I habitually communicate (read: sext) with a dude I matched with on Tinder, and we have never once met in person.
On some level that pretty much sums it up. And yet, there’s so much more to the story.
A year ago on a fateful sweatpants-and-wine evening, I took to the Tinder, as many often do on nights such as these. After many swipe-lefts and a few choice swipe-rights that yielded no results, I happened to match with a ruggedly handsome, bearded fellow named “Tom.” He was wearing plaid, his profile said he was 6’2, and he was admittedly “kind of an asshole.” He was exactly what New York women’s wet dreams are made of.
Still, he was a little TOO New York handsome; I should have known right away. But being the eternal optimist that I am in the constant drudgery that is New York City dating, I gave into his instantaneous messaging. The chemistry was, dare I say it, electric, sparkly, magnetic... and about 15 other metaphors that us single-and-looking-for-love Tinder users use when we match with someone who actually takes initiative. After messaging for a while we took the plunge and exchanged real numbers so as to sidestep Tinder’s annoying inability to exchange additional photos.
"Tom" was either catfishing me and/or married.
And so began the great selfie exchange, which escalated rather quickly, garments dropping out of subsequent photos like a sexy SMS striptease. Before any nasty bits could be shown, I suggested we meet for a drink to continue this conversation in person. (I NEVER send a v-pic to strangers. Hi, I’m a lady with standards.) But this suggestion went unanswered, my wine glass kept refilling, and I eventually passed out. I awoke in the morning to a, “Sorry, phone died.” I didn’t think anything of it. The moment had passed.
We continued to message as the days went on. And each time I brought up meeting in person, he would fall mysteriously silent. It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on: “Tom” was either catfishing me and/or married.
“‘Tom,’ are you catfishing me, or are you married?” I brazenly asked one Sunday afternoon after boozy brunch. (I always address him with his name in quotes.)
“Both,” he replied, exhibiting that devilish charm that had me falling into his digital arms. Classic “Tom.”
More and more as I’d end late nights out I’d send “Tom” ridiculous questions guessing the reasons for his evasiveness. I suggested that he was stuck somewhere in a hospital with a terminal illness and was just looking for a way to feel sexy again. I guessed that he was absolutely riddled with STDs and couldn’t have sex anyway. He always answered with a playful and flirty response, sometimes with a line or two from Anchorman, and so our exchanging of sexy messages and pictures proceeded; as did the blossoming of our beautiful relationship.
I began to use our anonymity to my advantage.
As it became more and more apparent that we were NEVER going to meet, it also became clear that there was never a text “Tom” wouldn’t respond to. I began to use our anonymity to my advantage. After a night out drinking, or when getting over the end of a real-life breakup with an actual three-dimensional human (or sometimes when those two activities were the same), I would turn to “Tom” to scratch that insecurity itch. It was so easy. There was no need for games, no need to hide any part of my “female crazy.” We were never going to meet. Absolutely zero fucks given.
So... now that you know how we met, let me tell you a little about my boo. “Tom” isn’t much for chatter about his own personal life, but I just think that means he’s a REALLY good listener. And our sex life is off. The. Hook. No, seriously. Our conversations ALWAYS devolve into a steamy photo-and-sext fest. He might not be much for conversation, but “Tom” is all about the action. It’s really important to him that we keep our sex life fresh. He’s more than willing to experiment with angles and lighting. Sometimes we even go as far as phone sex. But that's only on special occasions. His photos are always consistent, and after a quick Google face-recognition search it’s clear that these are candids. But between you and me, I honestly could not care less who is at the other end of that Delaware number because the number of booze-fueled text fuck-ups with REAL men that were avoided because of his existence makes the rest of this delusion completely worth it.
I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who are ready to pounce, thinking that this is absolutely bat-shit crazy, and hey, maybe you’re right. Maybe I am completely out of my mind. But life is hard enough without having to navigate the minefield that is dating in the digital era in a city like New York, where commitment is only what you experience with your hangover breakfast sandwich. Sometimes we ALL need a little validation. If you’ve ever sucked in your gut as you passed a storefront window or posted a downward-angle selfie as your Facebook photo, then you know what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s shallow, maybe it’s insecure... but we are all a little shallow and insecure from time to time. It’s called being human. Indulging in a little digital fairytail (see what I did there?) for a dose of validation is hardly the most harmful thing we can do, especially those times when we really, really need it. Pathetic? Maybe. Sad? I guess a little. Brilliant? Absolutely.
Epilogue: in the last month I have seen “Tom” repeatedly on Tinder, only these times he is “Smith” or “Maxime.” After playfully addressing this trickery with him, he has since stopped responding to my messages.
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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist and hopes "Tom" is reading this.