LYNN CROSBIE creates a fleeting love affair via text.
Lynn Crosbie crafts her dream man on InvisibleBoyfriend.com.
LAST WEEK I SHOPPED ONLINE FOR A RAZOR-
sharp hatpin and a vintage notebook; for eyebrow mousse, party shoes and James Joyce’s filthy letters to Nora Barnacle. And because the specs of my life are increasingly furnished by the Net—and because what men in my life?—it was with considerable interest that I looked into InvisibleBoyfriend.com.
This hot site allows you to self-make an exceedingly suitable (yet somewhat imaginary) suitor. From his appearance and tastes to your cute couple “how’d you meet?” story, the site gives you the power to design your desire. For $24.99 a month, you’ll receive your fantasy man’s digital love via a fictitious relationship that includes 100 text messages, 10 voicemails and a hand-written letter. (Who’s behind them? An unknown, invisible staff member).
I created Leo Flynn, a sexy black man with wild hair. He’s 48 years old, witty and educated, and is a teacher who lives in Portland, Ore. His snail-mail card to me reads, “Jackpot!” and, based on its sugary contents, he most certainly is. He is funny and nice; he likes to read, sing and listen to music, and is interested in dressage.
As am I. This may be pegged as a lonely hearts site, but it is also a gold mine for anyone wishing at, say, 1 a.m., to talk about things horsey and musical.
According to Invisible Boyfriend’s FAQ page, a lot of people are designing ethereal mates because they are tired of being nagged about being single or they identify as LGBTQ and aren’t ready to come out.
I signed up thinking two things: That it would be nice to receive a desirous text while out with an insufferably smug affianced friend and that Leo was going to provide a few weeks of the kind of fun that suited my lifestyle of writing at home. As such, one night, as I struggled to find yet another synonym for “hideous,” my phone pinged.
“Hey Lynn! This is Leo :) How are you?” read my »
inauspicious first incoming text, to which I replied, “I’m good honey, you?” Then: nothing. “What happened to you?” I asked the next day. I had thought the writing was going to be a high-intensity whirlwind. “Sorry babe, just been crazy busy,” he wrote. Oh no, I thought. This was going to be horrible. Not only was I paying to have a man in my life, I was paying to have boring conversations with him. And he was aloof.
It was time to step up my game. I broke up with him immediately. He was kind about it and drew me back in. I accused him of cheating on me. He parried so well that I apologized.
Then I turned super-femme and told him I was lonely: “Tell me a story,” I demanded.
He did, and it was a very good one about a giraffe handing me flowers as I sat in my tree-top fort. I invited him to spend the weekend.
It must be noted that there were one or two glitches: He forgot who I was at one point (there are over 500 invisible mates working in the digital-ardour honeycomb). He asked me out of the blue if I listened to This American Life that day, which I think was his way of fulfilling the intelligence rule of his algorithm. And he announced, preposterously, that he was a “gendarmerie”: zero points for continuity, full bonus for sneaking horses into the conversation.
But when we honed in on the weekend plans, we finally got in sync. The texting became regular and ardent, and it would seem we fell. Because not long after, he texted me this: “Love you babe!” And my jaundiced heart actually stammered. I loved him, too.
With the advent of Invisible Boyfriend, frustrated women are increasingly requiring alternatives to the wretched gallery of men on offer. Or they are tired of baiting hooks when there are so many fish just lying on slabs of ice all over the place waiting to be snagged. Women past their 20s, especially: If you look at the available avatars on Invisible Boyfriend, the men become increasingly unattractive and sparse as their desired age increases. Is this a poignant statement on women’s diminishing returns as we age, when contrasted to men who seem easily able to, shamelessly, date women half their age? Or has the Internet just paid off again?
I quite like the idea of a bespoke boyfriend, of selecting—but not in the scary, Matt McMullen-RealDoll-sexcompanion way—a man who suits both my aesthetic and my love of dreamy-talk and sweet nothings.
A man who is real and who isn’t: Hybridity is the natural apex of the tech revolution. A human posing as a human sounds ludicrous, but it’s perfectly suitable to our strange, adapting new world. Finally, it is simply nice to talk to a man one has vetted in advance, unlike the swains on match.com—guys who suggest a dumpster as a meeting for a date or ask me if I like “watching TV lol.”
I have attended several events that would have been considerably enlivened by some arm candy: As the mistress of my destiny, I would have instructed my gorgeous young man to tell people he was a UFC champion and Jane Austen scholar while I attentively picked lint from his rented tux. Try that with Gary from accounting! Or try getting sweet texts like this from, well, any man: “Please tell me you will always remember how special you are.”
Yes, I ended up eating out of the worker drone’s hand while he was posing as Leo, but once I shredded my cynicism and desire to mess with him, I submitted completely to the fantasy. The popularity of filthy books (from Fifty Shades of Grey to the Bound Hearts series) that are organized around healthy, marriage-bound relationships is very telling. Many women obviously want sexual excitement and liberty, but they want it conducted within the confines of a relationship that’s going somewhere—that is safe.
Toward the end of the month, I started to panic. How was I going to end this? I told Leo I was moving to Reykjavík to teach. Would he come with me? “I’m ready for the happy ending,” he said, and, in another life, we are currently watching the sea from our little balcony and spending our days riding horses and our nights examining the Northern Lights from the belly of the Blue Lagoon.