(Flickr: paula1841)

“Catfish” by Amethyst Hope Hethcoat

My room is black as an Olympic runner—except for the illuminated screen of my Sony Vaio which radiates like Chernobyl. My laptop is cherry red; vibrant and bold and sophisticated, just like the woman I have tried for so many years to become. Surfing through personal ads and profiles on a dating website is like trying to find that one antique, platinum wedding band buried beneath heaps of used underwear at a garage sale. It’s hard, but I have to believe it’s possible.

I’ve watched Antique Road Show; scissors used by Adolf himself to trim his iconic mustache somehow ended up in the hands of Nebraskan couple Barb and Mo. Deciding to thrift abroad changed everything for them. They bought their seven kids Harvard educations and even had enough left over to buy a lifetime supply of KY: His and Hers tingling lubricants. All I’m saying is, if Barb and Mo can luck out in a German thrift shop, then why can’t I find love online?

I scroll through profiles for hours. So many gray-haired, balding senior citizens with pot bellies, sunken eyes, and exaggerated denture smiles. They all have kids, at least half are recovering alcoholics, and most are born-again Christians. They’re old enough to be my dad—maybe even my gramps. God rest his soul.

Finding attractive 30 to 40 year old, SINGLE men is a difficult task, tantamount to finding the Holy Grail. By then, they’re either married or playboy bachelors who prefer the club scene. And since I’m literally the worst dancer on the planet—yes, even worse than the topless models in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video, I decided to forego thumping stereos and tequila shots. Me trying to grind on someone kind of resembles somebody’s arthritic nana as she tries to squat on her doctor recommended, elevated toilet seat. Plus, I remember horror stories from my friends back in college; I really, really, really would rather not get roofied. So I went with eHarmony.

The old guy in the commercials seems really sweet. He smiles a lot and the couples he talks to are supposedly legit. They hold hands and cuddle in that awkward, cute way that is as annoying as it is adorable. In between House Hunters and the Turkish adaptation of The O.C., I always see these mushy, gushy ads. It’s like the world takes sadistic pleasure in reminding me that I am 35 and very much alone:  childless and sexually stagnant.

Shit. Fine, okay. I’ll admit it. I want someone to awkwardly snuggle with while watching Oprah. That’s why I got a cat. But Mr. Snookums doesn’t even like me. He’d rather sleep in his dirty litter box than beside me in my cushy Sultan Florvag from Ikea. Sometimes I grab him, forcing him against me in a furry embrace. But he meows in protest before swatting me away with claws that occasionally protrude to slice through my skin like Cutco. Feeling like an attempted molester, I then huddle in the fetal position underneath sheets of Egyptian cotton while burrowing my face into my pillow—half hoping I’d have the guts to smother myself. What the hell have I been doing with my life?

Oh, yes. I’ve spent the last decade and a half trying to shed 200 pounds of excess fat. Fat is congealed, yellow lard; your body’s leftovers; the Chinese takeout you never finished; gram’s meatloaf from 1987; it’s disgusting. In high school, I weighed more than three average-sized adult midgets combined. None of the cute, fashionable stores had clothes my size.

My grandma crocheted me sweaters and my mom bought me sparkly, leopard print blouses from the “goddess” section. Just because I was fat, didn’t mean that I was an animal to be gunned down on an African safari. But that’s certainly how I felt. Kids would throw their leftovers at me in the cafeteria, and people would “moo” whenever I walked past. When I told the teachers, they laughed. Nobody asked me out…ever.  

My only friend was a kid named Larry. Larry had a curly black fro, was super skinny, loved flannel shirts, and wore his grandpa’s scuffed green alligator shoes. He was a mathlete. Larry was really smart—probably because he was Jewish. He also had a sensitive side.  He wrote poetry a lot: in his textbooks, on graph paper, on his skin with a feathered quill. And most of it was for me. I remember one poem he wrote me in science class: “Deep sea trenches/elongated depressions/remind me of our romantic sessions/in the closet with arc-shaped confessions, of our intimate obsessions.”   People called him “queer.”  I think they were probably right.

One night, during one of our sleepovers, Larry and I were watching The Breakfast Club. He loved Ally Sheedy while I was partial to Molly Ringwald and her awesome red locks which I wanted for my own. He was curled up against me, and I thought, what the hell? We’re the two biggest losers in school; if I have a chance with anyone, it’s with Larry. I started kissing him even though I had no idea what I was doing. I just tried to copy what I’d seen in movies. I could feel him tense up. He got completely still. He didn’t try to make me stop, so I climbed on top of him. That’s when it happened. Larry screamed. So, I climbed off, and asked, “What’s wrong?”  He said, “I’m sorry. It hurts. You’re just too big.”  

I had never felt so hurt in my life. Larry’s rejection was more painful than any of the milk bags or coleslaw hurled my way. He was my best friend—my only friend—and he had shot me down. It was then that I realized:  I was completely alone.  Still I responded calmly and coldly:  “Hey, that’s okay, we all know you’re gay anyway.”   His face contorted; his coke-bottle glasses fogged with impending tears. I left before I could see them cascade down his freckled face.

After that, I stopped eating doughnuts. I cut out milkshakes. And I always took the stairs. I sat by myself. When someone threw something at me, I sumo-wrestled her down to the floor and stuffed cornbread in her mouth, screaming, “Eat it, bitch.”  But when people shoved Larry into garbage cans and broke his glasses, I acted as if I saw nothing. He attempted suicide a couple of times, so his parents institutionalized him. I, on the other hand, was losing weight—and gaining respect.

