A virtual lover is no way to learn about loving
I once engaged in a protracted texting acquaintance with a man I met online. He was funny, smart and engaging. His smile was big and his heart seemed bigger. We sent each other messages throughout the day, left voice memos and eventually spoke on the phone. His sonorous voice not only felt like a guided meditation, it brought me to my dirty-talking knees on the floor of my kitchen. Our schedules were busy, so this virtual banter continued for over two weeks.
Those weeks were some of the most uplifting I’ve ever experienced. It felt as though we ‘got’ each other, were on the same page, two peas in a pod. I laughed with him, cried with him, panted and moaned with him before we’d even met. Our expectations of what we would be as a couple were stratospheric. Then, when we met? Bam. It all fell flat. He didn’t smell right, feel right and somehow, over the course of our first date, which lasted approximately 19 ½ hours, we realized we really weren’t right. And wow, did I grieve.
If you’ve ventured into the online dating scene, you’ve probably gone through something similar, where your imagination of who this person will be gets built up to the point of near perfection. Yet nobody is ever quite as amazing in real life as they are on their online profile and through their pithy texts. But there’s a solution to all this crushing disappointment. It’s called an Invisible Girlfriend. She will lift you up, love you, plan dates for you and you’ll never have to meet her – so you’ll never be disappointed.
This isn’t something I’ve made up. This is a service. Invisible Girlfriend is a company who believes that real life dating is a pain in the ass and all we really need is someone who can pretend to be our girlfriend so we don’t need to feel like single social outcasts. There are other companies like them, but this is the largest that I can tell, making it’s way across the Atlantic from the land of misguided America. These services appeal to our basic animal need for connection, but promise to deliver without the difficulties and vulnerabilities of a true human relationship. These girlfriends (and boyfriends) of Invisible Girlfriend aren’t bots – this is their USP. They are poorly compensated real life people hired through the degrading employment strategy called “crowdsourcing” to send customers texts of endearment, 500 times per month if you’re a Premium Member. You’ll even get the occasional handwritten note. With an Invisible Girlfriend you will be cherished, listened to, cheered on – all without having to give anything in return. Except 20 pounds a month.
I’m sorry Invisible Girlfriend fans, this concept sends me into a rage on many, many levels. Creepy factor number one is that you design your own girlfriend/boyfriend; you choose their name, their photo (just some random stranger, not actually the person who will be texting you), their general personality (saucy and sarcastic, bookish and nerdy), personalize how you met, and then let the ‘creative writers’, the people assigned to be your texting buddies, morph into your perfect partner.
Why would someone want to do this? Well, I admitted myself, a texting ‘relationship’ was an amazing experience. It sent surges of serotonin through my system every time my phone dinged. But it was never done without the intent to meet. We were ravenous to meet. And yes, my heart got a little crushed when it turned out he wasn’t that into me. Invisible Girlfriend gets that we all want a number one fan, that we want to be desired. But at what price – in the long run?
So I can further excoriate this concept, let’s take a look at the things Invisible Girlfriend says they can do for you. In bold are words taken verbatim from The Invisible Girlfriend web site.
They want to help you “get people off your back” about not being in a relationship. So… having a fake relationship is somehow going to shut everybody up? Mom will now be happy and stop asking questions? She will never suggest you bring your girlfriend home? An Invisible Girlfriend will not render your nosy friends and family invisible. You’ll only be wishing you could yourself disappear into a deep, deceptive hole of invisibility.
Invisible Girlfriend “lets you explore a relationship with a girlfriend or boyfriend but without all the baggage that comes with dating.” Oh geezus, can I just throw my arms to the sky and scream, ‘Where is this world going?!’ Because, god forbid, we should want to deal with anyone else’s baggage. Hell, we do all we can to avoid dealing with our own baggage. Let’s take all this baggage avoidance to the next level by having relationships with people who DO NOT EXIST. Let’s only have easy, one sided relationships that we don’t need to tend to, that cater only to our own needs, that pump us up and give us “confidence” without asking for anything in return. In other words, let’s completely fuck ourselves when it comes to figuring out how to have real relationships in the real world.
“Many people use the service to practice dating, or just gain the confidence to start dating.” Or “Invisible Boyfriend helps her practice and develop confidence so she’s ready when it’s actually game time.” I’m sorry. Did you say that the best way to get milk from a cow is to pull on its ears? Texting with your Invisible Girlfriend will teach you as much about real life dating as walking along a river will teach you how to swim. I don’t care if you’ve had your heart broken. I don’t even care if your ex-boyfriend ripped out your still-beating heart and stomped on it. If you don’t actually date, like sit across the table from someone real, look into their eyes, even though your pulse is racing like a hummingbird’s, you will never gain enough confidence to actually become interesting. For a company to claim their service will get you to that real life table quicker is snake oil medicine. You want to get good at dating? Then date.
By having an Invisible Girlfriend you may inspire “just enough jealousy to jolt that special person into committing.” This is cynical manipulation, plain and simple. I’m a pragmatic realist when it comes to love, but to ever think I’ve gained a man’s affections because he felt there might be competition, especially if that ‘competition’ is a figment of our imagination, is so disheartening and so full of self-loathing I might as well sign up now for the Donald Trump re-election campaign. Look, if someone you have the hots for doesn’t have the hots for you, that’s just the way it is. Creating a jealously triangle, especially one based on an illusion, is not only juvenile, it’s stupidly degrading. It’s not bold, tender and confident love. “Inspiring jealousy” is a relationship based on fear and a love based on fear is destine to fail.
“We would advise against falling in love with your invisible girlfriend. You deserve the love of a real person.” Exactly! So don’t sign up for Invisible Girlfriend.
“Navigating the treacherous waters known as dating can be overwhelming and few hardened veterans live to tell their tale. That’s the absolute least dramatic way I can put it.” Who is this poor, benighted person writing this schlocky copy for Invisible Girlfriend’s blog? Not only is this person’s glass half empty, it’s filled with shit and ground glass. To say that dating is treacherous and you’re unlikely to live to tell the tale makes me think this guy was never let outside the house to play. Because that’s what dating is: play. It’s how adults decide who they’re going to go down the slide with, explore the woods with, hide under the blanket and tell deep secrets with. If waters get treacherous you just need to get smarter and better at sailing. That doesn’t happen in the safe harbor of Invisible Girlfriend. That happens by accepting that you’re vulnerable, you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, but the only way to get to that place, the only way to discover the wonders of love, is to set sail and know that, at some point, you’re going to lose your way. But, with practice, you’ll get better at the navigation.
Invisible Girlfriend has managed to rile me up almost as much as the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. Because, like The Donald, Invisible Girlfriend preys upon your fears, makes you think the real world is full of daggers and jihadists, and that a relationship that is unreal, and for which you pay, can actually make you happy. Yes, a texting boyfriend was a great experience and, yes, my heart got broken with the real deal. But that’s how you figure out love. To avoid real dating is so shortsighted, sweethearts. So shit-hearted. Face your fears, keep your money, and go find yourself a visible girlfriend.