Not Her

“What’s the first word you think of when you think of me?” From behind her desk, Jen is staring at me with wide, perfectly-lined eyes, her oversized false lashes giving her the look of a haunted doll. Her legs—shiny and golden, completely hairless and appearing oddly slick, like most female legs in Hollywood—are crossed, exposed under the short (and I mean short) hem of her sparkly minidress (and I mean minidress).

I pause. If I’m honest, the words that first come to mind when I think of Jen—with her empty doll eyes and legs that look like an aquatic animal—would be vapid, basic, and maybe, if I was feeling particularly salty, idiotic.

“Glamorous,” I say instead. A nice, balanced, ego-stroking reply—just like she’s used to. I smile in order to really sell it, and of course she eats it up like the starved supermodel-turned-actress that she is.

“Well, see, I love that you think that! And it comes through with all your social media postings.” She flicks her eyes over to her desktop computer monitor, where she has both of the pages I manage—her Instagram and her Twitter account—open. I catch a brief glimpse of some of my posts and I have to quickly look away, suddenly embarrassed. I can’t really put into words just how weird it is to pose as someone else (especially someone famous and so very much unlike you), and then sit in front of that person as they read through the posts you’ve written on their behalf. You can’t help but feel inadequate, worried they’ll call you out on not capturing their essence.

Jen’s doll eyes snap back to me. She has one of those big-ass celebrity smiles: bleached teeth, glossy lips spread wide. On magazine covers, it’s beautiful. In person, it’s unsettling. “You really understand my lifestyle. People who follow my accounts get a taste of the good life and the glamour through reading your posts, and I’ve read some of the comments—they love it! Well, most do.” The way she says “most”—carefully emphasizing it—seizes me with panic. Fuck. I can’t lose this job. Not another one. Not again.

“I think, overall, people have responded really well to the posts,” I say, desperate to make my case before she drops the hammer. “I’ve worked closely with your team and made use of all the photos and video you’ve supplied me with. Your publicist said she was really happy with the direction.”

“Oh yeah, it’s been great! You’ve been great.” She leans forward, placing her elbows on the desk. I can’t help but wonder why she even has a desk, or an office for that matter. It’s not like she has the type of job that requires it. When would a B-list actress—best known for being the romantic interest in countless dumb action movies and the occasional star of a critically-panned horror film or romcom—need to sit and do any desk work? She doesn’t even run her own social media pages anymore. She probably just comes in here to take meetings and pretend to be impressive. I almost snort.

“The thing is . . .” She pauses, biting her lip. It’s all a part of her cutesy shtick. “I really like what you’ve done with my accounts, but some of the commenters said some things that really, y’know, bothered me.”

“Well, that’s sort of the nature of social media, right? People will love you or hate you no matter what.” I laugh uncomfortably, hoping she’ll join in. She doesn’t.

“Like, I get that not everyone is going to be a fan. It’s just—I don’t know if you saw it, but some people said that my posts made me seem . . .” She glances again at her computer monitor. She squints at the screen as she reads one of the comments. “’Elitist,’” she quotes, turning back to me. “Somebody said that. And then this other person said that it’s weird how I’m always posting all this great stuff about, like, my travels and my life, and not anything serious about who I really am. Which, I mean . . . they have a point.”

“Sure,” I say. My voice is flat. Dread is building within me. If she’s going to fire me, I almost wish she’d just get on with it.

“So I was thinking . . .” She drums her nails—which are painted Barbie-dreamhouse pink—against her desk. They make an off-putting click sound. “Wouldn’t it be great if we shook things up? Tried something new? Like, what if we made my social pages more—what’s the word? Relatable.

“Okay,” I say. Does this mean I’m not fired? I’m still bracing myself, waiting for the inevitable follow-up: Since you obviously can’t do relatable, it’s probably best if we part ways.

Instead, she says, “So you think that’s a good idea? Can we do that?”

She actually said it: “we.” I’m still in the picture. I breathe a sigh of relief—hopefully an inconspicuous one, though probably not—and smile genuinely for the first time today. No, for the first time this week. This month. This year. Shit, when was the last time I smiled genuinely? “It’s a great idea, Jen. You have awesome instincts. The relatable celebrity—self-deprecating, approachable, familiar—is totally on-trend right now.”

She beams. “See? I knew it! My publicist is always saying that people like fantasizing about, like, cool celebrity stuff, but what people really want is someone to have a beer with, right?”

