When choosing dating app photos, I generally try and choose the same things. A selfie or two – usually with nice subtle makeup, good lighting or a filter; a photo with my dog, a photo with a group of friends from some kind of formal event, a photo of me solo at another formal event. I paint a picture of my life, showing that I scrub up alright sometimes and that I can be social (when really I’m incredibly anxious about everything, all the time…) but I usually try and also pick pictures that paint a cohesive picture of what I look like. So when I met Riley on Hinge, I was incredibly surprised to find out that what I had envisioned, to him at least, was not only deceiving but was an incredible let down. This was also one of my first experiences on Hinge, and it was something that nearly convinced me to delete my account.
Riley seemed as normal as anyone else. Our chats were nice and flowy, he seemed pretty flirty (which at the time I enjoyed), he was interested in true crime and could keep up with my constant stream of ridiculous thoughts, theories and rants about cases I’d been listening to or had read about. He listened to the podcasts I listened to, had his own theories and thoughts on cases I was immensely interested in and seemed to enjoy the back and fourth we had going. This easy flowing, fun conversation is rare in the guys I meet on apps. Usually they’re full of ideas I’ve already heard of. “Have you heard of a podcast called Serial?” No shit, Sherlock, I listened to it in 2014 when it was released. “Have you ever heard of Jonbenet Ramsey?” Hasn’t everyone? “I think you’d really like Dirty John.” Baby, that’s why I’m anxious on dating apps, who are you fooling?
This kind of easy conversation continued for a couple of weeks before we decided to try and take things offline and into the real world. We planned to meet at a café midway between where we lived, and agreed to wear something in particular to show that it was us (kind of half as a joke, I thought…)
So I showed up to the café ready to keep talking to to this true crime loving beauty (because he was quite breathtaking to look at) wearing a shirt that said “The Husband Did It.” (to show it was me.) Paired with a pair of denim cut-off shorts and my white converses, I felt cute and ready to talk to this boy; in my element and confident as anything. I sat and waited, not wanting to order a coffee until he arrived, though also not oblivious to the fact he was late, and becoming later by the second. I must have checked my texts, Facebook and Tinder a hundred times before calling it quits and leaving the café. I ordered myself a coffee to go and sulked in the car listening to a podcast, waiting a moment to see if he showed up. When he still hadn’t shown up, I checked the message where he had set a date, time and place and made sure that I was, in fact, at the right place at the right time. Though it’s not something I’ve done before, I’m always anxious that I’ll mess up and stand someone up or go a day too early (how fun is anxiety.) But alas, I had all of the details correct, I was at the agreed upon place, I was at a table (and then in my car) facing the door to the cafe. How could I have possibly missed him? I even texted him to confirm what I already knew, watching to see if anyone outside grabbed their phone – but still, no response. I drove home with my phone at full volume in case he tried to call and ask where I was – but still, no word. I messaged my friends, informing them of my flop of a date, and decided that it was best to just pretend it hadn’t happened.
A day later, I received a message from him that – more than anything, hurt and confused me.
“Hey * redacted! *I thought I should explain my absence yesterday but don’t really think I need to. I got to the café and saw you and you looked nothing like your photos, so I thought I’d leave. I don’t know what you did to your photos but it’s deceptive and rude to fool people like that, sucking them in and letting them down so much. Maybe reconsider your photos for next time? I’m gonna block your number now, I’m still a little embarrassed that I fell for all this. Have a nice life, catfish.”
I obviously never heard from Riley again, and spent a great deal of time looking in the mirror feeling like Ross Gellar when Joey sets him up on a date and then cancels it to make Ross want to go back to Rachel. I had never considered that someone could actually walk in and then walk straight out again upon seeing you until that day – and to this day, I still worry sometimes that someone will walk in, see me and walk back out whenever I go on a date.