Online dating can often feel like you’re forced to waddle through a swampy cesspool full of leaches, crocodiles, and the occasional crazy, gun-toting “Duck Dynasty” wannabe. If you’ve been doing it long enough, you know to be cautious, and you know that feeling when a few red flags turns into too many.
Yes, there are dangerous catfish lurking in these waters.
This is technically my third go-around with online dating in approximately seven years. I’ve been on plenty of awful dates, a few good ones, and mostly have simply occupied my time and given myself the best excuse whenever I was the only groomsman at the wedding without a girlfriend/wife/life partner.
My vast experience (not something I’m proud of) with online dating does mean I know when I might be getting catfished.
As readers of this blog know, Ms. Cline has quaintly outsourced her dating life to her friends. On the surface, I have to admire the brilliance of it. It is effortless dating, provided you trust your friends.
Ms. Cline detailed it last week; about a week and a half ago, she met me for a date interview.
But before Chloe Cline ever walked into that bar, I knew she wasn’t who her friends had made her out to be.
The red flags began appearing almost immediately. I messaged “Chloe” first after she “liked” me. Throughout our online conversations, her messages were abrupt and chock full of high-school texting language. Although this wasn’t, on its own, terribly off-putting, it was the first red flag. Either this 30-year-old woman has a teenage-like grasp of the English language, or she isn’t quite who she says she is.
Further, “Chloe’s” profile was sparsely filled out. It smirked of laziness, as if someone else was just filling out the questions in a way they thought would be enough to get people to write back. Red flag no. 2.
Yet, what really set off the klaxons in my head was how quickly “Chloe” propositioned me to get a drink. In less than a day and only a few messages, I was being asked out. This is strange for two reasons: First, it’s exceedingly rare for the girl to ask the guy to meet. Second, it’s nearly unforeseen that she would do so after only sending a few short messages.
Now I knew there was something suspicious here; there were many questions. I had no idea how spectacular the answers would be.
Prior to my current career, I was a newspaper reporter and a private investigator. I was often tasked with hunting down people who didn’t want to be found. Thankfully, Chloe wasn’t that challenging.
I didn’t time myself, but I’d estimate it took fewer than 5 minutes from the time I began my hunt to the time I stumbled upon this blog (and with it, her twitter feed). After a half an hour of reading this, I realized I was being catfished – sort of.
This was still on Sunday, the first day we had exchanged messages.
I read more of the blog – the Steve Harvey appearance, the failed dates, Lexi and Daisy – and I quickly realized I HAD to go on a date with this woman. There was no way I could resist.
The best trap is the one you know you’re walking into.
But now I had an important decision to make. I could approach this date one of three ways:
Option 1: Immediately upon meeting her, confront her with what I knew and see what happened.
Option 2: Assume a character and go overboard in such a way that I was assured to be terrifying/revolting but not quite over the top. This would have been challenging, but possible. Then, at the end, perhaps drop the act, confess I was faking just to make the blog, and see what happened.
Option 3: Be myself and don’t tip my hand. At a certain point during the evening, maybe drop a backhanded comment about the blog and see what chaos ensued.
I went with Option 3.
Chloe, to her benefit, came clean almost immediately (as she detailed last week).
I was crushed. She confessed within minutes of our meeting.
When I told her I knew everything and began to walk her through her own dating history (we had shaken hands only moment ago, mind you), I admit that had the biggest shit-eating grin on my face. But could you blame me? I had just turned my catfish’s face as red as her lovely nail polish. For the next little while, Ms. Cline, online dating extraordinaire, laughed, giggled, blushed and occasionally stood aghast. I had successfully turned the trap on her.
Yet after all that, Chloe and I had one of the best date interviews I’ve ever had in those years of hopeless and agonizingly awkward online dating. We had a real date last week, and I intend to take her out again, now that we can honestly get to know each other.
So all’s well that ends well, or some bullshit like that.
But seriously, folks, don’t trust your friends with your online dating profile.
 This has happened now 9 times. Always the groomsman, never the groom.
 I do not trust any of my friends to do this. I tried it once; I quickly learned my friends know next-to-nothing about me.
 I dub the “meet-and-greet” portion of online dating – you know, the part where you first meet the person and realize all their photos were taken 4 years and 50 pounds ago – as a “date interview.” You get to see if you get a real first date or not.
 I actually had figured out how to begin the conversation. It involved me showing up late, a recent morgue visit, and graphic descriptions of various bodily injuries and how much they excited me. Also, this is what all my friends wanted me to do. Chloe is lucky I did not do this.
 I chalk this up to repressed Catholic guilt.
 Which can probably best be described here as “crack whore red.”
[Editor’s Note: In regards to footnote 5, there’s nothing repressed about it. It’s very out in the open. And with footnote 6, I’m not sure another date will be happening.]