What To Do When Your Online Dating Troll Sits Next To You On A 13-Hour Flight
I was boarding a 13-hour flight back to Shanghai, where I was living and working at the time, and all I wanted to do was put my headphones on, drink a glass of wine, and pass out with my mouth open.
As I headed back to my seat, the man next to me looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure from where. His muscular arms were undermined by flat lips — he looked like he lived solely off of crunchy, stale toast while angrily muttering about the weather. How do I know this man? I thought to myself.
As he opened his laptop, I recognized the little circular profile picture on the log-in screen. A version of him with a blue background and arms crossed in front to accentuate his muscles. A few months earlier, he had messaged me on an online dating site. I’d checked out his profile and seen he was from Hangzhou, China, which is kind of the Greenwich to New York. Considering how far away this city was, I didn’t respond.
Let’s just say he didn’t take this well.
“Don’t flatter yourself, you’re not that pretty anyway,” he wrote in response to my non-response.
Reading this, I was fuming. How dare he write that to a woman on the internet. What was wrong with him? Had he ever screamed this at someone in-person? Did he actually feel better after sending this message?
And now I was trapped 30,000 feet in the air next to this gutter filth for a 13-hour flight. Did he recognize me? We started chatting and he told me about his job and how he’d ended up in China. During his teen years, he’d moved from a rural town in the midwest to Thailand to learn Thai boxing. Now, he was a professional Thai boxer and made thousands of dollars a night competing in Shanghai as one of the few foreigners trained in the form. Great, I thought to myself, a professional boxer with anger management issues. On top of boxing, he was self-employed, traveling all over China finding the lowest price for hospital garments and then bulk selling them to hospitals in the U.S. He was a good looking guy, a self-starter with an interesting background. This would have piqued my interest if I didn’t already know from his online behavior that I hated him.