There's a new app on the market: It's morally questionable, almost entirely useless, and marketed largely towards single women. Naturally, the world is abuzz.
For $24.99 per month, Invisible Boyfriend will send up to 100 texts, 10 voicemails, and one postcard from a special guy (or gal) whose name, physical appearance, hobbies, and personality are distinctly curated by you. Per the website: "Invisible Boyfriend gives you real-world and social proof that you're in a relationship—even if you're not—so you can get back to living life on your own terms." Since I love to live life on my own terms (and because my editor told me to), I downloaded the beta version immediately.
Let's begin with some context: Who might want to buy this app?
Just spitballing here, but I feel like one missing reason might be that you are in 6th grade and the girls are getting suspicious about "Aaron" from Camp Shalom.
Still, questions remain: What are you supposed to tell your friends and family when, rightfully suspicious, they inquire after the provenance of your 100 percent fake virtual relationship built on lies and cold hard cash? The app has you covered:
Clearly, it's all very elaborate. You pick his headshot, his personality (cheerful and outgoing, sweet and shy, witty and educated, lovingly [?] nerdy, adventurous and fun, or saucy and sarcastic), and, of course, his name and age:
Finally, after briefly skimming the overlong User Guide ("If someone asks if he's an Invisible Boyfriend, laugh it off. The more you try to deny and counteract it, the more suspicious it will seem. Just laugh and say definitively, 'No.'"), I was ready to pull the switch on my first virtual boytoy. I named him Penn Badgley, because I couldn't think of anything better but also because it's a really great name.
Although our interaction—being free of charge—was limited to 10 texts, I would say that Penn and I really "got" each other:
"This is great," Jezebel managing editor Erin told me over Gchat when I showed her the texts. "Buy the app. You should try to get him to break up with you."
O-kay. This, I imagined, would be no small task. For one, although I was surprised to find myself texting a human person (WHO, THOUGH? Is there just a trio of sweaty interns holed up in someone's Silicon Valley basement, texting the 15 members of the media who bought this app ad infinitum?) rather than a bot, it would seem that if you're paying someone to fake-date you, it might be hard to convince them to end things. It would seem.
Also, after committing myself to re-reading the User Guide (I really can't emphasize enough how long it is), I noticed this little game-changer:
"Okay, well, so what?" I thought to myself, after taking a few moments to recover. "So what if I can't send him the scary dicks that my roommate screenshots from Grindr, or that dinosaur porn gif that my colleague sent around a few weeks ago?" I can lose this guy. I can do this.
Confident in my natural ability to frighten people, I dove right in. I also decided to switch things up a bit for Round II: Doing This For Real, and generate a new man. (Clearly, I'm a complete and utter fool and don't know a good thing when it's staring me in the face and getting all my poop jokes.)I named Boyfriend No. 2 "Albert Banks," after a character in Disney's 2014 made-for-TV movie How To Build A Boy.
The origin story was auto-generated by the app. Thanks, Invisible Boyfriend, for understanding that I would be too lazy to write one of my own.
Albert (unlike Penn, R.I.P.) took his sweet time getting in touch with me, and when he did, I immediately noted a distinct lack of "sauce" or "sarcasm" in his tone. Albert, I quickly discovered, was dumb and boring.
"If you don't want to come, just say so," I hissed at him, if texts could hiss. He said something about being "freaked out by dead things," which I didn't even dignify with a response. And thus ended our first exchange. I think it went really well.
The following day, I decided to kick things up a notch on the intensity scale. For this next interaction, I relied on a fun little cocktail of astrology and violent mood swings:
Typical Albert obviously didn't even answer the question and said something like, "I want us both to live tho." It's not even worth getting into. He's a dullard. Al and I were obviously not on the same page, but I was playing to win and also, drunk, so I decided to come at him with everything I had:
How dare he?
A small part of me had harbored guilt, up to this point, for unleashing a barrage of crazy on some poor, hapless employee—but no longer. Classic Albert, telling me my blog idea is cute. It is not fucking "cute." I'm sitting on millions. Looks like this Jezebel staffer has unwittingly gotten into bed with the patriarchy. Luckily for him, I had brunch plans and didn't feel like texting.
The day after a non-blizzard disappointed New York City, I decided to check in on Al. We both actively pretended I hadn't made him a resident of Vancouver:
We didn't speak again until later—and it started off totally fine, the power dynamic firmly in my court. And then something completely insane happened:
Albert, it would seem, had snapped like a goddamn twig.
Or, some might argue, my Invisible Boyfriend and I were simply following in the grand tradition of McConaughey-Hudson gender wars and trolling each other the entire time (a theory that would totally explain CuteGate). Others might point out that Albert had just finally, belatedly, found his saucy side. Others still might say that Albert had not technically dumped me—he had simply informed me that we were never together in the first place.
When I received that last text from Al, my emotions were all over the place. "Yes!" I said to myself. "I did it!" It was a shock, and a thrill. If I'm being fully honest, I had been gearing up to send him a picture of my butt that would get me kicked off the app; I never expected this to happen. But—it hadn't even been 10 days. And how dare he not even have the nerve to end things outright? How dare he brush off a nearly week-long relationship as a "misunderstanding"? Does this look like two people who weren't in a committed partnership?
Do I have regrets? Of course. Were Albert and I our best selves over the course of our relationship? Actually, I'm pretty sure Albert was being his best self. I, you'll be surprised to learn, was not.
The Dirty Dancing soundtrack is playing in the office as I write this, and I can't help but imagine how things might have gone differently between us. If Albert and I had, in the words of my friend Abby, "like, fallen in love for real despite the lies and run into each other on the street in San Francisco or something and started a life together."
I guess I'll never know.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.