IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Got Catfished By Someone I Met IRL First
He was perfect. Sure, he was in his thirties and I wasn’t yet of legal drinking age, but I couldn’t be bound by such superficial, societal constraints. He was bearded and had the kind of name only given to the romantic lead in an indie rom-com. I was smitten.
We met at a Thanksgiving potluck. I was a freshman in college, visiting my brother for the holiday. There was quite an assortment of colorful figures at this get-together: an on-again, off-again couple crying in the corner, a man who took great pains to look homeless, my 13-year-old sister.
But my dark-eyed, red-haired dude had stood out to me since he walked in. He was spending the party sitting on the sofa, sipping some finely crafted bottled stout, and looking contemplative. I was manning the radio, and had just put on my at-the-time-obsession, Built to Spill’s “Reasons.” That’s when he perked up.
“Built to Spill?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, trying to sound as casually disinterested as possible.
“Cool. I thought no one knew them outside of Portland,” he said.
(I should have known at the first mention of Portland.)
“Oh,” I said.
And with a perfectly timed hair flip, I was off to get more wine. He Facebook friended me 10 minutes after he left the party.
We went on for a while, liking things on each other’s profiles, exchanging a few messages, whatever. It was boring actually. That stopped and I totally forgot about him for, like, two years.
Until that fateful day when he sent me this Facebook message:
“Cool profile pic. Super hot.”
His timing was impeccable. I was winding down a summer internship in New York and had just ended communication with that-boy-who-lives-there for the umpteenth time. In other words, I was ready to get my flirt on with someone new and totally unattainable -- my specialty.
He had just moved to Los Angeles for his job, from which he was promptly fired. He told me he was fired because his boss’s girlfriend had a thing for him, which I didn’t question. He told me he wasn’t meant for office life anyway, and that this finally gave him time to focus on creative work, which I felt was so noble.
I knew he was going through a bit of financial hardship, but the second he had some extra cash he would come visit me. I ignored his new iPhone and computer and motorcycle repairs. Those were necessities!
We had an entire relationship -- everything from good-morning coffee to juicy intimacy -- over Facebook chat. I had become the girl I never wanted to be, living in a total fantasy. I was either on the verge of a mental breakdown or ecstatic and bouncy, typing away. My entire life was absorbed in technology.
There were rough times when I wouldn’t hear from him for a few days, and I wouldn’t be able to eat or sleep until a message popped up in my inbox: “Hey, beautiful.”
The relief of hearing from him was so overwhelming that I wouldn’t beg to question where he had gone. He was an artist, with very important thoughts and feelings, and my needs could never measure up to those.
We had an unspoken commitment to one another, and a bond -- I thought -- to be reckoned with. Even though I never felt my day-to-day trivialities would interest him, something about holding his attention made me feel important. I always made sure to update him when I was writing or going to rehearsal for a play, because those were the facets of myself I thought were impressive enough to highlight. What he didn’t know was how much time I spent staring at the wall while eating Oreos and farting.
But it wouldn’t be until we finally met again that I would understand what he had been keeping from me.
In the days before I was heading to Los Angeles to meet him, he had once again fallen off the map. I was growing nervous that I was getting totally ditched, and that my cross-country travel would be in vain. But I remained faithful and boarded the plane anyway.
I got to Los Angeles and there was still no word. I huffed and puffed and made alternate sleeping arrangements, all while waiting around for him. Finally, a text popped up.
“Are you free tonight?”
The casual nature of his invitation irked me -- no, “You’re here!” or, “Your plane didn’t crash!” But, alas, I accepted the invitation to get Ethiopian food later that evening on Sunset Boulevard.
I wore my cutest skirt and paired it with some leggings, boots and my vegan bomber jacket. After a sort-of-awkward hug, he made fun of my attire because he didn’t deem it appropriate for a motorcycle ride. I didn’t care. I was finally getting my date, I was going to look cute.
Then the tension thickened. He wasn’t moving toward his motorcycle to leave. He was still on the sidewalk, staring at his steel-toed feet.
“There are some things I feel like I should come clean about,” he started.
No! I thought. I don’t care! Don’t disillusion me! Let’s put this off for a while!
“I know I haven’t been the most responsive lately. And I feel that you deserve to know why.”
Ugh, I thought. I do deserve that. I deserve things.
He went on to explain that since he lost his job, he was living off unemployment checks, and that well had run dry. Without the money, he was unable to afford the antidepressants that he had become dependent on because of X, Y and Z. His last roommate ditched out on him, and he was thousands of dollars indebted to his landlord who was letting him live in the house without paying rent (temporarily). In order to survive, he had been living off of the income of his friend, who was female, who he was undoubtedly sleeping with because She Was Not To Know I Existed.
I wanted to screech at him that I knew he was banging her, and that he had been leading me on. But, for whatever reason, I decided to go “the most understanding girl in the universe” route even though now, I know I shouldn’t have. He had been stringing me along for months, giving me expectations of a real future, and was, basically, now saying he wouldn’t be able to give that to me.
“Thanks so much for being open with me. That must be difficult to talk about.” And we were off.
What unfolded thereafter was a so-horrible-it-is-comical evening.
On the way to the restaurant, his bike stalled out because it ran out of gas. In my adorable skirt, I helped him push his bike to the nearest gas station. When we got there, he asked if I could “spot him” ten dollars in gas money. I’m pretty sure my eyes were as wide as the moon when I handed him a crisp ten-dollar bill.
We got to the restaurant and he ordered the most expensive items on the menu, including a bottle of wine and some after-dinner, tableside-roasted coffee. Over our entrees, he whispered that he hopes I understand that he can’t afford to split the bill. I understood. We drank the coffee, I burned my tongue.
He took me back to his place. I figured, this whole thing has crumpled down faster than a game of Jenga, so I am, at the very least, going to get some.
Walking into his home was like walking into a cat-infested war zone. His bed had actual debris all over it, along with rusted nails, garbage—just a bunch of shit. We had to hang out in the living room. There was a girl’s room, too, which was immaculately clean. When I asked about it, he didn’t say anything, and started making out with me.
We rushed right into the world’s most awkward sex. And sure, it’s always awkward that first time, but not like this. Once things got going, he got up. And walked out of the room. And didn’t say anything.
I laid there, naked, thinking that maybe he had to pee or cry or barf or something. I waited for many minutes, I can’t even tell you how many. And then I heard the sound of cat food hitting the bottom of a bowl from the kitchen. Was he feeding his cats? He was feeding his cats. In the middle of intercourse with his extremely frustrated Internet girlfriend.
When he came back in the room fully clothed, I knew it was over. I was still naked. When I gave him a, “WTF?” look, he smiled and said, “What?” as he clicked on the television.
“What?” wass right. What the fuck was I doing with this weirdo?
When I tried to contact him after this, he was unsurprisingly unresponsive, and again off the map for a month. I spent the rest of my time in LA with other friends. He eventually contacted me after the silence, to apologize to me for his wrongdoings.
Upon learning that I had moved on to a happy and in-person relationship, he had the audacity to respond, “Don’t you think you should have told me about him?”
No. No, I don’t.