Toay I’m going to tell you about the time I got catfished. But not in the “traditional” way. It’s not like one of these stories where you fall in love with someone online but then get suspisious and start using things like reverse phone lookup until you find out that your lover is actually a pot-bellied 40-something man. No, this is a much different way.
I also got drunk alone a lot.
China was a new kind of lonely. No longer self-imposed, but absolute. There were a million people within a six-foot radius and I could communicate with 0% of them. So I did what loners do (Hi, guys) and started a small blog to keep in touch with friends (all three of them) and family (who never read it).
But then someone started leaving comments. Her name was Renee and she’d also spent a year backpacking by herself! She was fifteen years older than me and randomly stumbled across my blog. We had so much in common and she really seemed wonderful, so I decided to take our relationship to the next level: I gave her my email address.
I know it’s hard to imagine, but I used to be really good at keeping secrets. I know I’ve told you about my sex life, the psych ward, and my ex’s naked photo, but back then I was just a dread-infested twenty-something on the 7th floor of a Chinese apartment.
Suffice it to say, I was primed to pour my heart and soul out to this person.
We started with the usual stuff:
“Haha I can’t identify the food I’m eating this is so fun I think I have dysentery but this is what your 20s are for, YOLO”
And moved on to:
“I feel fundamentally flawed and am all alone in this world, shouting into the void.”
Our correspondence went on for several months as I opened up about all sorts of things I’d never even told my friends. Then one day I saw a new email from her and the first line, visible before I opened it, said: “Aussa, I’m afraid I haven’t been completely honest with you.”
Turns out she hadn’t just found me online, how crazy, she’d actually been sent my way for a very specific reason.
By my parents.
TLDR; they asked her to befriend me so I would trust her when she suggested I get back in touch with them.
I’ve felt foolish at many points in my life, but nothing wounds quite as much as discovering you’ve shared something with someone but JOKES ON YOU they already knew it and that’s why they cozied up to you in the first place.
Apparently she lived with my parents when she was a little girl. They’d been foster parents and even though they only accepted boys she was somehow placed with them and it was THE BEST TIME OF HER LIFE. Listen, Crazy. I’m glad you have such great memories from 1978 but a few things have happened since then.
I never emailed her back, even though I’m sure she meant well.
As you may have guessed, I failed to achieve self-actualization by the time I returned to the States. Instead, I embarked on a whole new tour of life’s dumbest choices. I was still caught up in trying to run from things I didn’t want to think about, creating diversions for myself and everyone else and keeping my mouth shut about all the things I knew I couldn’t say.
Then at some point, I just stopped: running, keeping secrets, trying to convince anyone I was anything other than exactly what I’d always been. It was all the best sorts of cliches: a weight lifted and a clean slate and a fresh start.
But not everyone likes it when you stop being whatever they’re used to you being.
I recently received a message from someone who knew me before I started writing online. They think I should be ashamed of the things I’ve written— not the actually things I’m writing about, but the fact I shamelessly cop to it all. To them, it was better when I was grinning and bearing and keeping my mouth shut.
Again, I think they actually meant well— which is what scares me more than anything else.
We’re taught to be wary of the bogeyman or the predator with the rapey van, but sometimes the people who think they’re helping are the ones primed to inflict the most pain.
I’m not sure what to take away from all of this, other than TRUST NO ONE EVER. But that still misses the mark. I think the real task, the great mission, the one last step in this fake quest for self-actualization is not to stop trusting people, but to trust myself. I’ve done some stupid shit in the past, but I’m the only one who really has to live with it.
Have you ever been catfished? How do you know who you can trust?
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