Oh, to be young and in love — and naïve. Reese McKee, 25, launched an all-out Internet search to track down a young woman he fell head over heels for last New Year’s Eve and never saw again, eliciting massive support from around the world. But despite online sleuths finally locating her, a dejected McKee has called off the effort, as it appears the object of his affection does not want to be found.
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The young woman, identified only as “Katie” from Washington D.C., with rosy cheeks and a warm grin, as seen in McKee’s single photo of her, reportedly deleted all her social media accounts after being bombarded with inquiries. And that’s left the young man, of New Zealand, slinking off into the sunset.
“It turned into a massive ‘let's stalk every Katie in the D.C. area,’” McKee tells the New Zealand Herald about how others interpreted his search, which apparently overwhelmed the young woman. “I was trying to get people to stop that, but with 2,000-plus people messaging ... it got a bit out of hand.” He has since removed the Facebook page dedicated to finding Katie — which had more than 4,000 supporters — and has chosen not to reach out to her after all.
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McKee met Katie in Hong Kong on New Year’s Eve, when he saw her crying on the side of the road. She had been separated from her friends, but in a lovely twist of fate à la “Before Sunrise,” the two bonded while “playing in traffic” and “dancing all night.” When they eventually bid a hasty adieu, McKee says, her last words to him were, “Find me.” Before separating at dawn, the besotted young man learned Katie was from D.C. and had snapped an image of her.
“My friend found it on my phone the next morning and the good memories came sweeping back,” he wrote on Facebook. “Which evaporated into mild despair when I realized how little I had to go off.”
And so, with the anniversary of their meeting approaching and having had no luck on his own — and with what was sure to be an outpouring of aid due to holiday spirit, McKee noted — he explained the launch of his online search to the world. “I was hurt a long time ago. The hopeless romantic in me was locked away when he got hurt because it was too much,” he wrote. “I hope to find her. And along the way, find myself.”
He garnered a swell of support from hopeless romantics around the globe. He told the New Zealand Herald, “The thing bloody exploded, God, the article went everywhere.” But he drew a fair share of critics, too.
On Twitter, a New Zealand dad mocked the effort, writing, “Dear Reese McKee, It's so romantic being publicly cyberstalked by some random guy I met overseas when drunk. Marry me. Katie.” And video-game site founder Yamilia Avendaño tweeted, “This is ridiculous. lol. Chick didn't give him a number/social media site. They've seen Serendipity too many times.”
Australian columnist Clem Bastow, meanwhile, wrote about McKee’s effort in a piece titled, “Stop rewarding ‘romantic’ stalker behavior online.” After recounting the tale, she notes, “Through all this, however, few people have stopped to consider this very real possibility: what if ‘Katie’ doesn’t want to be found? Generally speaking, if a woman really wants a dude to ‘find her,’ she’ll give him her mobile, home phone, email and friend him on Facebook.”
Slate’s Amanda Hess concurs, going on to suggest that the runaway story was not really about the two youngsters. “It’s about all of us concocting a real-life ‘Love Actually’ plot in the service of facilitating some guy’s international womanhunt,” she writes. “If Reese had just been like, ‘I am looking to hunt down a woman. All I have is her name, general location, and this photograph she never consented to be blasted across the Internet,’ we would all probably be like, ‘Dude — leave Katie alone.’ But thread in a few personal details about hurt, heartbreak, and personal discovery, and we’re all asking, ‘Do you recognize this face?’ in the service of remedying Reese’s (deeply thematic) sense of loss.”
Finally, she warns, “Run, Katie, Run.” Looks like Katie listened.