True Stories: Casual Encounters of the Third Kind

On finding love where you least expect it.

By Rebecca Ende

When you walk into a bar to meet a stranger you've propositioned through the now infamous Casual Encounters section of Craigslist, you expect to get, well, something casual. But after six hours of conversation, I had a hunch I had stumbled into something else.

Backing up, you might wonder what someone like me — an interesting, not crazy, mid-twenties professional — was doing in Casual Encounters in the first place. The answer was that I'd decided to keep my dating life on one side and move my sex life over to the other side. After a string of dating scenarios that all ended in complications or fizzled out after the point where one drink led to another drink, led to skirts getting pushed up over hips in the heat of the moment, I thought it would make things easier. If I could have casual hook-ups from which I could remain completely emotionally detached, then I might be able to date without rushing to sex. I could really get to know someone without being tempted to jump into bed.

Sexy e-mail exchanges and photo swaps led to a series of awkward, markedly un-sexy encounters.

That was the theory, anyway, and it seemed simple as I reeled in responses from my ad. As one of a few real live girls looking for a casual encounter, I had my pick of the hook-up litter. But sexy e-mail exchanges and photo swaps led to a series of awkward, markedly un-sexy encounters. I met up with a sad man who wasn't over his ex-girlfriend, a stoned boy with overgrown hands and no idea where to put them, and a too-good-to-be-true army pilot who was indeed too good to be true. He lied about his age, education, sexual history, address — in short, everything. When I met these people in person, no matter how engaging our online flirtations had been, the reality never measured up to the fantasy we had created. No one was who they claimed to be, because with a few artful photos and carefully scripted e-mails, it was too easy to be whoever you wanted.

But after all that, I still couldn't seem to let the experiment go. Opening my inbox to twenty new e-mails from men who all wanted me was too much of a rush, even if it was a virtual one. I'd been sucked into the weird world that is the Casual Encounters section.

When I got an email from a Scotsman seeking his Ph. D., who only had a few months left in town, I was skeptical but interested. He seemed different; he sent e-mails full of three-syllable words and void of indiscreet pictures. And he was in no rush get together, which made me even more eager, though after my numerous false starts, I wasn't sure I wanted to have an actual casual encounter with him. Mostly, I wanted to understand how and why people did this: were they looking for the same thing I was? Could sex ever be so simple? Was anyone telling the truth about themselves?

I finally met him at a back table in a deserted bar one Tuesday night. When he opened his mouth and no Scottish accent came out, being that he was originally Canadian, I was a bit disappointed. When he informed me that he didn't really drink, sipping on his Coke, I wasn't sure why he had proposed we meet for a drink. But as we fumbled through the get-to-know-you questions, I realized he too was trying to figure out what other people were looking for, what I was looking for, what he was looking for.

Commentarium (27 Comments)

Jun 03 11 - 1:03am

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it... but I was fervently hoping for a happy ending. You disappointed me, Nerve.

Jun 03 11 - 1:58pm
Alex Heigl

I'd rather have bitter accuracy than the sweetest lie.

Jun 03 11 - 3:32pm

Hell may be other people, but it's also the absence of other people.
My heart hurts a little after reading this. I need to go hug my girlfriend.

Jun 03 11 - 3:45pm

Cheer up, Alex.

Jun 03 11 - 2:26am

"The months and weeks we'd spent together were a tiny island in his romantic history, while they were a continent in mine."

How beautiful.

Jun 03 11 - 2:40am

Such a sad ending, I'd say chase him.

Jun 08 11 - 5:51pm

I did that - it didn't work w/o the "expiration date" stamped on it. It became old and moldy.

Jun 03 11 - 3:07am

Very touching.

Jun 03 11 - 4:33am

Having been in a long distance relationship, good job not getting tangled up in one even if your heart was begging you to. They're a recipe for disaster.

Jun 03 11 - 4:52am

Apart from the Craigslist beginning, mine is a very similar experience.

Met a guy on holidays, we both knew the deal but after a few weeks, found the same happiness, domesticity and regret at the soon-to-be separation. When he left, we kept it open, stayed in touch and ended up evolving into a long distance relationship (we're talking continents and time zones apart). Long distance turned into visits and holidays turned into him moving to my country....

Maybe the writer's story with this man hasn't yet ended. But I definitely felt exactly the same way when we parted ways the first time round and expected to realistically never see him again.

Jun 05 11 - 9:12pm

That's exactly my relationship story! Glad it worked out for you... and for me and my foreign guy. :)

Jun 03 11 - 11:23am

I met my OH in the Casual Encounter section of Craigs!! 18 months later we're still together and first few months was pretty bumpy but we're getting there!!! I wasn't looking for it and I doubt he was either... but I am glad I did!

Jun 03 11 - 12:37pm
Mike Pringles

Who said you're interesting, Rebecca?

Jun 04 11 - 3:39am

Oh, go back to your basement.

Jun 04 11 - 4:25am

Certainly not the very misinformed someone who said you should speak, meat puppet. Sheesh. Jealousy is quite unbecoming, is it not?

Jun 04 11 - 12:01pm

as someone who knows the writer personally, i can assure you that she is far more interesting than you, mike. she's also more creative, runs faster, and looks better in a bathing suit. so there.

Jun 03 11 - 3:34pm

I loved this. All the sweeter for the sad ending...

Jun 04 11 - 10:55am

Interesting sounds like someone I met on Nerve. I don't think I will ever see her again...

Jun 05 11 - 12:12am


Jun 04 11 - 1:27pm

I love a goo tragedy, it makes my life so much less depressing...

Jul 26 11 - 4:59am


Jun 09 11 - 6:20pm

The sad stories are always most likely to be true

Jun 10 11 - 10:40pm

It is interesting that in "Casual Encounters" you picked someone who you were attractive to intelligently. It sounds as if there was instant chemistry but both parties were afraid to pull the verbal intimacy trigger. It is going to be hard to let this one go. And I can see how this totally changed your mind on not wanting to go back to Craiglist's Casual Encounter. I think people THINK this is what they want, but what they are looking for is something casual with the potential of turning into something real. Sounds like you had it for that brief time and it is sad that it has ended, but i can guarantee you this. That guy is having the exact same thoughts. He is thinking about you and you are not going to be so easy to just shake off and forget. (Yeah I know the article author isn't reading this, but, it is what I do believe, is the truth).

Jun 13 11 - 1:44pm

Actually, the author is reading these. For those of you who are curious, I never saw him again. From our brief correspondence post his return home, I was pretty easy for him to shake off once his American adventure was over. Though I had strong feelings for him at the time, with two years in the rearview mirror, I can see that we weren't really right for each other but it was a huge growth experience for me.

Nov 21 11 - 3:51am

Enlightening the world, one heflpul article at a time.

Nov 21 11 - 2:15pm

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