I’m sure everyone’s been on a bad date. Up until the start of this year, I hadn’t really had any bad experiences – or rather, after a few bad boyfriends, coupled with a tendency to get anxious around strangers, I had managed to avoid letting any boy come within 5 metres of me. The comfort zone is however there to be challenged, so I’ve been through a string of what you can only call ‘interesting’ experiences (a banker offering to pay to take me home was one of these highlights), which really peaked with a boy who slid into my dms a few weeks ago. Looking back, it is entertaining, but I also want to show how dangerous the influence of social media (particularly Instagram) can be, and how fake everything we’re idolising online really is.
Like I said, I’m always apprehensive when people ask me out and usually do my best to make excuses and get out of dates. Not to be swayed by pretty people, the boy in question was a 9. A 9.5, my housemates were shrieking, and declared that there was no way they would let me out of this one. He’d asked me to gym with him, which turned into a walk in the park, and later some food. He was admittedly as beautiful as his pictures in person, as an ex-topless Abercrombie door model, and general underwear model.
Straight away, he told me his goals were to travel the world for free as an influencer, and to document it on Instagram and YouTube. I didn’t think much of it; everyone has big dreams. He also loosely mentioned he had a foot fetish, and with all my recent marathon training, my toenails are looking a bit questionable – so I stuck a bunch of fake toenails on before our second date.
He’d offered to make me protein pancakes after I had dinner out with my friends (is there a better way to win me over?!) When I arrived at his house, he was making the pancakes – topless. Despite being perfect and chiselled and very gym-honed, it seemed very staged and fairly cringeworthy. Whatever, I was getting pancakes. Halfway through watching a film, he turned and stared at me, all wide-eyed, before putting one of his vlogs on to ‘show me what he does’. (I pretended like I hadn’t avidly researched him and watched it twice already). He then asked if I knew of Jay Alvarrez and Alexis Ren. Who doesn’t? The power couple took the internet by storm in 2016, posting couple travelling vlogs, making us all lust after their dreamy life; beachy, summer sun and extra sexual. It was at this point that I realised that I wasn’t even really on a date, but more of a business interview.
He next pulled out his modelling casting book, and I had to leaf through the pictures of him, ooo-ing and aaaa-ing to try and feign admiration, although I was incredibly confused and a quite put out by this level of narcissism. He forced one of the pictures of himself upon me, despite my attempts to refuse, and insisted on signing it (who leaves a date with a signed picture of the other person?) He proceeded to tell me that he had discovered me on Instagram, and that I had a lot of POTENTIAL, but wasn’t quite there yet. He repeated that I had the potential to be a ‘strong powerful woman’, but was at this stage not quite good enough, just a ‘baby’ – albeit ‘cute’ one. I was told several times that I inspired him, that I resembled Natalie Portman (not complaining), but that I would have to lose the fake tan (not happening). A ticket to Bali in two weeks on time was on offer; I didn’t have to pay for anything, just bring myself, and I guess whatever brand I represent.
After playing Jay Alvarrez and Alexis Ren’s vlogs, nodding away enthusiastically, (he gave me a sly sideward smile and said that I could do their sex scenes too – if I wanted to), he put on some of the Victoria Secret models’ workout videos. Whilst in no way skinny-shaming, or body-shaming in any form, these girls are incredibly thin. It has taken me years to build up self confidence in my shape, and I am fairly open about my past with body image and eating disorders, yet I was completely taken aback at the suggestion that I needed to be thinner. I just sat in silence, watching these models work out whilst the boy was grinning away and telling me how together we could achieve this look. These videos were briefly interspersed with an old video of Rihanna’s; the grin turned into a frown, and he said that she had become ‘horribly fat’ nowadays. A little too shell-shocked to say anything, I ‘suddenly remembered’ that I had to be up early, collected my things, and called an Uber. I closed the door on calls reminding me of the flight to Bali in two weeks-time.
It’s safe enough to say that two weeks have passed, and I am not in Bali. (My fake toenails have also popped off). Maybe some girl somewhere would have taken him up on his business proposal, but the thought of travelling with someone I’d met a week earlier, who’d sourced me as a business project, and repeatedly told me that I needed some improvements, filming intimate footage for money, is pretty sickening. I guess I was inadvertently groomed in a strange, new, 21st century version of profiting out of girls, thanks to our obsession with social media. I have come away laughing – eventually – and my skin is pretty thick, but after being sourced and unknowingly interviewed to be an insta-wife, I take this as a lesson on being aware of how fake, staged and fictitious the lives of your favourite Instagram stars are.