The year was 2005 and MySpace was the newest, hottest social-networking site on the block. It was also one of the easiest places online to pretend to be someone else. There, my days spent catfishing girls on MySpace helped me realize that I was a lesbian.
I was an extremely introverted 15-year-old whose charming, quick-witted personality was hidden under a mountain of insecurities. Like any other teen, the idea of finding love — or at the very least, finding someone who also wanted to indulge in marathon makeout sessions—consumed my hormone-charged thoughts. I crushed on Usher, Justin Timberlake, and Chris Brown, and longed for the guys at school to look my way.
But I was a 300-plus-pound girl who feared that no one would ever be attracted me. Suitors weren’t lining up at my locker to ask me out. My milkshake brought no boys to the yard, the porch, or even the sidewalk. The world constantly told me that fat girls were always the sidekicks, never the leading ladies. I felt it when I walked past a group of strangers and their first instinct was to laugh. I heard it when classmates would shout, "Hey, Big Mama," call me "Mrs. Klump," or tease that I could be Fat Albert's twin sister. I saw it in the laugh lines etched into the face of first boy I ever confessed my love to via a well-crafted “Do you like me? Check yes or no” love letter that was quickly rejected and passed around the rest of our sixth-grade class.
Enter MySpace — a place where I didn’t necessarily have to be the version of me the world knew, but the version of me that frolicked in my fantasies and found a home in my daydreams. This was before cell phones had cameras and video-chatting platforms were easily accessible. MTV's Catfish wouldn't warn us about the dangers of meeting people online for another seven years. The internet was the Wild West — an untamed world in which I could do whatever I wanted without needing proof of my identity.
I quickly learned how powerful I felt online. I could reinvent myself, experiment, and tap into my hidden desires. The freedom was exhilarating. In my daydreams, I would always assume the role of the super smooth, charismatic guy that romanticized some unknown girl into falling head over heels in love with him — with "me." I didn't have the language to understand why I felt that way, but my gut signaled that my daydreams meant something more. Thanks to MySpace's veil of anonymity, I was emboldened to explore my feelings about girls.
And so, the search began. I scoured Google Images for photos of boys who had "normal" pictures that wouldn't raise any suspicions, but were still cute enough to make any girl swoon. In no time, I found my Mr. Perfect. He had it all: a nice smile and an athletic build complete with shirtless ab photos. I pilfered a handful of this beautiful stranger’s photos from some unknown site and began building the perfect profile. Tricked-out cars decorated the backdrop of my page. Visitors were greeted with the musical stylings of Three 6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly” upon entry to my profile. My “about me” section was laden with purposely misspelled words (becuz it was kewl) describing how much I loved basketball, Italian food, and ‘90s R&B music.
Within days, I amassed dozens of admirers. My inbox was filled to the brim with lovely ladies fawning over “me.” The shyness that I normally felt went right out the window as I sent friend requests to any cute girl in a 20-mile radius. My requests were instantly accepted, and I followed up with flirty, emoticon-filled comments on their pages. I knew what I would want to hear from a love interest, so I spat that out to other girls, and they loved it. They were blinded by my bullsh*t.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my charade for very long. Girls wanted to hear Mr. Perfect’s voice. Many of them lived in my area and wanted to go on the dates we spent hours talking about. They grew excited by the idea that we would one day take our love offline and be the perfect couple I told them we would be. I feared that I'd fall too hard for someone and be compelled to tell them the truth. I knew that it would ultimately result in rejection. They would hate me because I wasn't the guy they fell in love with. I was a liar — but I knew I was more than that. So, I shut down Mr. Perfect's profile.
Pretending to be Mr. Perfect unearthed a truth I buried deep within myself, a truth I was too afraid to face without my perfectly crafted knight in shining armor: I craved attention from girls because I wanted them to want me, not the guy I played online. I wanted to be the star of my fantasies. For the first time on MySpace, I understood how it felt to like someone and have them like me back. I felt valued and desired in a way that I never had before; now, my crushes on guys felt like a chore.
Catfishing girls on MySpace helped me realize that I wanted to be a girl that attracted other girls, and that I was OK with that. Within weeks of dismantling my fake Myspace profile, I created a Downelink account — the LGBTQ version of MySpace — and did something I never felt confident enough to do before Mr. Perfect: be my fat, gay self for the world to see.