So right.” Celebrities are easy to get in your corner: just keep telling them how brilliant and insightful they are, and boom, you’ll be their new favorite person. At least until the next sycophant comes along and takes your place. “I’m really excited about this! It’s just the ticket, I think.”

“Same.” She leans forward suddenly and grabs my hand. I can smell her signature Jen 10/10 perfume. “I’ll be honest with you, when I was first told I wouldn’t be able to manage my social media pages anymore, after the Chelsea incident, I was devastated. I just loved connecting with my fans one-on-one like that, you know? And I loved being totally authentic, running all of my pages myself and posting whatever popped into my head . . . which didn’t end up going so great, obviously, but before the Chelsea thing, it was the best! And like, I didn’t want to lose that authenticity. But then you came along!” She squeezes my hand. She’s doing that intense eye-contact thing that my fifth-grade teacher used to do, and I fucking hate it. “You’ve just been so great at listening to my input or the input of my team, and like, really collaborating, you know? So I feel like my pages are still authentic and they’re still me, even if I’m not the one directly running them.” Another hand-squeeze. Another toothy, knockoff Julia Roberts grin—the only knockoff thing Jen would ever wear. “You’re amazing at what you do, Rhoda. Bible! I’m so happy to work with you.”

I feel a warm and squishy feeling burrow inside me. Heat comes to my cheeks. I flash another all-too-rare, actually-genuine smile. Fuck. I hate how I, too, am so easy to win over. So susceptible to flattery. And I hate the fact that when it’s a celebrity complimenting me, it feels even better. Being noticed by one of the “special people,” the ones with the fans and the fame and the money, is like taking a drug: addictive and powerful and absolutely intoxicating. For a moment, you feel seen. Really, truly seen. They’re good at that, Hollywood people, with those plastered-on grins and touchy-feely tendencies and unrelenting eye contact, and the way they speak—so effusive, every sentence punctuated with exclamation points and an abundance of italics. Jen might be an idiot who’s only famous because she’s tall and skinny, but being complimented by her gives me a short-lived confidence boost of about a thousand.

“Thanks,” I tell her, ducking my head. “Thank you. That’s very sweet.”

She finally extracts her hand from mine, placing it neatly on her desk. “It’s the truth,” she assures me.

Ready to get the spotlight off me, I change subjects: “By the way, speaking of the Chelsea incident, I feel like this new approach could really help improve your image. You know, ‘former feuder Jennifer Prentice shows off softer side on social media’—the press’ll eat it up.”

“I hope so.” She sighs dramatically. “It’s been so hard ever since that happened. I know for sure I lost jobs. Like, my agent didn’t tell me I lost any opportunities, but I just—I could sense it. I could sense that all these people who were thinking of hiring me just totally abandoned the idea because of that stupid Twitter spat.” She rolls her eyes. “It was so dumb. And the funny thing is, I don’t even hate Chelsea! Like, all these magazines said all this shit—‘Jen and Chel’s beef’ and ‘how long Jen and Chelsea have actually been feuding’—and it was all total bull! It was just a public fight that got out of hand, not, like, a statement on our relationship.” She slumps in her seat. “I still feel so stupid about the whole thing.”

She should. It was a mess of epic proportions. What started as a run-of-the-mill white-girl celebrity spat—as basic and bland as Swift versus Perry—soon snowballed into something crazy when Jen started threatening physical violence against Chelsea Juvetta (some pop star with a massive tween following). Jen’s threats of violence then evolved into stalking Chelsea’s pages and criticizing every little detail (including, quite controversially, a post that attacked the appearance of Chelsea’s four-year-old niece), and finally climaxed in Jen making a variety of horrible accusations against Chelsea, saying she’d “fucked her way to fame” and “had so many abortions she’s prolly lost all feeling below the waist, LOL!”

Sitting before her now, it’s hard to believe that this Jen, with her big-ass smile and sickly-sweet way of talking, could possibly be the same Jen that ripped into Chelsea like a wolf tearing through a lamb. Then again, that’s the way of the famous ones—most of them, at least. It’s like they have eight different personalities.

“I’m hoping that after a certain amount of time has passed, I’ll get to have access to my own accounts again,” Jen muses. Then, realizing who she’s speaking to, she quickly adds, “Not that I want you to stop working for me! I always want you to be involved in some way. But it’d be nice to run my own pages too, y’know? I don’t feel like the Chelsea incident should mean I lose my posting privileges forever.”

