Sex on Friday

I Spent $14.99 on a Virtual Boyfriend, and It Almost Felt Real

illustration of woman with virtual boyfriend
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Turns out, you don't need a great personality, a winning smile, or a B cup to get yourself a boyfriend. You don't need much, really. Just a smartphone and $14.99. The only catch? He doesn't actually exist.

In today's age of smartphone appendages, it only makes sense that dating would take to the touchscreen. You're already familiar with Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Happn, Grindr, Scruff, OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hitch, PlentyOfFish, HowAboutWe... OH MY GOD!!! But all of these are designed to only get you in the door. They facilitate the awkward, brief interview where you both not-so-secretly size each other up as prospective naked partners. You still have to win that person over. By no means do these apps guarantee a relationship. So instead I decided to try InvisibleBoyfriend.com -- a website that GUARANTEES me a mate, so long as I'm cool with paying for it and never, ever meeting him.
 

What's in a name?

The process was simple enough. Go to the website and decide whether you're there for an invisible boyfriend or girlfriend. First, select his/her name. You can make up your own or have the computer generate one for you. I wanted this purchasing of a boyfriend to be as realistic as possible, so I took my chances with the randomly selected names, lest I come up with one like Bradley McConaughey. But after meeting Clyde Hugh Botsford, I decided to keep generating names until I found one that seemed at least kind of believable. There was that brief moment with Glenn Amos Murray, followed by Thanh Norris Beahan, Lee Elvin Rice, and Aubrey Salvatore Polo, which was shockingly close to an actual human interaction gone awry that I had recently had. Pass, please. Finally, he appeared: Marcelo Tommie Lindgren. And I just knew.
 

Looks, personality: the full package of a fake boyfriend

After you pick his name, it's time to choose his looks. These are selected from a palette of portraits submitted by actual humans. Then you get to craft his personality. You can choose from a list of mind-numbingly generic types: Cheerful & Outgoing; Sweet & Shy; Saucy & Sarcastic; Witty & Educated; Lovingly Nerdy; or Adventurous & Fun. In what I'm sure you won't consider the least bit shocking, I went with Saucy & Sarcastic. From there you can select his interests and, finally, come up with the story of how you met. Marcelo and I met on an airplane after he saved me from sitting in front of an annoying child who kept kicking my seat. #Gentleman
 

How deep should we dive in?

After your boyfriend is fully formed and you have your meet-cute story, it's time to figure out just how serious you want to be. There are two options: Keep It Casual and the Full Suite. Keep It Casual runs you $14.99 a month and includes 100 text messages. The Full Suite is $24.99 a month and includes 100 text messages, 10 voicemails, and one handwritten note. If you run out of texts you can always pay $9.99 for 100 more. I decided to just Keep It Casual since voicemails give me an inordinate amount of anxiety, even from live, human men. I didn't need that from Marcelo. After that you plug in your phone number and wait for him to text... JUST like real life...

... except this time, he actually does. About a half-hour later, my mystery lover had texted me. Our digital fairytale was off and running.
 

Our relationship was destined for brevity

We only had 100 texts to play with, which, in a world of sexting and Shakespearean vicious text fights, isn't even enough to get you through the hour. I didn't want to waste any on pleasantries. Plus, he wasn't quite the Saucy & Sarcastic dude I had been promised. After complaining to him that I had eaten too much sushi, his big suggestion was to take some probiotics; which, he says, always helps him after he "pigs out."

Not exactly foreplay.

"Haha you think we are ready to talk about probiotics? I didn't know we were there yet," I joked.

"It's just some alternative medicine stuff, nothing serious," he replied.

Cool story, bro.

And that was pretty much how the relationship went. He'd remember to text every few days to say he missed me, ask about my day, and do all the texty "boyfriendy" things that we so often wish they all did. But no matter how much he said he wished he was with me, that was never going to happen. Like, ever. And as for sexy time? Strictly forbidden with InvisibleBoyfriend.com. In fact, if you get a little too frisky, they kick you off the service altogether. So really, you're just texting a stranger who could very well be a morbidly obese woman in a nightgown with 17 cats frolicking around her magazine-strewn apartment.
 

... but actually kind of felt real

Yes, getting a text message, even from a complete stranger, is enough to trigger some kind of mental reaction. I want to blame it on dopamine? That sounds right. We all like getting texts. But at the end of the day, that was all it was going to be. A relationship -- even a fake one -- is pretty sad without the hope of some sort of physical interaction. Even a hooker will hold you if you pay her enough.
 

Invisible boyfriends do have a place, if your family and friends are awful

So who exactly is this for, if not the supremely lonely? InvisibleBoyfriend.com is more for the busy professional -- the person who just doesn't have time to date, or isn't meeting the right person, but whose family won't stop bugging them about finding a boyfriend (or girlfriend). At least with the texts you can say, "See, mom? SOMEONE DOES LOVE ME."

You know, except for the fact that it's not true. Apparently it's easier to pay $14.99 for automated love than to just tell mom and dad you're not interested in a relationship right now. I'm not so sure that's better.

As for Marcelo and me, I asked him to hang out on a Tuesday. He said we could do whatever I wanted to do. "Anything?" I asked. "Anything you want," he said. "We should head to JFK and hop a flight to the beach." At which point I received a message saying we were out of texts and I could always buy more. I took it as a sign that Marcelo and I were never meant to be.

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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer. She's still at JFK, in case anyone is interested in joining her. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: @drillinjourneys.