Here's your place to come talk about sex and love whenever you feel like it.
Hello there Randi. My name is Chris (chris46169). Saw your message and pic…damn your (sic) beautiful :) Would love to see more pics. Definitely into some afternoon excitement and passion. Attached another pic of me…hopefully it helps a lot. Hope to hear back from u. Chris
The problem was there was no Randi. Her name, photo and everything about the sexy 5’5” brunette was fake. Is catfishing a cheater fair? Let me backpedal a little.
Chris and I met in an unlikely place. I say unlikely because in my experience online dating sites, particularly free ones, are a catch basin for unsavory candidates. If you can get past the professional cuddlers and the unemployed hot messes, you might find a few semi-sane people who are legitimately seeking a date. I counted myself and Chris in the latter category. The fact that we did not meet on Tinder is a big clue as to our approximate ages. Read carefully: over 35.
After a few highly flirtatious emails like the one above, he suggested we exchange phone numbers. I was beginning to feel confident that this person might not be juggling several other girlfriends, or worse yet, be married. Perhaps my problem began here because I was already setting the benchmark for proof of fidelity too low.
Truth be told. Chris was my definition of male eye candy. Think Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady with a body that could give Abercrombie and Fitch models a run for their money. Really. Now close your eyes and visualize a slightly younger version of Joy Behar (me) getting what I thought was his undivided attention. My googles were fogged.
Conversations flowed easily and there was a mutual respect for time restraints due to jobs and family commitments. The physical intimacy was off the charts. One date after another went well.
The fall season, which, in my opinion is the best for dating, was filled with walks in leaf-strewn parks, pumpkin cinnamon lattes, and football games. When a family member of his took suddenly ill, I was there to offer comfort and support. There was no visual cracks in this Hallmark card portrait.
How’s my girl?
That simple question would brighten my day.
Then came March. Beware the Ides of March and little evil green Leprechauns who spoil your good time. It happens to be my birthday month. You know where the story ended. After a one too many celebratory pints of Guinness, I asked the question:
"So have you been back on the dating site recently?"
It was his two-second pause before his denial. My googles cleared.
A semi-sane woman would question their boyfriend further and either live with his answers or walk away from the relationship. We had never had the conversation about exclusivity. I thought it was understood because we both spoke candidly to each other about the pain caused by cheating.
Even though my trust in him now was shaky, we went on dating for a few weeks as I hatched a plan. I showed no outward sign of doubting our bond. My resolve was strong to catch the cheater. But I still am grappling with the moral choice that I made.
In order to get proof positive that the Chris I knew was not the Chris I knew at all, I went back on the dating site. I also wanted to hurt him the way I was hurting.
In order to achieve this dual goal, I created a pseudonym and pulled an image off the Internet of a strikingly attractive and much younger woman. Profile complete. Then I set the bait. Email sent. Five minutes later, response received. Each time, I opened up the inbox there was another message from Chris.
Like a predator, I played with my victim, setting up a meeting time and place. Randi was fun and vivacious. She was a good girl with an edge. The tricky part was avoiding giving too many personal details. The mind games worked because I knew his preferences and quirks. I had to stroke his ego and obtain the answers I needed to confirm that he was and always had been a player. Once I was confident that my prey had paid a price, I deleted the profile and licked my wounds.
I then unceremoniously broke up with him in a text. I never tipped my hand.
Catfishing is defined as identity theft. It is done most commonly by scammers to deceive people into long-term romantic or emotional relationships. Sometimes the end result is to receive financial gain, gifts or simply attention.
I justified what I was doing with each keystroke. I was operating under the mindset that after all, it was I not him who had been scammed for nearly six months when he was obviously seeing and meeting other women behind my back.
And it felt good to know that Chris would never meet with this sexy girl-woman. When he logged on and saw her profile gone, he would feel like the fool. He would know how I felt when I had been duped, and experience immense guilt.
In retrospect, I was giving him too much credit for empathy. I was idealizing him and setting up false expectations. Most likely, when Randi vanished, he just moved on to the next real woman who wanted to date him.
These sites come with disclaimers that no background checks are done. There is nothing to stop people from perverting them for use that is unethical. I rationalized that if I created a fake profile, many other jilted lovers had done it before me. I was not unique in my deception.
I am not going to say that my ruse was totally useless. I did receive immense short-term satisfaction. In the months that followed, the initial thrill faded. The whole charade caused me to doubt my own worth more. What else was I capable of doing in the name of love?
I had wounded myself to get the goods on a man who was not respecting me.
There had been no phone call or text from Chris questioning if I had been Randi. The intensity of online communication evaporates as soon as the laptop or smart phone is shut off. Most likely, he never gave it much thought at all.