If something seems too good to be true, it probably is… I’m an optimist so I don’t typically subscribe to this particular belief, but sometimes the pessimists are right.
This particular time, I met a handsome man named Danny on Plenty of Fish. He had piercing blue eyes, blonde hair, a strong jawline, nice muscles… you know, the whole package. He was so good looking I was surprised that we matched. Some of his photos looked like modeling shots but he also had some “I’m a real boy” shots that looked pretty good so I listened to my vagina and swiped right. Yes, men, women think with our genitals sometimes too.
Danny messaged me right away and I was thrilled. We chatted a little bit and he asked me out to dinner. Nice. A dinner invite? That never happens! Usually it’s drinks at best or just a general query into “hanging out.” I accepted the invite and we made a date.
The day of our date arrived, and I was actually excited! Usually when I make first date plans with someone I’ve met online I am debating whether or not to cancel all the way up until the moment I meet the guy. But not this time. I texted Danny to let him know my ETA and he said “Great, I’m already here. I’ll see you inside.”
We met at a cute bar that is small enough you can see the whole interior from the front door. Since Danny had told me he was already there and knew I would be walking through the door at any moment, I assumed that he would spot me first and greet me right away. Nope. I walked in, looked around, and saw a couple of groups of people gathered here and there. There was one guy by himself in the middle of the room but he had thinning brown hair and looked nothing like Danny, so I kept scanning the room. The bar was backlit with red lights, the walls were dark red, the leather booths were red. It was a cozy, intimate spot. I saw the groups of people enmeshed in their conversations; no one peering out from the group as if they were looking for me. I saw no Danny.
I was puzzled. Was I at the wrong bar? I did another scan of the room, growing more uncomfortable by the second. I felt like everyone in the room was watching me get stood up, even though no one was actually paying any attention to me. Except for the one guy by himself. He looked at me, looked away, looked at me again. I’m flattered bud, but I’m here to meet someone. Then he looked at me one more time, cocked his head to the side like a confused puppy, and took a step towards me. “Kelly?” he asked, seemingly confused. “Yeah?” I replied, definitely confused. “It’s me, Danny.”
I didn’t believe him. I was legitimately perplexed. He looked nothing like the person in the photos. I looked exactly like mine, and he had the audacity to question whether or not I was me? I just stared at him. “I’m Danny, from Plenty of Fish” he tried again. “I’m your date.” A short silence while I processed this information. “You’re Danny?” I blinked. “Yes I am.” I just looked at him some more. This guy looked at least fifteen years older, five inches shorter, thirty pounds heavier, and a whole lot balder than the online version of Danny. I had been tricked.
Now, for those of you who don’t know what it feels like to be catfished, let me paint a picture for you. Imagine you’ve had a couple drinks and you’re leaving the bar at 2am. You had some water and your last drink was a while ago, so you feel confident that you’re good to go and that this drive home will go well. But then there’s a DUI checkpoint up ahead. Oh shit. Oh shit. Am I good? You start to wonder. Panic a little. Your palms are sweating (you might notice this as a recurring event in my dating stories, the ol’ sweaty palms.) You want to turn around and go back the other way, but they’ve already seen you so you can’t very well just turn around and speed off. You freeze, panic a little more, question every decision that’s led you to this moment, and then concede. You pull into the checkpoint because you really don’t see any other option, and settle in for the consequences. Except in this case, the DUI checkpoint is your date! Yay!
“You look pretty different from your pictures.” I started, tentatively. “Oh really?” he replied, acting surprised. “Yeah, like really different.” I looked at him expectantly, raised my eyebrows a bit the way parents do when they’re trying to coax the truth out of their children. He gave me nothing. I just had to spell it out. “Like a completely different person. Is that really you in your pictures?” I had never been this straight forward with someone right off the bat and it terrified me but also felt amazing. Until he lied to my face. “Yeah, that’s me.” “You sure?” I gave him one more chance to fess up. He didn’t take it. “Yes I’m sure. Those are pictures of me.” I asked him if they were old photos, he said maybe a couple years but nothing crazy. So that was that. He was sticking with his story, and I had officially been catfished.