I disagree with her—and not just because my job depends on her lack of account access—but I nod sympathetically all the same.

“I used to love curating my own content, and the—what’s the word? The spontaneity of taking a selfie or thinking up something random and then just”—she mimes typing on her phone—“uploading it! Just like that!” She sighs dreamily. “I want to do that again someday. But, first, I have to fix my brand. Obviously. That’s where our strategy comes in. Relatability. Likability. Low-key, easy-breezy-beautiful posts.”

“Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline,” I joke.

She just stares at me, a blank look on her face. “What?”

“Well, you said ‘easy, breezy, beautiful,’ so I thought we were doing cosmetic company slogans.” The blank look remains. I shift in my seat, my cheeks heating up. “Uh, never mind.”

“So are we all clear, then? You understand the new direction we’re going with?”

I nod.

“Great! My team will send you over some new photos to work with over the next few weeks. This is going to go so well. I can sense it.” She leans in close, grabbing my hands and squeezing. I get another whiff of that perfume. “Thank you for listening. You’re such a big help.”

I feel a fluttery feeling. Again, I’m irritatingly flattered to have been complimented by one of the shiny-legged starlets that run this town. I’m touched, I’m honored . . . I’m tickled pink, and for what? Some dumb compliment by some dumb Los Angeleno? I know she’s not special—but knowing that and still feeling awed by her praise makes it all the worse.

I pull my hands away as diplomatically as possible and smile back at her—albeit much less radiantly. “Thanks, Jen. I’m really happy to work for you.” I say it so convincingly that I think maybe I could be an actress, too.


My own social media accounts are very different than a celebrity’s.

They are a self-deprecating mess of poorly-taken photos, wannabe-edgy jokes, lame observations and a paltry, less-than-one-hundred followers. My profile photo is a comic book character. Rule number one of my personal social media etiquette: never post a selfie. Or any picture of myself, for that matter.

On the other hand, with Jen’s pages, I am encouraged to post many photos. A few weeks ago, those photos were posed and perfect, not a hair out of place. But, to fit with the new direction she’s ordered, the latest batch of pictures I’ve been given are more candid: some are blurry, or sideways, and in a few, she’s wearing minimal makeup. This is Jen of the People, Jen the Common Man. This is Jen slumming it—which is laughable, because even the minimal-makeup shots are still super fucking gorgeous and unattainable, and the blurry ones are more “artistically blurry” than drunk-off-my-ass, can’t-hold-the-camera-straight blurry. Looking through the pictures, I can’t help chuckling. There is no relatable Jen—there’s only Glam Jen and Sham Jen. But the masses’ll still eat it up.

Before I get to work with Jen’s page, I can’t resist cruising my own Twitter. I shouldn’t, but what can I say? It’s late at night and I’m bored, sitting in bed and nursing a glass of wine while chowing down on a jelly doughnut (a blessed combo). In times like these, my own account takes priority over Jenland, job or no job.

I peruse my feed, which is comprised of the New York Times and Washington Post—wordy news articles on politics and culture that I can’t find the will to read beyond the headlines, but click the “like” button all the same. That way, I think, if anyone checks out my likes, I look well-read and well-informed. It’s stupid, especially since I know no one is checking out my likes in the first place, but I can’t help it. A part of me—the phony, superficial part that gets excited whenever Jen gives me a compliment or somebody retweets one of my dumb jokes—wants a social media presence that is just as carefully-planned as Jen’s.

I have a notification. It waits for me at the top of the screen and I feel a jolt as soon as I notice it. Quickly, I click, hoping for a new follower or a like or something. Instead, it’s a reply. In response to a tweet I posted a week earlier, which read, “When a TV show ended almost a decade ago, but you still think about it every day . . .” The person replied simply, “Haha.”


I squint at the screen. Are they laughing at the joke or at me? I run my tongue along my teeth as I deliberate. It takes me a moment, but I decide it must be the former. Yes, the former. Good, great, excellent. They like my humor. They think I’m funny. It’s a compliment.

I smile to myself. I get that puffed-up feeling of pride that I know is arrogant and not at all earned, but is nevertheless intoxicating. I am funny, because a Twitter egg told me so.

