I first called this post “Catfish Confession” then thought it may be misleading LOL. So I renamed it the Left-Behind-Ers, for reasons I hope become clear.
You see, I’ve been catfished. I’ve been emotionally manipulated and then dropped / shocked / made to face the horrible and humiliating truth that I was FOOLED.
My sympathy is always with the catfish-ees – those Left Behind. And I want to shout out a HUG to them, to assure you I’ve suffered it and am happy to talk about every humiliating, painful detail if it helps you come to terms. Then I have a fairly fierce Demand that you (i) grieve, but then (ii) you regain perspective, rebuild your confidence, and get on with the important thing i.e. Your Life.
My catfisher was a gay man I wrote online with, for over a year (I don’t know his real name, or if he was gay, or a man at all *sigh*). On another continent, so the timezones only overlapped for a few hours, which meant I was always up late and/or early to share time, which took its toll on my sleep, and also made my family worry.
It was fun and challenging, he was outrageous, told me exotic and intimate stories of his lovelife, always led the way on our provocative, edgy writing. Never showed me a photo – though we exchanged gifts a couple of times – never gave any other personal details that I could have checked *if* I’d wanted to. But I didn’t give too much away either, so it seemed fair. This was early in my writing career, and maybe I had some self-protection in place even then, or maybe I just thought my life was totally boring compared to his, so not worth going into detail! I’d never heard of the term “catfish”, I was relatively new to online chatting.
He was in general amused at my naivety, but sometimes asked my help and advice, so I felt a personal connection. Then one day he claimed an upset in his personal life and just vanished offline. Good God! It was devastating. No contact, no trail, no recourse. I was shocked, hurt, suddenly aware of how emotionally fragile online relationships can be. Me, a professional, intelligent, mature woman, in floods of tears over an online chat friend. Ulp.
He came back online briefly, several weeks later, but we slowly dropped contact. He never admitted to being anything other than his writing persona, but I suspect now he was a catfisher. During the time he was offline, I’d found other women online who’d been in contact with him, equally horrified to have “lost” him, probably on an equal fan footing as I was. Ouch. I’d been amazed and horrified at my response, and I determined not to be hurt like that again.
It still makes me wince, to think of ME as I was then! but I’m proud of myself as well, in that it spurred me to learn more, develop more, so I’m confident now in who and what I am.
But if anyone wants to talk about it? I can and will, to prove you shouldn’t feel humiliated or embarrassed or a fool – at least, not for ever. I can stand outside now and see I *was* a fool, but also how cruel *he* was. It may have been deliberate, though I suspect/hope it wasn’t, just someone seeking attention, which ultimately came at my expense. No money changed hands, no physical harm was done. But I was in emotional distress for a long time afterwards.
Also, don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself – you were fooled, you were misled, you were lied to, whether deliberately or by omission. And you know what? Admit that it was LOVE. Maybe not sexual (my guy was gay, apparently, what sexual relationship could I have had, even if I’d wanted?) but these connections are so often a combination of romantic love / fascination / titillation / pride / flattery. We’re not honest enough with ourselves, trying to avoid the self-hate, embarrassment, shame at falling for a non-person. The admission that, at the time, we were looking for someone special for ourself. But it’s not wrong to love – it just needs to be the right kind of love.
I feel I lost a lot at the time, because of it. But I’ve gained so much more since then.
**HUGS ALL ROUND**
My friend, the author Sue Brown – and thankfully a real person! 🙂 – shares her feelings too in a very honest and compassionate post here: