Dreamer Emma had been catfished by a baggy 55-year-old. But love wasn’t finished with her yet…
I bed an imaginary man
I’d dreamt of this man for so long
Scooping icy water from the sink, I sploshed it over my face. But it did nothing for my criedout, swollen eyes. ‘Fool,’ I thought, gazing at my reflection. I could almost imagine seeing the word tattooed above my eyebrows.
I felt so stupid – the girl who’d had a year-long affair with a hunk who didn’t exist. Well, he did exist, but he was no hunk! I’d better explain…
I’d moved to London from my home in France, and was mad about my new life in the capital.
I managed a restaurant and had lots of mates. All I was lacking was love.
But, as a dreamy-headed French girl, I believed in l’amour
– the crazy romantic kind – so I’d turned my nose up at the idea of online dating.
I wanted ‘boy meets girl’, the old-fashioned way.
But then, a year ago, when I was 32, I’d changed my mind. Being choosy didn’t seem so clever when I wasn’t meeting anyone!
So, I’d taken a deep breath and joined up to dating site Zoosk.
Two days later, Ronaldo Moretti had messaged me.
When I looked back now, he’d been too good to be true. So why didn’t I see it?
He was like a young Robert Downey Jr in all his pics. Dark, fit and hunky. He said all the right things, didn’t want to rush me…
Didn’t want to meet me… That had been the big clue, right there.
When I finally came face to face with Ronnie, after 18 months of falling in love with him but never once getting to meet him, I found out why.
Ronaldo Moretti was really weasly, wrinkled Alan Stanley. A 55-year-old divorced dad. He’d totally hoodwinked me. Alan had pinched the hunky pics of a Turkish man called Adam Guzel, to lure me in and make me love him.
Adam was the Robert Downey Jr lookalike I’d fallen for.
‘This Adam should know this has happened,’ I thought angrily. ‘He’s a victim, too.’
On impulse, I opened Facebook and typed his name in.
My stomach flipped over as the handsome face appeared.
I didn’t know this man. He didn’t know I existed, either. And yet I was in love with him. How messed-up can you get?
That’s what Alan-impostorStanley had done to me.
I was mourning a love that wasn’t even a lie. It was a figment of an old saddo’s imagination.
Every day that I’d closed my eyes, picturing Ronnie’s gorgeous, smiling face, every night that I’d fallen asleep, imagining his muscular body wrapped around mine, had been nothing but a con.
Nothing but a front for a washed-up old fantasist… Adam Guzel’s identity had been stolen and used to abuse me. Now, my fingers flew over my phone as I composed a message to him.
Hello, Adam, I wrote. We don’t know each other but, a year ago, I met a guy online and that guy is using your pictures and pretends he is you under another name.
I wasn’t sure if getting in touch with you was a good idea, but I needed you to know. I pressed send. ‘There,’ I thought, ‘I’ve done my duty.’
I’d always been a trusting, openhearted person, but my faith in people had been shattered. Maybe Adam Guzel wasn’t a real person, either?
Two days went by. Then a message from Adam pinged on my phone. Dear Emma, thank you so much for warning me.
He said he’d suspected his photos were being misused.
I replied, and we exchanged the odd message over the next few weeks.
It was messing with my head. ‘No good will come of this,’ I thought.
After being catfished, I just didn’t know what was real and what
wasn’t any more. I live in Istanbul,
me. I’m an actor and model.
But was he? Darned if I could tell… He sent me a picture, but I’d seen it before. In fact, I had over 300 photos of ‘Ronnie’. Seeing them just made me blub for what I’d lost.
But Adam, 34, kept texting. Just normal stuff…
‘He’s quite quiet,’ I thought. ‘My Ronnie was a bit of a joker.’ Something strange was happening. Ronnie was vanishing. Adam was becoming more real. But, even now, I’d have to mentally slap myself. Ronnie wasn’t ‘my’ Ronnie! He’d never even existed. My Ronnie had always refused to do video calls – because he was Alan, of course. And now, I realised that was the only way I’d know if I was being reeled in and made a fool of again.
‘Can we Facetime?’ I asked Adam. ‘Sure,’ he agreed. I was terrified. This was the moment I’d find out if he was a phoney catfisher, too…
When Adam’s handsome face appeared on my screen, I burst into hysterical tears.
‘You exist,’ I spluttered, when I could speak. ‘You’re real.’
What an idiot! But I couldn’t help the emotions bubbling up.
‘Don’t cry,’ Adam pleaded, his gorgeous face full of concern.
I recovered my dignity, and we chatted for 10 minutes.
My heart was thumping when we’d finished.
It became a nightly ritual – a chat face-to-face over the laptop.
After a few weeks, Adam said he’d like to visit me in London.
My stomach lurched again… an electric surge of excitement, but fear of getting hurt again, too.
Could this be the start of a proper, real-time relationship? Or should I hold back and keep Adam as a friend?
‘OK,’ I said. ‘Come.’
We agreed that I’d meet him at the airport. Arriving an hour before he was due, I was a jiggly, jangly jelly of nerves. It didn’t help that it was April Fool’s Day!
He came out, walking very slowly. ‘Oh, my God,’ I thought, goosebumps popping up all over my body.
He really was an Adonis! Then he saw me and lit up with the most amazing, whitetoothed smile I’d ever seen.
He hugged me, but he was boiling hot, and I was trembling so much that we had to sit down.
He took my hand and we kept staring at each other, laughing.
A shiver of excitement shot from the roots of my hair to my toes. What was happening?
As we waited for a cab from the airport to my place, I stood on the kerb and he kissed me on the lips.
Back at my house, we talked and talked.
I felt a lurch seeing Adam unpack a leather jacket I’d seen ‘Ronnie’ wearing. I had to remind myself to call him Adam, too. But, in no time, the oddness of our situation evaporated.
A couple of days later, I watched him making coffee in my kitchen. ‘Adam is Adam, and he’s here, right now, with me,’ I thought.
In that moment, I let Ronnie go for ever.
For so long, I’d dreamt of this stunning man lying beside me in my bed.
When me and Adam made love for the first time, I ran my
hands over his muscles, breathed in his scent, and felt dizzy that it was all real.
Adam didn’t go back to Turkey. Three months on, he is living with me in London, working on his acting career.
We are crazy about each other. Who’d have thought it? It’s better than a chick lit novel!
When Alan Stanley stole Adam’s identity, he took something precious from me, too. But I’m almost grateful to him now.
Because his catfishing led me to Adam, true romance – and a real man at last. Emma Perrier, 35, Richmond, west London
Catfisher Alan Stanley,
55, says, ‘I have asked myself a million times why I did it. I used pictures of Adam that I think I found in a catalogue. I knew that [Emma] wouldn’t talk to me as Alan – that’s why I used the photos.
‘I sent her a message on a dating website and she responded. We started talking – even on the phone – and I became embroiled in her life.
‘I know what I did was wrong but, the more Emma involved me, the harder it was to come clean.
‘It was only when I got a new computer, and started messaging her from it that she realised I wasn’t who I’d said
I was and started investigating me.
‘I felt very guilty about what I was doing – it was the most difficult thing that I’d ever done.
‘I was going through a low point in my life, and I wanted someone to talk to.
‘I never tried using my own identity. Everyone is nervous about being online, and so was I.
‘But I think it’s brilliant that Emma and Adam have met. It’s almost like fate.
‘I am over the moon that she has found her soul mate, and I truly believe that he
IS her soul mate. I’d love to meet him sometime.’
Now my life’s like a chick lit romance!
Me and Adam fell in love over the phone
Catfishing caught me an amazing boyfriend!
I told Adam his identity had been hijacked
Alan – the real man behind ‘Ronnie’