Climbing a Pyramid Scheme

My not-so-extensive romance with Joe began when I saw his very handsome images and grammatically correct descriptions offered in his profile on okcupid. He was full of energy and actually creative in choosing our first date, after we had spoken a few times on the phone. Joe asked me if I ever went indoor rock-climbing. Since I hadn’t, but I always wanted to try it, I agreed and got really excited to meet him at Chelsea Piers so I can seduce him with my burly arm strength.



Pre-date online searching for Joe helped me to discover that we had a mutual friend. It turns out that he went to high school with someone I work with. I am pretty close to her and inquired about him. She had nothing but good things to say about him. If a real-life person vouches for someone you meet online, the experience not only gets more realistic, but more exciting as well.

Joe had mentioned to me in possibly our second or third conversation that he planned on making his first million dollars by the time he hit 40 years old. He had worked in a few different industries as far as I can recall, and at the time I met him, he was managing a successful restaurant on Long Island. I liked the idea that he had aspirations to make a lot of money and he had about 4 years to become a millionaire – by his calculations. I didn’t know exactly how he planned to start making that large amount of income but figured that would be a good discussion topic when we met in person.

Before we met, Joe called me one evening while he was “on his way home from work.” Knowing his basic restaurant schedule, I knew that it was one of his days off, so I inquired about what “work” he was referring to. Joe then explained that he has an additional job besides the restaurant, where he works with “consumers” in different communities to “help them learn how to shop online.” So he was basically driving from someone’s house in Queens, where he had worked with a group of people to help them understand how retail websites work. That sounds weird, vague and possibly untrue, right? Uh huh. I thought so too and kept asking more questions – thinking that if there was a job where one can teach others how to shop online, I would definitely be a prime candidate. His answers became more elusive, and I eventually dropped the subject. I figured that it was a great thing that he even had one job. Pushing himself to do another? Even better.

The day we met was easily the hottest day of the summer, and from what I remember, one of the hottest days of my life. By the time I made it from the train station to our meeting spot, I wasn’t feeling very fresh or attractive. We spotted each other, and Joe was really handsome in person – even better than his profile – go figure! He was tall and pretty muscular, with very dark hair and blue eyes. I tried to pretend that I wasn’t covered from head to toe with a sweaty film when we greeted one another in the air-conditioned complex. We signed up for our rock-climbing lesson and headed straight to the bar to pass some time.

We had plenty to chat about and got along great. We even exchanged some war stories of past online dating horrors. Then it was time to start climbing. I changed from my soggy work clothes into much more casual, albeit dryer gym clothes for the activity. Once our trainer was assigned, and we had the sexy climbing accessories on, I got really excited and was successful in maybe my first and second round of climbs. After that, my arms were killing me and I essentially did a lot of watching and cheering. I also had a great time checking out some other peoples’ climbing gear and putting chalk on my hands continuously…for no real reason at all.

The most entertaining portion of climbing? By far, it was the way that Joe’s harness fit him. After witnessing this splendor first hand, I still find it fascinating that people don’t make fun of rock climbing harnesses and the way they fit men every second they possibly can. Here’s the closest image that I was able to find to give you an idea of what I was looking at for an hour:

rock climbing package

Credit for photo:

So I got to stare and create non-stop penis-harness jokes internally and Joe thought he looked manly and controlled while getting an unusual work-out. It was honestly a win-win. And then we went for sushi. Besides the fact that I did not want to change back into my sweaty work clothes and actually went into a restaurant with a first date in gym pants and a sports bra (shiver), the conversation at dinner is when the date may have gone downhill.

I don’t know how dental work become our topic of focus, but Joe ended up showing me his bottom teeth very close-up and telling me how he was getting a full set of dental implants within the year. Unusual to discuss when you first meet someone, but I still thought he was hot. I then asked him how he would be able to become a millionaire when he would be spending some serious cash on a new set of teeth. It was at this point that I was given a speech about the wonder that is Amway. According to Joe, they are the most profitable, successful, magical company on the planet. Without even mentioning the name of the company, and basically speaking about it like it was a cross between a money tree and the mafia, Joe said that “teaching people how to shop” was the key to his millionaire success. And by the way, that success is guaranteed.

Backing up a bit, I have to say that at this point I had not learned too much about Amway but am well aware that it is essentially a national pyramid scheme that brain-washes people into thinking they are individual retail giants when they are simply forcing their friends and families to purchase toilet paper in bulk. Participation requires putting one’s own money into the company as an “investment” that supposedly increases exponentially once you do the work to get it. There are giant books and instructional materials dedicated to their “sales program” and for those who are comfortable in earning an honest dollar, Amway doesn’t tend to be the best way to fill up one’s bank account.


A treasured cassette tape created by Amway. Source:

So I questioned Joe a few times. I wanted to learn, but his answers were unclear, if not suspect as far as how businesses are run. Up until that topic came up, we were getting along well and I was pretty comfortable around him. Amway turned him into a cult member with dollar signs in his eyes in pure defensive mode. But you know what? I still thought he was attractive and I definitely wanted to see him again.

I never heard from or saw Joe again. After some prying, I was told by our mutual friend that I had insulted “what he did for a living.” Let this be a lesson to anyone reading this: if you want to date someone who plans on being part of a retail cult, never question their methods. You will obviously be seen as the crazy one.

So while Joe continues to “teach” others about “retail business,” I have become more comfortable with the fact that he didn’t like me. Cults and pyramid schemes have never really been my thing.