I sometimes do research for my writing. I try not to write a whole lot about things I don't know because I have a short attention span and am not always detail oriented. This means I may miss something or misstate something if I am not careful. Every now and then I do have to write about things I am completely unfamiliar with, though.
For instance, I needed to know everything I could about burner phones. Google unfortunately didn't answer all of my questions so I had to end up buying one for $40 to make sure my characters are only doing what the phone will allow.
Something else I did was a little more risky but had a huge payoff. I needed to know about Craig's List hookups for a screenplay I'm working on. Now I didn't actually hookup with anyone on Craig's List. I am very happily married and at my age the idea of a random hookup is laughable and kind of gross at the same time.
But I did post an ad.
First I had to set up a separate email address because I didn't want responses from Craig's List going into my work email or my personal email. This meant creating a new name and personal information. Once the email was set up, I had to create a Craig's List account with the new email and new persona. It took about 10 minutes, but only because I had trouble coming up with a name.
Then I posted the ad. It wasn't a nasty ad. No dirty talk, no curse words. I made myself youger in the ad because I don't think too many women my age would get a lot of responses, and the character is actually younger than me. In the ad, I said I was a bored housewife looking for no strings attached. That was it.
I didn't expect much. Maybe a few creeps, a few perverts, a few serial killers. I've heard of people meeting on Craig's List and falling in love but never believed it. The Craig's List Killer is what really seems to happen. And occasionally you'll hear about marriages suffering because one party meets someone trolling CL, so I guess you never know.
So I checked the fake email a little while later and was surprised to see 40 replies already. In the next 12 hours I had received nearly 400.
It was a little overwhelming. First, there are many men out there answering these ads who give their pictures, their phone numbers, the room they are staying in at a hotel, even their addresses. I was appalled. These men didn't know me from Adam- for all they knew I could BE Adam. But they were willing to give me their whole life story and they didn't even know my real name.
Then there were the photos of the junk. I tried to write those off as exhibitionist, except there were so many of them. And yes, I had to look at all of them because I didn't know what the picture was until I looked at it. Maybe women posting real ads on CL like to look at random hoo-has, but I really wasn't impressed. Pretty much if you've seen one you've seen them all, but I digress. My actual point was that I'm not sure why men woud think a woman lonely enough to post for a connection on CL would want to be visually assaulted and then would actually decide to call or text or email that person back. But I digress even more.
At first I was just overwhelmed. Had I actually been the 26-year-old woman I was writing about I might have felt good for a few seconds. Nearly 400 men were interested in the 26-year old me. But the more I looked at the replies, the sadder I got. Some of the men were single and for some inexplicable reason couldn't find a woman the old fashion way.
Some were married and bored with their wives or girlfriends. I felt horrible for those other women, wives and significant others who probably had no clue that the love of their life was on Craig's List giving out his cell phone to a total and complete stranger.
But surprising to me, I also felt some sympathy for the married and attached men as well. Yes, they were doing something terrible and should be beat for it, but I wonder how unhappy they are that they have to make themselves feel better by hooking up with random women. Why not just leave if they weren't in a happy place? What could an unknown stranger give them emotionally or intellectually or physically that the person they loved could not? Or were the men all just cads? They seemed nice enough, for cheaters. But then they thought I was a cheater as well.
The one thing all of them had in common is they seemed lonely and slightly desperate. It was hard to wrap my head around, because some of these guys were really good looking and articulate (although many were not) and I could not figure out what would drive someone to troll random women on Craig's List on a Thursday afternoon.
So I got my answer for my character. If she posts one tame ad she would get nearly 400 responses of varying degrees of desperation and lonliness. She would get tons of pictures of good-looking and not-so-good-looking men, she would get random shots of genitalia that might make her swear off Craig's List for good, and she would get enough personal information from men who swear they are trying to be discrete that she could probably find out a whole lot about them and blackmail them with it. Now that isn't my story, but it's a pretty good one.
I do feel kind of bad for engaging these guys with my ads. I could picture them waiting at the computer for a response much the way I waited by the landline phones for a boy to call when I was a teenager way back in the 80's.
Times have definitely changed.
And the worst part about it all is my husband knew two or three of the guys. Of course I had to let him him in on it, otherwise he might stumble upon my checking out the emails and get the wrong idea, which would have been amusing once I explained it. But it was kind of sad.
For as many people that post in the Craig's List personals, it's a very lonely place.
Causes Holli Castillo Supports
American Diabetes Association, American Breast Cancer Association, Lazarus House New Orleans