I pop the last of the jelly donut into my mouth, lick my fingers and log out of my account. Now it’s Jen time. Ugh.

Logging in, I am—as always—greeted by a torrent of notifications. Every second that passes, more and more come in. I skim through them, reading an abundance of positive comments.

Jen, you’re so beautiful!!

How is your skin so clear? What’s your secret?

I looveee your movies. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Marry me please?!?

I give likes to the innocuous, non-creepy ones, because Jen of the People reads her fans’ tweets; Jen the Common Man cares about her adoring public. Cynical though I may be, I do get a little blast of joy whenever I think about how thrilled her fans are to get a response—even if it’s just a like. Some of them will post about it ecstatically, their tweet usually accompanied with the requisite screenshot (because pics or it didn’t happen): “Jennifer Prentice just liked my post!! AHHHH my life is complete!!!!” It’s always something like that. And then I’ll watch as the responses pour in from their wowed and awestruck friends:

God, I’m so jealous!

That’s amazing!


Some will even include mention of it in their Twitter bio: “Sister, dog-owner, beach-goer, retweeted by Jennifer Prentice on 6/2/18.” Their one claim to fame. The first—and possibly only—time that one of the Special People so much as acknowledges their existence.

It’s cute and sweet, and I feel like I’ve done a good deed . . . at least until I remember that I’m not Jen, I’m not famous, and they weren’t actually noticed at all. But hey—what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?

Of course, Jen doesn’t only get glowing fan messages. I have to weed through a good deal of ugliness, too. Some of it comes from Chelsea Juvetta stans, who feel as if they must come to the defense of their indestructible, über-rich overlord. Though the Chelsea-Jennifer feud was ages ago, Juvetta fangirls and fanboys won’t let it go. Today is no exception: I come across multiple demands for Jen to kill herself, while the more charitable ones instead demand that she apologize (never mind that she already did apologize—well, her publicist did, anyway, through a carefully-crafted statement that was posted to her Twitter and Instagram in the days following her meltdown). Some Juvetta fans attack her looks (“you WISH you were as hot as Chelsea, ugly hag,” one wrote today), while others go after her talent (“ur just jealous that Chelsea is actually talented, lol”), her career (“shut up and go make another Michael Bay piece of shit movie”), or her personal life (“you called out Chelsea for being a ho, but just how many abortions have YOU had, bitch??”).

It’s not just the Chelsea fans who lash out at her, either. There’s also just random trolls who write her mean comments for the fun of it, or—worse yet—the men who are angry with her for either being A.) a woman who exists, or B.) a woman who is more successful—wealthier and more famous—than they’ll ever be. Some of the more dedicated among them will write her agonizing messages every day, taking out their anger and sexual frustration on her page. “Keep your legs shut, skank,” one wrote this afternoon. Another questioned, “How many men did you fuck to get to the B-list?” The less-wordy will tweet just single epithets at her: Bitch. Slut. Uggo. Fatso. Whatever mean word used to denigrate a woman pops into their head, they’ll hurl her way.

It’s sickening, and what’s worse is that I know Jen doesn’t even have it as bad as others. Women of color get worse messages all the time, particularly if they’re famous. And female celebrities who dare to voice a political opinion are frequently attacked by hordes of insecure men, often in devastating, coordinated strikes. Jen doesn’t have to deal with that—the most political post she’s ever made was when she had me post a picture of her in a “The Future is Female” T-shirt on International Women’s Day. And even that post received a truly shocking amount of vitriol in the comments, from white dudes who found it necessary to construct a lengthy counter-argument against a fucking T-shirt slogan.

The point is, many of the comments are distasteful, and Jen should count herself lucky that she’ll never have to read them. Even I can’t help feeling shitty as I skim through them. I know I’m not Jen (all I have to do is look in the mirror to be reminded of my very, very not-Jen-ness), but whenever I’m logged into her account . . . well, I begin to feel like I am her. Like I’m embodying her, however briefly, however imperfectly. Kind of like an actor stepping into a role. That’s what I’m doing, isn’t it? And so, seeing these messages telling her to go drink bleach or hop back up her “whore-mother’s cooze” while I’m stepping into her shoes . . . it feels more painful and personal than it should.

On the flip-side, the praise is one hell of a fucking rush.

You’re sooo hot, I can’t get you off my mind . . .


I love all your movies. You always light up the screen. 😉

Beautiful picture!

