Let me preface this with saying I love the MTV show “Catfish”. I love it enough that unlike House Hunters, I really don’t want to know how much is staged or real. Just leave me with the concept that poor, sweet, cute and furry Nev Schulman, really was duped by a woman online who pretended to be someone she wasn’t. In turn he is using his newfound fame and powers for good. Let’s simply forget it’s from the same network that created “16 & Pregnant”.
If you look up the term catfishing in Urban Dictionary it says: “A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”
I am pretty sure I was catfished when I attempted online dating a few months back. The details were unimportant, except that the person claimed to be someone that I suspect they were not. They held onto the charade until the very end, when we finally decided to meet. Then POOF! They disappeared. Fortunately for me, I had not invested as much into this person as most of the people on the TV show have, so my disappointment wasn’t even a tenth of theirs. I think I suspected it was a possibility all along.
You see, I was catfished, before catfishing was catfishing. Waaaaay back in the olden days, when to google someone would probably mean to look at them with big eyes, as “Why are you looking at him all googley-eyed?”. Social media would have been getting your name in the paper, and a Facebook would have been a book of faces. Literally.
I was catfished by a tiny little imp of a 13 year old who was a master manipulator.
The hormones had hit, and the boy craziness blinded me. My summer was spent at the beach, coating myself with a mixture of iodine and baby oil, which we deemed the perfect mixture to turn our otherwise pale selves, the deepest golden brown. We remained faithful until we turned as dark as cocoa beans. The only interest we had that summer besides tanning was to learn how to inhale the menthol cigarettes we stole from our parents, meet boys and go the beach. She was a new friend, just moved into the neighborhood, so I didn’t know who or what I was really dealing with. Like 13 year old girls tend to do, we threw ourselves into our friendship, spending all of our waking time with one another. Inseparable Besties.
One day in June as we sizzled and fried by the waters-edge, two dark haired guys stood, contemplating the surf while the wind blew their long feathered hair just perfectly. They wore their wetsuits half off, and leaned a little on their upright boards, wondering if it was worth the trip into the water.
She knew them, she whispered to me. They went to her old school, she explained. Brothers. In faaact, she confessed in a very secret fashion, the one on the right was her boyfriend. They had to keep the relationship secret, for a reason I don’t even recall all these years later. She could see if his brother might be interested in me.
The fact that they never noticed us beyond a glance, or at the very least acknowledged her, never crossed my mind. They were cute. I was 13. That was enough to sell the story. I was a tad shy, averagely insecure about the opposite sex and very very G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E. The perfect bait for a Catfisher.
So yes, despite the warning signals being there, I took it in hook, line and sinker. But here is the thing about catfishing. The fish has to be hungry enough to be blinded by the false bait. Or in my case, young enough. Or both.
She explained they were brothers. One was her age, the other mine. At home, she pulled out her yearbook and showed me their pictures. Yep, it was them. She would spin stories of the three of them. How close she was to the brother. He was like a brother to her as well, she would remind me.
What she was letting me know, was she had the power. She could make or break this.
We would talk about the four of us, as if we were a thing. An item. She would tell me each morning how the night before she had talked with the brother on the phone, and how he thought I was cute and wanted to meet me. How he had been too shy to come over and talk to us that day we spotted them by the water. When we would part ways in the evenings, her heading into her apartment, and me into mine, I couldn’t wait until the next morning to hear if she had talked with them again. Did he mention me? When she was angry with me, she wielded him like a sword, telling me his interest was waning. When she was happy with me, suddenly he couldn’t stop thinking of me.
Somehow I always missed meeting them, by *this* much. They would come by when I was out with my family on a weekend. Or at night, five minutes after I had headed home. She dangled the bait; How much he couldn’t wait to meet me. How upset he was that he missed me. I wasn’t even interested in flesh and blood boys, because I had this waiting for me.
Just like the show. Just like Nev. Real romance goes by the sideline, because this romance sizzles.
Of course in time, I got bored and impatient. I was 13. I didn’t want a pretend boyfriend. I didn’t like this possible boy that I could never see. In fact I don’t think we saw them once during the summer, beyond that first time. Oh they saw us, she would report back to me. They were just leaving and saw us arrive, and didn’t have time to stop. Or his shyness would surface and he hesitated. That day we decided to stay home, instead of head to the beach? That was the day they were there.
Murphy’s Law became my newfound enemy.
My frustration grew. I started to question her. To doubt the validity of her stories. Of course, in true OC (Original Catfish. I just made that up! Ha! Go me!) fashion, the relationship she was having was starting to crumble. They were fighting. Without the two of them being together, I wasn’t going to meet the brother. She – THEY – were my bridge, and she knew it. I vacillated between denying the truth to myself and becoming suspicious. Soon, the reality of the situation started to sink in. Yes, these boys existed, but not in the way she told the story. Not in the way she relayed things. I questioned everything she said about them, until of course in a big bang of fury we had a fight and BAM! I lost my chance.
When the dust settled, I knew. She knew, I knew. It was a farce. A big fat ugly insecure crazy lie, told by a very disturbed tiny little girl. But one she would never ever back down from. I only had common sense and sanity on my side. No proof. No furry sweet Nev to come to my rescue, gently persuading her like he always does, to tell the truth.
I had become Sally, sitting with Linus in the Pumpkin Patch all summer, only instead of waiting for the Great Pumpkin, I waited for the Hot Brother. I was furious. Sally missed out on tricks and treats, and I missed out on my summer, with boys! Real life, flesh and blood, BOYS!!!
Our friendship was fractured at that point. I was angry and I didn’t believe anything that came out of her mouth. All trust was lost, and as much as I missed the closeness of that short term best friend, I knew the crazy was there. I was embarrassed that I had blown weeks waiting for the boy who never was. Ironically, I saw him about a year later. She and I were no longer friends. He was at the same beach. Alone. I’d like to paint the picture that we talked and I told him the story and we laughed, but I was still an insecure teen. Slightly more sure-footed. But we did smile at one another. I smiled inwardly more, thinking how he never knew he spent the previous summer as my pretend boyfriend.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she was doing the real Catfish all these years later. She was good. Granted we were young, and I was very gullible, the fact remains that she was a craftsman at staying a step ahead, and buying into the lie. A true con, believes their own set-ups.
Nev Schulman better watch out for that one.