Let me start by detailing my dating history:
Welp, that was easy. Mainly because I'm a 26-year-old gay dude living in Los Angeles who has never had a "significant other," unless you count the two girlfriends I had in middle school. Each relationship lasted just a week.
Fast-forward to today.
Like many of my peers, I've turned to dating apps to search for The One/Mister Right/The One Who Will Pay for Everything as I Stay at Home and "Write." I've used them intermittently the past three years to no avail. Sure, I'd go on dates, but they were very few and far between.
As the human sack of insecurities I am, I mentally went through lists of reasons why I wasn't having much luck. Did I need to lose weight? Should I have gotten those braces? Could they tell I was a complete hot mess with no direction in life? I really didn't know. So for the hell of it, I decided to think outside the box.
Dating in Los Angeles is hard due to the small pool of tolerable humans. This is basically scientific fact. By definition, the gay dating pool is significantly smaller, and even smaller when we're talking LGBTQ people of color, like myself. While I don't have a racial preference in dating, plenty of the white men — who make up a large portion of the gay dating pool in Los Angeles — do. You'd be surprised how often the "No blacks, no Asians" caption pops up on dating apps. People have even messaged me that I'm "too dark" on certain apps.
So you can imagine how happy I was when I matched with this hot (I mean hot) Australian dude on OK Cupid. He had a great smile, great body, great hair — great everything, pretty much. His pictures had it all: silly tongue-out pic, shirtless pic (but a fun, candid one, not one of those obnoxious mirror pics), a pic with his adorable baby nephew, a pic with even more adorable puppies, and a shot of him out with friends showing that he's fun and normal and does things.
I was surprised I matched with a guy this hot (I know, self-esteem, I'm working on it), but I didn't want to let the opportunity go by. So I messaged him and ohmygod — he responded.
I'd kept joking to my friends that I was sure I was being catfished because, I mean, look at him. Being the awesome and supportive friends they are, they were all, "Stop that! You're hot and you deserve a hot guy too." I wanted to believe them, that this seemingly awesome guy could be interested in me and want to meet me.
We talked via the dating app system — and I mean we talked. It was only for a week, but it felt much longer. While previous dating app conversations generally went back and forth five or six times a day over the course of a week or two before trailing off, this was constant chatting throughout the day. We talked about our days, he told me about his family in Australia and how he's in dance school in Los Angeles while working nights as a nurse.
See, he went to nursing school but won a dance competition his friend dared him to enter, so then he came to Los Angeles to enroll in dance school ... I know, I know, how did I not see what was coming next.
We decided to meet the following Monday. Once that was set, I sent him my number.
I heard nothing back.
Thanks to his silence, an idea grew: I would reverse Google Image search him to see if anything came up.
At first, I found a Facebook page with a matching name. "He's real!" I thought. I was momentarily satisfied, but we all know this story wasn't destined for a happy ending. That's when I found an Instagram of an American model complete with 80k followers. All five of the OK Cupid guy's pictures were taken from this person's Instagram account.
I was surprised by how much this news affected me. I was angry. Who spends their time deceiving unsuspecting strangers? And why me? I hadn't realized how much stock I'd put into this person I hadn't even met, until this happened. Because of him, I had been super lax about reaching out to another cute guy I'd actually met in person. I had hot Aussie OK Cupid dude and I didn't need to chase after anyone else, so I thought.
File that under: regret.
What really struck me was how much of a blow this was to my self-esteem. The entire time I had thought, due to my intense insecurities and low self-esteem, that I was being catfished. The fact that I ended up being right just tore me apart. I thought: There's my proof. I'm not up to par in whatever way, and I should have trusted my instincts when I thought this guy was too good to be true.
That's how I felt in my heart, but in my head, I knew better. My worth isn't, and will never be determined by what kind of attention I'm getting. And this catfishing wasn't personal — I'm probably one of many strangers this person ensnared.
So I've been trying harder to build up my confidence, using my logic and reason. While I'm no male model like my OK Cupid friend, I know that I'm not some hideous swamp creature.
More important, I know I have a great number of friends and family who love me for who I am. I know that I'm a smart individual who brings something to the table in all aspects of life. I know that I'm worthy of love, friendship, happiness, success and all other things one seeks in life. And now I'm just going to try to own that.
I wanna ooze that sentiment out of my pores — I am worthy! I didn't think so before, but I'm learning to believe that now. I also think that the feeling of being worthy, as a gay black man living in America, goes beyond just having good self-esteem and can be an act of revolutionary defiance in itself.
But that's another issue entirely.
A fun fact about the OK Cupid mystery man is that the guy he was pretending to be is represented by a popular modeling agency. That modeling agency happens to share an office building with the place I work at. So, theoretically, I could bump into this guy during my daily life. (I always try to have "errands" to run near their offices when they're holding casting for male models. Shhhh.)
While "Hi, someone catfished me using your pictures from Instagram!" probably isn't the best pickup line, who knows? Maybe I'd have a chance.
Wouldn't it be the cutest how-we-met story?
The author is a Los Angeles-based aspiring screenwriter who works in TV development. You can find him at instagram.com/fgp217.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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