Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
I want you to read this question without thinking I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. I work in a firm with some young attractive people who are all either dating or actively not dating due to hook ups. I have no luck with finding a boyfriend or a date or anyone who wants to spend time with me in a romantic capacity. I am 25 and have never been in a relationship. So one day, I just made up a person. I talked about where we go for dinner, how we get along, basically my ideal relationship except for not being real. I intend to eventually break up with this person and use that as a past experience to reflect on with dates when they bring up their past and with coworkers to sound interesting. Is that okay?
The key to successfully perpetuating a fake boyfriend ruse is to make sure your relationship is not too dramatic. Your fake boyfriend doesn’t need to be terminally ill or a Kuwaiti prince or freaking you out right now because he’s demanding you get an abortion and you don't know what to do. Boyfriends are enough drama on their own without adding a bunch of complicated B-plotlines, right girlfriend? (This is where you say “Amen!” because of course you know what boyfriends are like because you have one who is real. This kind of on-your-feet thinking will be crucial to maintaining your lie.)
I’m a little concerned that you say you intend to use the ups and downs of your relationship with this fake boyfriend to “sound interesting” to coworkers. On a girl power note, stop living your life like it’s the imaginary fifties – you don’t need a pretend man to find fake fulfillment. Consider opening an imaginary Etsy shop or taking imaginary night classes. Adopt an imaginary shelter pug. There are lots activities you can pretend to pursue that would be equally if not more rewarding than a hohum fling with a man you created in your mind.
Which brings me to my second point: Unless a person knows both parties well (a development which, by design, can never occur in this scenario), hearing about someone else’s boyfriend just isn’t that interesting. It’s also not interesting to hear about how someone doesn’t have a boyfriend, because not having a boyfriend is not particularly unusual or weird. That you came up with the fake boyfriend idea shows you are a creative problem solver, which tells me you are already interesting. Whether or not you’re dating someone will have no effect on this.
Having said all that, there are probably some situations when it will just be easier to pretend to have (or have had) a boyfriend. Like, when someone says “You know how, when you’re dating someone, you can’t always watch what you want to watch on TV?” You don’t have to respond “ACTUALLY, I DON’T HAVE A BOYFRIEND SO I DON’T KNOW HOW THAT IS. DOES NOT COMPUTE. ERROR ERROR ERROR C:\.” You can just say “Yep!”
For these instances, feel free to make up a boyfriend. It’s not hurting anyone. The important thing with this lie is to be consistent. If you told them your boyfriend’s name is George Glass in April, you can’t start calling him Jiminy Tabletop in May. You might find it helpful to loosely base your boyfriend on an obscure TV character (Little Ricky) or animal (bear). My boyfriend’s mother is crazy. My boyfriend looooves salmon.
Whether or not you ever reveal the lie depends on how deep into it you get. If you only ever mention vague details when prompted, this whole charade might give everyone a good laugh several years from now over cocktails. (Ohmygod, I almost forgot! I pretended I had a boyfriend when I started working here so we would have something to talk about!) If you go out of your way to bring him up—and dominate conversation with tales of your suspiciously perfect relationship—you should probably keep the truth to yourself.
And if you find yourself caring a little too much about what your fake boyfriend is thinking and doing, take that as a sign it's time to break up. You were never a good match anyway. (Because he was fake.)
As a black guy, 6ft tall, 190 pounds and black all over, I look like the sort of guy that the police would stop and frisk. I however am also Ivy League educated, work in high finance and occasionally sport a bow-tie. In short, I am the guy that white people in New York are occasionally spooked by but also the kind that they claim as a friend when they get in race related trouble. As such a nebulous member of society is it okay for me to make faces at strangers' babies on the gentle streets of Manhattan? I love babies and babies like staring at me, likely because, let's face it, they don't see black faces often and are probably just as interested in me as I am to them. The faces I make at the babies are not confrontational (just in case you are stereotyping me lol). They are more the same faces I make to (at?) my nephew. Still, I am wary of potentially unnerving innocent parents on these here streets. Making faces at babies: is that okay?
I’m not sure what parts of New York you’re frequenting if you’re encountering babies who never really see black people. Are you riding the white subway? Are you breaking into genteel Klan meetings? New York babies are like New York adults, in that most of them have televisions and all of them live in the world. Babies probably like staring at you because babies like staring at everything.
Secondly, while there certainly exist many ugly stereotypes of black people, I don’t think “making confrontational faces at babies” is one of them. Black people are not really known for taking babies to task (“HEY BABY") nor are they regularly depicted as going out of their way to frighten children. Many black people have children. Many black people once were children.
I say all this, because I think you’re overthinking things here. People making silly faces at babies in public is something that is almost always going to go over well. It’s fun for the babies because silly faces are hilarious – almost as funny as jingling keys. It’s fun for the parents because they get a thirty second break from being the one who has to entertain their baby. It’s fun for you because making babies laugh is hilarious – almost as funny as jingling keys. It’s fun for everyone who sees it because now they get to be part of a heartwarming scene.
One thing I would not do is make a big deal about how you are making a funny face at this baby even though you are a black man.
Hello, I am your friendly neighborhood black man.
I do not mean to alarm your child with my face, for I understand he has probably never seen a black man before.
I’d hate for anything bad to happen to your baby.
Taken at face value, all of these sound like nice things to say. However, saying any one of them would instantly suggest something is amiss: that you are a friendly neighborhood psycho; that you do mean to alarm the child; that you, a stereotypical black man, are here to confront that baby.
As long as you refrain from the 4 L’s (leering, lunging, and licking your lips at the baby), you can be confident that no one is going to reprimand you for looking at their child.
Plus you sound rich. Who wouldn't want you to smile favorably upon their infant?
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions (max: 200 words) here. Art by Jim Cooke.