It feels good. Even though it shouldn’t. Even though these comments are not for me, or about me, or even related to me whatsoever.

And yet, I get a quick high from them. Enough to keep me reading Jen’s notifications long after it’s stopped being necessary, long after I could’ve logged off.

That’s how I see the series of tweets coming in from someone with the handle @SirSmartie. He’s writing a Twitter thread addressed to, and about, Jen. I read it in real-time, utterly transfixed. All combined, the thread says:

Hey Jennifer. So I don’t usually do this—talk to celebrities over Twitter, that is—but I’ve been watching a lot of your movies lately (bad breakup, needed to get my mind off things, yada yada yada) and I have some thoughts. First of all, I want to tell you that you don’t get the credit you deserve. Seriously, you’re a great, nimble performer. A lot of your roles are the traditional romantic interest or damsel in distress type of thing, but you always manage to bring something to each character that makes them more than a cardboard cutout. I don’t know if it’s your natural charm or some ability you have to make every corny line you deliver sound clever (or sometimes ironic), but whatever it is, it sets you apart as an actress. I love your work. I can’t wait to see more from you.

I smile to myself, again feeling oddly flattered on Jen’s behalf. Most of her compliments are short and unoriginal. I’ll give this guy credit for actually elaborating on what he liked about her and why—and, best of all, not including one mention of any of her physical attributes.

I can’t help myself: I start scrolling through his profile.

He’s been on Twitter for a few years, and in that time has posted hundreds of tweets. Some of them are funny, or witty, or weird; others are straightforward, well-informed opinions on politics and society. He follows Jen, but he also follows politicians, journalists, authors and some nobodies I assume must be his real-life friends. His profile picture is a close-up photo of himself—just his head and shoulders—but it’s enough to tell he’s attractive. Not “hot damn, what a stud” attractive, or Hollywood attractive, but attractive nonetheless: dark, soulful eyes, clear skin, symmetrical features, a scruffy little beard. Scrolling through the photos he’s tweeted, I come across more of him: full body shots that tell me he’s tall, with a nice, hipster-lite sense of style. He’s well-traveled, too: there are snaps of him in Buenos Aires, Rome, Abu Dhabi, on safari in Tanzania . . .

Do you ever read someone’s social media page so thoroughly, you feel like you know them? You feel like you like them, based on some funny jokes and even-tempered political comments? I’ve done that. And I just did it again, with this guy. Sir Smartie. And, fine, his handle could use some work, and maybe he posted just a few too many photos of himself, and maybe his messages to Jen were a bit too long and excessive—but still. I like this guy. I like the way he reached out to Jen in a way that was unique and, at the very least, interesting. I like his eyes. I like his beard. I like his clothing choices, his travel pictures, his jokes. He seems like the kind of guy I’d want to go out with. I mean, hang out with. You know, as friends.

He’s deserving of Jen’s attention—some of those coveted likes. I deliver in spades, carefully going through and liking each tweet in his Jen-devoted thread. Then, I go a step further: I respond. Or, rather, Jen responds.

Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. I stare at the screen, reading and rereading the message before hitting send. Is it too short? He took the time to write a whole Twitter thread in Jen’s honor, surely I could add a few extra words. But not too much—Jen’s busy, after all. It wouldn’t be realistic for her to write him a whole letter in response. It’s always nice to meet a fan, I add. Then, in parenthesis: even a virtual one. I finish it out with a smiley face and, feeling satisfied, hit “submit.”

I continue stalking his page after that. He’s got a pretty sizable following—hovering just above fifteen thousand. I see he co-manages some mildly popular travel blog. Looking through his travel posts, I see he uses the name Sir Smartie for his byline, too. I can’t resist sighing as I imagine how fun his job must be. Getting to visit the Louvre for a living. Getting to write about the Louvre for a living.

I check back to see if he’s responded—he has. He liked my tweet to him and wrote, Wow, you actually read this! Holy shit, I never thought you would. This must be my lucky day. Thanks for taking the time to write me, it means a lot. I smile again, self-satisfied. Being a celebrity’s social media ghostwriter is a pretty thankless job—I’ll take my thrills where I can get them.

I want to do something else to make him feel good, but I don’t know what more can be done. I could respond to his tweet yet again, but what would I say? “Thanks for thanking me”? Liking it seems too small. I could retweet it, but it wouldn’t really fit on Jen’s timeline. It doesn’t seem like the type of thing “she’d” retweet.