I didn’t really know what to do after that. I thought that if I had the balls to ask him straight to his face about his catfish photos that he would give it up, but he hadn’t. So what’s my next move? Stand there and argue with him? Leave? I somehow felt like I couldn’t just leave. Just felt too mean. So I stayed. He had offered me dinner, after all. At least there would be food.
We walked over to the bar to order. There were no menus, no food, and it became clear to me that there was not going to be any food. So much for the dinner invite. Another lie. Cool. He asked me what I wanted to drink. I asked him what he was having. “Oh I’m just having water. I have an early flight in the morning.” This just keeps getting better.“Well I’m not going to drink alone so I’ll have water too, I guess.” He turned to the bartender and ordered two waters with such attempted swagger I’m pretty sure he thought he was James Bond ordering a martini, shaken, not stirred. We drank our waters standing at the bar. Talk about a dream date, am I right?
I was determined not to be shallow and to give this guy a chance. I somehow thought that I was the asshole for not finding him attractive, when in reality he was the asshole for lying on his profile AND lying straight to my face. So we talked. I asked him some typical first date questions and all I learned about this guy was that he had a lot of money and his pilot’s license. His father had some big banking company in Switzerland and Danny was supposed to take over it, only he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go back to Switzerland. He told me he was a pilot and that he wasn’t just boarding a flight in the morning, but flying the plane. Okay that’s pretty cool. I don’t know how to fly a plane.
The non-shallow part of my brain was trying really hard. But then he would say something else about his extravagant lifestyle and how much money he had spent on his last vacation, or his collection of cars, or his private plane, or blah blah blah. You would think that would trick the shallow part of my brain into liking him, but it didn’t. I’m not a gold digger by nature so it really just turns me off when people lead with their money. That’s nice, but what else is interesting about you? Are you a happy person? Do you like your job? Do you have friends? Any hobbies? Or do you just work at a job you hate all the time and fly around on an empty private plane because you have no friends?
I kept trying to steer the conversation away from money and he just kept steering it right back. The guy had nothing else to say. Nothing to contribute. Not a joke, not a story, not a compliment, not a question about myself. I was underwhelmed. Unimpressed. Bored. Sure, I had initially disliked this guy because he lied to me and was not as attractive as his profile had promised (well, not even the same person really), but I had stuck it out and tried to give him a chance anyway. And he had showed me that he had nothing to offer but money, which at this point I didn’t even believe that he had. It didn’t matter to me if he did, I was never going to see this guy again.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom and immediately called my best friend. She didn’t answer. How dare she! I texted her. Multiple times. I was in there for a few minutes, waiting for her to reply and give me an excuse to bail. But she didn’t. I was going to have to handle this myself. And then I had an epiphany: I could just leave. I did not owe this guy anything. He didn’t fly me here on his plane. I was not being held here against my will. He hadn’t even bought me a drink (not that that would mean I did owe him anything, but you know what I mean.) I had already sat there talking with him for forty-five minutes trying to find a connection and I had failed. I was a grown ass woman who didn’t need my best friend to call with a fake emergency. This didn’t mean I had to be rude or sneak out, but I could absolutely leave. And so I did. I walked out of the bathroom, told Danny that it was nice to meet him but that I was going to take off, and he said okay. He told me to have a good night, and I left. I was straight forward with him and he reacted kindly.
I exhaled deeply as I walked out of the bar, smiling to myself. Not in a mean or petty way, but because I was proud of myself; proud of how I handled the situation. I had been so worried that Danny was going to be mad at me, guilt-trip me, insist that I stay, or call me a bitch for leaving that early. But he didn’t. I treated him with respect and he responded with respect. This might seem silly to the men reading this, but it’s something that women think about a lot. When we reject a man, we play out every reaction they could possibly have in our heads before we decide how to handle it. Most men are respectful, but some are not. And the ones who are not can be unpredictable and scary.
Lucky for me, he was just a catfish and not a predator. He let me go. So I stopped by Trader Joe’s on a Friday night, all dressed up with nowhere to go. I bought myself some wine and cheese and snacks and headed home, just in time for that made-up emergency call from my best friend.