Why Are We Still Embarrassed To Admit When We Meet Someone Online?
The Debrief: Our (anonymous) writer has yet to tell her friends that she met her boyfriend of two years on a dating website. So how long till before online dating becomes NBD?
My boyfriend and I are excellent liars. At least, we like to think we are. We have been lying to our friends and family for the past two years, with a kind of psychopathic consistency that would do Patrick Bateman proud. As anyone who has told a lie that has spiralled wildly out of control will know, the key to success is tenacity. And, if anyone tries to call you out - deny deny deny. So, far, nobody has called us out on our lie. Not directly, anyway. Here is that lie: we met in a bar. This lie is roughly as mundane and cliched as the truth, which is: we met online. I decided to try and figure out why the hell we’re still so embarrassed - why are we too pussy to just come out and tell everyone?
The story has been fed to parents and grandparents, extended family and every single one of our friends. I was working in a bar near Brick Lane (this part is true), he was in the bar with friends, we got chatting, he asked for my number, we went on a date. It’s so unremarkable nobody would think to question it, right? We decided on this lie pretty much straight after meeting. Such was the embarrasing success of Match.com that we hit it off instantly, and within a week had keys to each other’s places. The conversation was not a long one. It went something like this:
Him: 'So … do we tell people we met online?'
Me: 'Fuck no.'
Him: 'Oh good, what’s our story then?'
Two years, two flats, five large family gatherings, four birthdays, three Christmases and a cat later it seems too late to come clean.
'No, no, no!' cried my boyfriend with a hysterical edge of panic in his voice when I suggested telling the truth. 'It’s way too late! We’ve gone too far! This is like when you forget somebody’s name - there’s a very narrow window of opportunity to fix it. That window has closed for us. The window is covered in newspaper and is very dusty.' I tended to agree. But then I started to think about our cover story. And the more I thought about it, the less brilliant it seemed. And the less brilliant the cover story seemed, the more stupid the lie became.
In the story, he was with a group of friends. Yet none of his friends, nor mine, seem to have noticed that not one person can claim to have been there that night. Who are these mystical vanishing friends? Likewise, meeting hot guys was not something that happened often in this bar. Generally, it was filled with pissed bankers and mustachioed Shoredites in Wu Tang caps. None of my housemates have asked why I didn’t mention getting asked out by a nice guy. And our friends are remarkably clever people, lawyers and journalists - exactly the kinds of people to sniff out a big fat lie. Then it hit me - I feel like Bruce Willis at the end of The Sixth Sense, like Edward Norton in Fight Club. An earth shattering certainty that I’ve been living under a gigantic delusion. This is embarrassing. They all know.
There's nothing to "admit" to. No one is accusing! It's like "admitting" that you use email or wear pants. No one gives a shit.
At least, some do, probably most of them. The ones who know us best. The couple who met on Tinder and don’t care who knows it - they probably know. The couple who stay with us every other weekend with their baby probably know. My old school friends, the ones I’ve known for ten years, I reckon they’ve sussed us out. His best friend from school - she must know. His old colleague who recently asked over dinner, with a sort of narrow look in his eyes, 'how did you guys meet again?' Yep. Shit, we’re so rumbled. I took to Reddit to ask the anonymous legions of the internet what the fuck my problem is, whilst still hiding inside my wimpy little turtle shell of secrecy. Should I just come out with it? One user told me: 'There's nothing to "admit" to. No one is accusing! It's like "admitting" that you use email or wear pants. No one gives a shit.' This was the most succinct, and true, response I could have imagined. I totally know that this person is right too. Another Redditor pointed out (I was starting to feel like I was being counselled by a group of softly-spoken psychiatric professionals at this point): 'It's just one more opportunity to open an extra door that can provide you even more possibilities!' Yep. The bar full of trendy wankers where my boyfriend and I pretend-met was definitely not a well of possibilities.
But for now, we’re sticking with our lie. We’re reserving our right to be embarrassed and to wish we weren’t part of an ever growing modern trend. This got me thinking though - I don’t embarrass easily, why am I embarrassed by this in the first place? I’ll fart in public, for example, with a kind of wild abandon that would make even the most liberal children’s author blush ‘Everybody farts!’ That’s my motto. And everybody online dates. Match.com currently has 1.75million paid subscribers. Tinder has 10 million active users. Maybe that’s what we’re embarrassed about - being the same as everyone else. We like to think of ourselves as an interesting couple, the kind of couple that knows about secret restaurants and puts cool screen prints on our walls and discusses arty films over craft beers and all the other wanky crap a couple living in Shoreditch does. Is online dating just too norm core for us?
I asked a dating expert what he thought. James Preece is the author of I Will Make You Click - The Secrets of Online Dating Revealed so he’s made a living off this modern boom. I asked him about my hang ups - why do I feel embarrassed? It’s like online dating is a less authentic way of meeting, but why do I think this even though it’s one of the most common ways people meet now? 'Some people find it embarrassing that they had to try online dating as it suggests they weren't capable of finding someone on their own.' Harsh. 'We tend to work longer hours and have less time/money to go out socialising. Many people also find it hard to approach people as they’re so scared of being rejected.' Maybe my boyfriend and I are embarrassed by our fear of rejection, then. We’ve both chosen careers where you have to be pretty hard nosed to succeed, we’re both pretty confident and sociable - maybe we both feel like online dating is admitting failure. But meeting someone awesome, falling in love, obviously isn’t failure - in fact, it’s the one thing most people want above all else, the ultimate win.
If our friends have been rumbling along with our lie for the last two years (and the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that they have), it seems a dick move to blow the whole thing out of the water now.
So as you can tell from the byline on this piece, we're going to continue to keep our secret for now. For one thing, I’ve grown quite attached to our fake meeting, and we’ve told it so many times we’re almost convinced of it ourselves. Plus, we’re pussies. We’re worried about what everyone might think, even though obviously nobody would care. And anyway, if our friends have been rumbling along with our lie for the last two years (and the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that they have), it seems a dick move to blow the whole thing out of the water now. Their compliance in our increasingly ludicrous lie shows they get it, they’re cool with it and, to use the phrase of my new buddy from Reddit, they don’t give a shit. And if we did tell the truth, what would they say? They’d have to choose whether to admit they knew all along. Or to pretend they’re shocked. In which case there’s a brand new lie. The lie of ‘we believed your weird mad lie’. This is turning into a rabbit hole of deceit. He was right, it is way too late. Maybe if we get married some day, thoroughly becoming a statistic for dating website adverts, we can reveal all then. Or, more likely, the best man will work it into his speech. But until then, deny deny deny.
Liked this? You might also be interested in:
Picture: Francesca Allen
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating