Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Earlier in the pandemic, I met my boyfriend online through a dating app. We started messaging back and forth and it wasn’t long before each day seemed to start and end with our texts. After a few weeks, we started talking on the phone too. We have shared lots of pictures. I know it sounds crazy but after a few weeks, we told each other we were falling in love. Since that time, I’ve considered us to be together and I haven’t met or talked with anyone else.
Because of COVID, we didn’t meet for months. But now that things are calming down — I’ve even had my first vaccine — I suggested we meet in real life, and he won’t. He has all kinds of excuses why he won’t, including he’s too busy and his work hours are too crazy, but the reason he gives most of all is that he lives with his parents and elderly grandparents and is concerned about getting them sick. He says they are afraid of the vaccine and don’t plan to get it, and he can’t be around other people until COVID is over.
I’m ready to meet him and see if this is something real. I told him if he won’t meet up it’s over, and he freaked out and said to just wait a while longer. I should point out he’s also always refused to video chat. I’m terrified that I’ve gotten played and he doesn’t really exist or is at least lying about who he is. But I really love him, and he’s been a rock to me all this time. What should I do?
Prepare yourself for the worst, because every sign points to the likelihood you’re getting severely catfished. I hope it’s not true, but there are too many signs here for the benefit of the doubt. For the unaware, “catfishing” is when someone assumes a false persona to lure another into a relationship, and it’s super lame. Online dating is unnerving enough without creepers wasting our time with fake pics and empty one-liners.
But let’s consider the evidence. He won’t video chat with you? Please. We’re coming off 2020! It was the year even the most analog among us learned to Zoom, upload funny palm tree backdrops, and attend virtual watch parties. Show me one human being who didn’t videoconference this past year, and then explain why your boyfriend can’t do a video chat? That right there is a huge red flag.
His COVID excuse is borderline brilliant because it’s unassailable at first glance. You insisting he put you above his frail grandparents’ health risks you sounding unreasonable and uncaring. But not so fast. You guys meeting up in real life doesn’t have to mean maskless embraces — as much as you might pine for that at this point of sensory deprivation.
So offer a compromise: you will meet up soon, like within a week, at a safe masked distance in an outdoor location, because after this long of hanging on, you need and deserve visual reassurance. This is safe, it’s rational, and if he refuses, it’s time to move on.
Well, Wanda, I can present a whole lineup of humans who haven’t Zoomed, FaceTimed, videoconferenced or even texted an “LOL” this past year … and they’re all relatives. Yeah, my fam is old school AK. That said, they’re also the opposite of catfish and ghosts — they won’t hesitate to help a loved one or total stranger, they’re always there for you (whether you need them or not), they use match and tinder to start campfires and woodstoves, and they communicate their affection easily and often, just in different ways. Like phone calls from their landlines and sending random greeting cards delivered by a real mailman. Again, old school AK. (Love you, Mom!)
And dear letter writer, I appreciate that you are equal parts lonely and hopeful, in love and in distress, and how intensified all of those feelings can be during this time of extreme isolation and anxiety. But you need to turn off the devices and log in to your heart, gut and intuition. What are they telling you? That this was all too good to be true. That you know that even in a time of COVID people are still meeting up for walks, talks and coffees without risking any major health concerns. That this “guy” is at best a flake, at medium a harmless-but-sick person who is in way over their head, at worse a shameless and dangerous scammer.
You gave him an ultimatum and he still weaseled his way out of it. That’s enough to let this all go immediately, delete and block his number and accounts, move on, and get your life and time back. And be kind to yourself through the process. You weren’t silly, blind or foolish for going along on this ride and being excited about its potential. Your heart was in the right place. Sorry that this other person didn’t meet you there. For that, you’re better off without them.