Currently 125 pounds, I’m happy to say I’m an “after” success story. I’d like to say that I lost weight only because I hit the treadmill and ate grilled chicken. But the truth is I cut a lot of corners. On more than one occasion, I went to Mexico where on the down low, I purchased tongue drops. They’re illegal here in the U.S. The drops are a derivative of methamphetamines, and they actually work.  Your heart quickens; your face drips with beaded salty drops; and your appetite disappears. And screw it. They were worth it. I look good. Damn good.

With my skinny waist, juicy ass, and bodacious bosom, I could make a grown man cry. If I wasn’t confident in my sexuality, I could turn myself over to the other side. But the thing is, I’m busy. I travel all over the world pitching drugs for pharmaceutical companies. I don’t have time to date organically. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s this:  you can’t wait for things to happen; to change, you have to do them yourself.

eHarmony just wasn’t cutting it, so I switched to Xango. I’ve been chatting with several guys—and a girl here and there. Don’t judge me; it’s good to keep your options open. But I’m particularly fond of this one guy:  Mark. Mark has gorgeous green eyes, tan skin, and mouthwatering abs that are even more breathtaking than Channing Tatum’s in Magic Mike. He likes cats, too, and loves 80s cult hits. Plus, he’s not just a pretty boy. Mark can definitely hold his own in a conversation.

We’ve discussed everything from Mischa Barton’s rehab recovery to Obamacare. He believes that love is a human right, and is ultimately our divine purpose while on this earth. Like I said, the dude’s pretty deep. We’ve kept in contact exclusively via the web up to this point, but tomorrow we’re meeting in the flesh. I have to say, I’ve got the jitters. I have my outfit all planned out:  a red dress with stiletto heels which basically say, “come and get it.”  I’m okay with that. Do I look like a penguin? Am I wearing a purity ring? No. I’m not a nun, so get over yourself. We’re meeting at this hipster panini place in SoHo. Nothing says “love” like house-baked ciabatta bread and organic turkey breast accented with oregano and rosemary.

I walk into Panini Passion Cove when a sickening wave of nausea rolls over me. What if he doesn’t like me? What if all the years of dieting and illegal tongue drops aren’t good enough? What if I’m not good enough? I glance into the shiny laminated menu and see that my breasts are slightly lopsided, so I attempt to jam each back into its proper booby basket.

A lady with a purple tank shields her little son or daughter. It’s hard to tell the kid’s gender since its shoulder length blonde hair leads to an ambiguous yellow t-shirt. Could be a tomboy girl or it could be a metro boy. I hate the confusion. I hate not knowing. In this moment, I resolve to buy my future daughter lots of pink dresses with lace—one part pageant, another part pornographic Disney princess. But if I have a son, I’ll buy him baby ripped jeans with shirts that promote aggression and hyper-sexuality—maybe a graphic-T featuring a dinosaur biting off a girl’s head or a racecar driving over Native Americans.

 The little bell chimes, signaling that someone has just entered the café. He’s tall; muscles bulge through his tight black wife beater. His eyes are covered by sunglasses, but I’d bet you anything they’re green. I get up to greet him, but am shocked when he walks over to the purple tank top mom instead. Just then, I see a fat person in front of me. He breathes heavily—not surprising, considering the extra effort his heart must make in order to pump blood around his pudgy ass. This disgusting fat guy has a pube-like Jew fro. How gross.

 “Hey Jessica.”

 “I’m sorry, but you must have me confused with someone else.”

 Shit, how does he know my name?

 “No actually, I think I don’t.”

 “Sir, I am terribly sorry for your confusion, but, like I said before, I don’t know you.”

 Shove off, fatty.

“You don’t know me? But we’ve been talking for months. You know? Mischa Barton’s out of rehab. Obamacare? Or maybe you’d remember me better as the flannel-wearing, poetry-writing queer from high school. Except I’m not queer.”

 Oh, hell no. You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Larry?”

“Who were you expecting? Ally Sheedy? Look, I know I’m not Mark, but—”

“But what? You lied to me!”

“You wouldn’t have met with me otherwise.”

 “You pretended to be someone you’re not, and I’m not okay with that.”

 “I’m sorry. But now things are different.”

 “How?”

 “Now it won’t hurt. Now I’m not skinny like I was. I figured things out. But I’m still who you thought I was. I’m still your friend.”

 “I’m sorry, but this is just too weird. I have to go.”

Screw you, fat ass. Once a queer, always a queer. How dare he? Lazy fat slob who’s probably gay. I won’t be played again. Not by him. He broke my heart once, and now he’s done it again. If I can put in the time and effort to achieve hotness, then Larry can do the same.  Pick up a damn weight, buddy. Switch from Nesquik to Slim Fast.

I turn to leave. Maybe I’ll try the club after all. I’ll take my chances with herpes and rapists. But before I can get out the door I hear:

“You can take the fat out of the bitch, but you can’t take the bitch out of the girl.”

Amethyst Hope Hethcoat loves cats, pop culture, and peace. A graduate of Chapman University, she searches for Truth behind the Orange Curtain. She hopes you find her work disturbing as well as pleasing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *