Hi. I’m a Catfish.
Fifty minutes. That’s how long it took my date, Mark,* to race out of a restaurant a few months ago. We each had one drink before he suddenly said he had to pack for a trip. For two weeks prior, Mark had called me nearly every day. In person, his disinterest was obvious and his exit was abrupt. It wasn’t a total mystery why, however. It may have been because I’m an online dating catfish.
My form of embellishing might more accurately be called kitten-fishing; I use my own photos, but I present a “better” version of myself on my profiles.
My reason for doing this is simple. When I list a younger age, I get more matches. When I use Photoshopped pics, I get more messages. But when one of my online dates leaves in a hurry, I know why. They want the thinner, younger version of me they saw online.
But the way I see it, a dating profile is a resume for hookups or relationships. Everyone puts their best photos online. I merely fashion my profiles to appeal to the most potential matches. Meanwhile, plenty of men lie about their height, physique, income, not having children, marital status, or even their hairline. The term “hatfishing” refers to balding men who wear hats in all their pictures. Additionally, men often hold women to a higher standard of beauty than they do for themselves.
My First Experience With Catfishing
When I was 23 years old, before I ever considered blurring the truth, I was waiting in a bar for my online date to arrive. According to Steve’s profile, he was 25 and had shoulder-length hair. Within minutes, instead, an unrecognizable man stood before me. This person was almost completely bald, as well as older and heavier than the person I was waiting for.
“ARE YOU STEVE?” I asked, confused.
“You had long hair in your photos and you look older?”
“I’m 37,” Steve said, unphased.
“But your profile says that you’re 25!”
“Those pictures were taken when I was 25.”
I didn’t ask my first catfish why he tricked me; I was in full makeup and wouldn’t allow major deceit to stop me from getting free drinks. And in the end, we had fun. I even hung out at my catfish’s place after we left the bar. It proved that good dates are possible even if you reeled someone in with deception, and I think it subconsciously inspired me to become a catfish.
Less “Honesty” Led to More Interest
I’ve always had interested candidates. But once I began claiming to be a few years younger, using old pictures or trimming my figure in photos, my inbox exploded. I speak with my matches on the phone a handful of times before meeting. Establishing great rapport helps aid a favorable outcome after a first date. Some men refuse to meet without having a video call first. My correspondence ends with this mandate.
One of the best dates I ever had was with someone who had catfished me with older thinner photos of himself; I had also catfished him with older thinner photos of myself! My heart sank as I walked towards him, but we couldn’t stop making each other laugh. The accuracy of our photos was off, but our physical chemistry wasn’t.
Catfishing has led to all of my relationships for more than the past decade: There’s Daniel,* who I catfished shortly after college and dated for nearly a year; Eric,* an ex from 10 years ago who remains a close friend today; James,* who I dated from 2020-2021, and more before and after them.
It Doesn’t Always Work Out
This approach is not without its pitfalls, however. After I’d been catfishing for more than five years, I had a date at a lounge where my roommate at the time and his girlfriend happened to be hanging out. They greeted me as I waited at an empty table. My online date arrived shortly after, sat across from me, stared, and looked confused. He quickly said he had left his wallet in his car and had to get it.
When he didn’t return, I texted him. No response. I called him. No answer. I sat at a large table beneath lights that felt like spotlights feeling naked, ugly, and mortified. I dreaded walking past my roommate and his girlfriend in order to leave.
I met another online date at that same lounge. He went outside “to smoke a cigarette.” After patiently waiting for my date to come back, I called him and asked where he was. I heard sounds from his car in the background as he confessed, “I’m pulling into my driveway.”
Either that lounge was cursed, or I needed to make some changes. While I continued using old photos on my profiles, I paired them with a few recent pictures. I’ve noticed many other people also do this as if to show that once upon a time they were hot. I began opting for flattering photos rather than ones that required alterations. Additionally, I now tell dates my real age before meeting, or a few dates later.
Even when I exclusively used outdated pictures, only a few men told me, “You look different than your photos.” Most of my dates are cordial, and we try to make the most of our encounters when there’s no spark. Except for my meeting with Mark a few months ago, no one’s abruptly ended a date with me in years, not since I began disclosing the truth about myself before meeting in person.
The Truth Comes Out Eventually
I understand why dishonesty is a dealbreaker. But none of us lead with our faults, our flaws, or our dating or relationship history when we meet someone. Everyone begins a relationship with secrets. I do divulge the truth before I get serious with someone. It’s up to them to proceed or bail after they know the truth. Many have been willing to look past my little white lies.
When I tell online matches that I’m a few years older than my profile claims, they often respond with: “You could have told the truth from the beginning and I still would have been interested.” In reality, there’s a huge uptick in the amount of interest I receive whenever I list a slightly younger age.
I optimize my time by matching with as many potential suitors as possible because dating is tedious and time-consuming. Catfishing reels more people in, which I believe increases my odds of finding someone and getting off the apps quicker.
Would I Recommend Catfishing?
I still wouldn’t recommend catfishing. It reminds me that my imperfections often disqualify me for a second date, and being forced to contend with that reality can feel devastating. It can be nerve-wracking, awkward, and disappointing.
But I’ve talked to people in long-term relationships and marriages who admit that they would have never dated their partner had they held onto their ideas about what they thought they preferred. Sometimes the stringent preferences online dating enables us to enforce can close us off from an array of other possibilities that might serve us better if we were willing to give them a chance.
I’m taking a break from dating at the moment, but this is how I intend to continue once I return to the apps. Getting rejected by potential partners when they find out my real age or size is demoralizing, but I still think catfishing is the best way for me to play the “numbers game” of online dating and find the genuine connection I’m looking for.