In seventh grade, I catfished the most popular girl in school. Mind you, this was before the term “catfish” was coined. The reasons behind the catfishing weren’t because I had some crush or infatuation with her. Unless you consider that she’s the most popular girl in school and every hetero-normative male would have done anything to try to be close to her. I was still in the closet at the time, she was my best friend, and we were drifting apart. I had to come up with some way in order to stay close to her. It wasn’t that I needed her; it was that we were drifting apart, and she made me feel like it was okay for me to be in my own skin, gay and all.
In response to her drifting apart and beginning to hang out with cooler kids, I created an online persona that fed into her interests: dancing and the arts. My name would be Radetsky, the last name stolen from the lead male actor from the movie Centerstage. I frequented Gay.com and found a profile with a plethora of pictures to assume my disguise as an actor/dancer. Yes, I would be an actor slash dancer. And topping it off with a fake e-mail account (actordancercutie@****.com).
When I initially e-mailed her, she asked me where I had gotten her e-mail address and I told her that I saw it on a dancer message board. She told me that she couldn’t recollect posting on one of those yet she continued to keep on e-mailing me. The e-mails started over summer vacation and I hardly ever saw the other kids from school over summer break (I was an “indoor” kind of kid.). I did happen to go to some baseball game with a buddy of mine from down the street; I have no clue why I went. I hate baseball. I think it was for the sheer social aspect of it. But while I was there, I remember one of the most popular guys in school coming up to me and cornering me asking if I was Radetsky. I lied and told him I didn’t know what he was talking about.
What did we talk about in our exchange of e-mails? Life, school, how we both wanted to make it as professional performers one day. I kept the focus on her and she would share with me as if I were her own personal diary that talked back. Now looking back, it certainly had a Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets vibe to it all. While I listened to her day to day rants about school and her friends, I’d gather gossip about what she thought of everyone in our school life.
Radetsky became bigger than I could have expected. She gave his e-mail out to her friends who would also e-mail me. She even gave his e-mail to me where I began a fake correspondence with myself chatting with Radetsky. The whole situation was getting out of control. It got to some points where I’d tell some of the other girls that were writing to me to please not because I didn’t think they were as soulful as the most popular girl in school. This was totally cruel but it was a situation that had gotten out of control.
She started to develop feelings for Radetsky. He got her. He understood her. He was amazing and wonderful. The thing was, I was sitting next to her in a lot of the same classes at school. I got her. I understood her. Perhaps I was amazing and wonderful? I highly doubted the final sentiment. Keeping up with all the secrets and lies was too much for me. I began to feel guilty about what I was doing.
The house of cards I had built for Radetsky came crumbling down after seven or eight months of lying and deceiving this poor girl. In my final e-mail to her in January 2001, instead of signing it with my usual, “Love, Radetsky,” I instead used my real name. I can remember the next day at school. The cold glare that I got from her. The sudden shutdown from the rest of the popular kids. I had become a social outcast overnight. I ate lunch either alone or with a lower caste of students. I had become a laughingstock among the popular guys. By the end of seventh grade, I had lost 30 lbs. I had grown depressed and lost my appetite. (it was essentially the best diet plan I have ever had.)
By the end of the school year, the most popular girl forgave me for my actions. She even signed my yearbook. But our relationship would never be the same. Those were the consequences of my actions. She was later on the first person that I told in school that I was gay and she kept my secret, which I was extremely grateful for. She could have really ruined my life in small-town Arkansas. I got lucky. Today, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for deceiving you like that. But it goes to show that I would make for a great contestant on Big Brother or Survivor.