I’m not talking about the fish. Maybe the first time you heard about catfishing was with Manti Te’o and his fake dead girlfriend. Maybe it’s the guy you made fun of on Facebook who gave his heart away to a “woman” in “New Hampshire” because she “needed the money to take the trip out to California to see him.” Then some burly man sitting behind a screen the whole time pocketed the money. I’d heard these wild stories and, like others, told myself I would never fall into the trap.
Then I got catfished by my own college roommate.
Moving across the country to go to college is terrifying. Consider it even more terrifying when you don’t know a soul at your university. So of course, I felt thrilled to find a kindred spirt on Facebook before moving to American University in Washington, D.C. The woman I considered my match made in heaven became my first college roommate and ended up being my polar opposite.
Before I moved to college, I lived in my own room and never shared a space with someone else. I was fortunate enough to enjoy my privacy and alone time. I came to peace with the idea that I would soon share my room with another person. In fact, I felt excited by the idea of living so close to someone while so far away from home. Sacrificing privacy for a lifelong friendship sounded like more than a fair deal.
I wanted to make sure the person I spent so much of my time with shared common interests with me. I scavenged a Facebook group for the upcoming freshman class in search of someone I could enjoy rooming with and who I thought would become my new best friend forever.
Then I stumbled upon my roommate to be. She described herself as a “free spirit” who loved record players, indie rock and reading. I immediately felt a kinship with this person whom I’d never met.
My fingers danced over my keyboard as I messaged her. Every response I received only confirmed my suspicion that we were actually separated at birth. We talked for weeks about our interests and goals for the future. I opened up to a complete stranger in a way I never had before. Soon after, we agreed to room together, and my mind exploded with the daydreams of what our future might look like.
My dream morphed into a nightmare.
During freshman orientation, I began to suspect my perfect roommate wasn’t as perfect as she made herself out to be. On Facebook, she said she loved to go on adventures, make friends and experience as many new things as possible. In real life, she only wanted to sleep during our free time. She wouldn’t accompany me to any of the week’s events and constantly complained that they weren’t interesting. She even mocked me for showing interest in the events and guilt tripped me for wanting to make other friends. For the first week, she shamed me into staying in the room with her. I did almost nothing.
When classes started, I found my roommate spending more and more time back in our room and not in class. I would leave in the morning for class and come back to find her still sleeping in the room when I got back in the afternoon. She slept for days at a time. Days. She slept through class and slept through her tuition.
If only she had stayed a sleeping beauty, perhaps we could have made this work. But her behavior took another turn for the bizarre. Her Facebook advertisement self-proclaimed her as “independent,” but she had me walk with her to the bathroom and go with her to wash laundry. She begged me to wash her dishes for her so she could avoid going to the lounge and seeing people. She even left her trash on my side of the room so I’d take it out for her and woke me up at 1 a.m. to go print her assignments for class.
I would plead with my roommate to not make me share each and every waking moment with her, but she would often mock me or even my family until I caved in and went with her. I could tell this was becoming an abusive relationship, far from the dream I had in mind when we met on Facebook.
As I continued to be confined to a 10-foot by 10-foot prison cell with her, I felt my sanity slipping away. The honeymoon was over, and I was ready for a divorce. I quickly realized that I had been catfished, conned, hoodwinked by my roommate. She drew me in with her siren song of indie rock on vinyl records and I was crashing into the rocks.
It took me months, but I finally escaped her clutches. However, I am still not over the psychological effects from living with her. I continue to face trust issues, leery of the idea of a new roommate. As time passes I hope to gain back my confidence and sanity and to get back into the roommate scene. However, I’ll never forget the time my college roommate catfished me into living with her.