottoms and crotches. They’re not even showing clothing at this point.

    And I am far from the first person to point it out.

    American Apparel Ads Banned in the UK

    American Apparel seems to have absolutely no concept of what is inappropriate, what is fashionable, or when they have crossed lines that should NEVER be crossed when selling anything that minors shop for.   (be careful with this link…when I clicked on something on my page, my browser exploded with explicit page, after page, of noisy, creepy virus laden crap. And now I need to get some computer STD help, much like the shoppers of American Apparel probably need on a regular basis.

    I am normally an advocate of free speech. I even support the use of some porn. But I have to admit that this company takes it into dangerously uncomfortable territory.

    If cigarettes, pot and alcohol are considered “gateway drugs” I would suggest that American Apparel sells “gateway lewdness” to minors. 

    Their target consumers, (as with most new “trendy” and inexpensive clothing manufacturers) are between the ages of 13 and 25. American Apparel is promoting with their ads: irresponsible sexuality, sexualizing obesity, sexualizing minors, promoting sloppy tacky personal style and glorifying exhibitionism and promiscuity. I won’t even go near the blatant homosexuality aspect.   

    For once, I’m going to suggest that the Conservative Christian community (or anyone who still has a shred of morals and family values) needs to be unleashed to do some much needed damage control on this segment of the fashion industry.
    Young, hormonal American teens have already got sex on their minds way too much. And American Apparel is one black transparent mesh bodysuit away from openly promoting pre-teen sex, teenage pregnancy and rape.   

    And that's definitely something no one should ever turn a blind eye to.  

    (Note: All photographs in this article were collected either off American Apparel's own website or through a Goggle search for American Apparel Ads.)