Written by Nandini Sethi
As I sat on my desk, completing pending tasks and other truckloads of work I was avoiding, I wished for a more eventful, somewhat drama-filled life. I had just one boyfriend almost 3 years ago, and even otherwise, my love life was nothing but a blank canvas, tossed to the corner with the other irrelevant art supplies.
Flinging my books to the side, I picked up my phone and decided to do something that I never thought I would: download a dating app. My parents would be so proud. But who could blame me? I was 24, living alone, always bored, and I needed something to do or someone to talk to besides my mom and Aarav, my best friend.
I have often thought about what it would be like to date him, but every time the thought comes to me, I cringe and brush it aside. There’s no way I could be in a relationship with someone like him! He’s messy, lazy, and above all, not interested in me.
My profile had been set up, with a diverse collection of some of what I thought were my sexiest pictures and a witty bio that sounds nothing like me. For the next two hours I must have swiped left and right to at least a thousand boys, but only a few caught my attention. The only problem was- whoever I wanted to match with, didn’t swipe right. Well, that was an ego boost.
So, I did something that never thought I would do. Again. I put up pictures of another woman as my display picture, someone who I found on the internet, and recalibrated my catfishing strategy: maybe I wasn’t the best-looking girl out there, but that doesn’t mean boys should be deprived of getting to know my out-of-the-world personality.
Two days later, after exchanging a few flirtatious texts and sweet nothings, I decided I wanted to meet this boy I had matched with. The pictures he had uploaded of himself were exceptionally provocative, what with his well-defined abs and pronounced jawline, and his soft hazel eyes hooded by long, luscious eyelashes. It wasn’t just his pictures- he was funny, witty, and knew exactly what to say and when. I gathered the courage and asked him to meet me sometime, and to my surprise he said yes!
In my excitement, I phoned Aarav, eager to tell him everything about this boy, from his curly locks to his opinions on politics- I was ready to tell him that I had finally found someone.
After two rings he answered in a low mumble, “hello?”
“Aarav, you’re not going to believe this!”
After telling him all about my mystery boy ‘Roy’, he helped me pick out a dress- the yellow one with the daisies on it (his favorite), and even gave me a few tips on how to behave on a first date.
“I’m so glad you’re finally over your no online dating phase!” He had been using dating apps for years now, but I was always hesitant.
“How sure are you of this guy?” He asked me, suddenly serious.
“Why?” I responded, curious.
“Well, I hope you’re aware of the dangers of catfishing”, he added, “boys are known to break hearts.”
I hesitated to tell him the truth. I thought about if for long- Roy was sure to fall for me, who wouldn’t? And once he did, his initial anger and reluctance would fade, and he would accept me for the way I am. Why did Aarav need to get involved with the details anyway? I know once he found out about my lies and tricks, he would get mad and ask me to put an end to it right away. But what I needed right now was a bit of fun, not moral policing.
I was quick to change the topic, “so tell me more about your date. When did you start talking to this girl?”
He told me she was too beautiful to be real. Apparently, she too had hazel eyes like Roy and long, dark hair, absolutely nothing like my dreadful bob. As he spoke about her, I couldn’t deny the pang in my heart, wishing that it was me he spoke about like that.
It was five whole days later that we met. He insisted on taking me to dinner, to a cute little Italian place that was famous for its bread and wine. I knew the place and figured it would be a bit of a fancy night out, so I decided against yellow and wore a sultry red dress, curled my frizzy hair, even added a bit of hairspray, and jutted my foot into the tightest pair of heels I owned.
For the first time in years, I received a compliment from someone about what I was wearing when I sent Aarav a picture of my dress. He wished me luck and told me he would call me as soon as his date was done.
A little jittery, but overall exuberant, I entered the restaurant, walking in slow-motion as I flicked my hair back, pretending like I was making everyone’s heads turns as happens frequently in the movies.
I took a seat and waited for him to arrive. Five minutes passed and there was still no sign of him. I was getting a little frantic, not yet hysterical, as I imagined the worst: what if I was getting stood up? What if he forgot about our date? What if he wasn’t interested in me anymore?
I began stress-binge-eating the contents of the breadbasket, my head down on the white-cloth table, just on the verge of tears.
“Hey, are you Sarah? I’m Roy,” a nervous, yet strangely familiar voice broke my train of thought.
I sniffled and slowly lifted my head. From shoes to tie, my eyes slowly rose, as I tried to comprehend where I had seen those exact pair of white shoes and faded tie.
Our eyes met. No hazel. No chiseled jawline. Just a bewildered face, gaping at me, mirroring the same horrified expression on my face.
I opened my mouth to utter the words I really wanted to, “Where are your abs and hazel eyes and gorgeous locks?”
Instead, all that came out was, “Aarav?! You’re a catfish too?!”