There’s really only one thing I could do that would up the ante. That would make him feel even more thrilled.

Jen could follow him.

But I’m not supposed to do that. Jen only follows about a hundred people—celebrities, mainly people she’s worked with. All of them are blue-checkers. All of them are hopelessly predictable, the exact people you’d expect her to follow. Nothing odd or out of place. And I’m to keep it that way, as I was explicitly told: “Following people could seem like an endorsement, and you don’t want to endorse any psychos or fascists,” I was told. Also: “We need the ratio of people Jen follows to people who follow her to always be vastly disparate. She has to look incredibly popular, but selective in who she chooses to associate with.” I’ve never broken the rule, not once.

But this guy . . .

Okay, so he’s not a celebrity. He still has a following. And it fits with Jen’s new image, doesn’t it? Jen the Common Man might like his obscure travel blog. Maybe she reads it during lulls on set—as she waits for the director to call “action,” as she has a shit-ton of makeup applied, as her hair is styled. Maybe she giggles at his jokes and sighs dreamily at his travel porn, those pictures of far-off places. If only I could visit! But I have too many movies lined up, she might think. See? Celebrities—they’re (almost) just like us! Yes, I could sell this. Maybe not to her hard-ass manager, but to her. She’d get it. She’d probably love it, in fact.

So I follow him.

I don’t know, really—maybe it’s the red wine (I’m on my second glass). Maybe it’s that weird need I have to give these Jen fans some excitement, to pass on the cheap thrills I get from managing her page. “Pay it forward” and all that. I don’t know. I just know that I click that “follow” button and don’t look back.

I feel another thrill, but this one’s illicit. I don’t care. I doubt anyone will even notice. It’s just one follow, after all. No big deal. Jen’s follower to follow ratio is still as crooked as can be, and one aberration is just that: an aberration. It’s all fine.

A moment later, just before I’m about to log out, she gets a DM. This is big. She never gets DMs. Her settings have it so that only people she follows can DM her, and all her celebrity friends know her well enough to know that contacting her on Twitter isn’t the way to go. I know who this must be.

I click on the little message icon. It’s from him, of course. Sir Smartie. Hey there! I don’t want to come on too strong here or get too friendly or anything, just wanted to let you know you made my night. First the likes, then that sweet response, and now a follow?! I feel stupidly giddy. Anyway, I won’t bother you again. Just… thank you. For being the type of celebrity who not only reads her Twitter mentions, but actually takes the time to interact with her fans. 🙂

My cheeks hurt from all this smiling. I feel like Mother Teresa. I shouldn’t, of course—what I did was seriously the bare minimum—but I can’t help it. All the stroking goes to your head eventually. No wonder celebrities are so egotistical.

I move the mouse toward the logout button and almost press it . . . but then I don’t. Instead, I zig back over and begin formulating a response. I can be more candid here—it’s not public, so Jen’s followers won’t see it, and therefore it doesn’t have to totally match her persona or fit within the allowable number of characters. There’s something freeing about that, something exciting. This is unchartered territory.

Don’t mention it! I was really flattered by your Twitter thread. I don’t usually get messages like that. I mean, I get compliments, sure, but nothing like that. It was very kind of you. Of course I had to respond! PS, I really like your blog. 😉

Before he can reply, I log out, shut my computer, and hope I won’t live to regret what I’ve just done.


I wake up the next morning regretting it.

Well, not regretting it, exactly. More like . . . being struck with anxiety over how I wandered off-script, how I took liberties with the Jen account and even broke the explicit no-follow rule. I could lose my job. And over what? Some low-key cutie with a travel blog? I’m better than that.

It was the fucking red wine.

The first thing I do is check my phone for any messages from Jen and her team. I’m bracing myself for a reprimand or even a curt “you’re dismissed” text, but there’s nothing. I feel relieved, if only for a moment. Maybe I’m scared over nothing.

But, of course, I still have to check Twitter. Jen’s Twitter.

I log in. There’s another message waiting for me. My stomach is in knots as I try to remember what I wrote to the dude last night. Was it too un-Jenlike? Too friendly? Or—God forbid—flirtatious? If memory serves me, it was fine. Harmless. But still, I’m scared to click, worried I’ll be confronted by some terrible detail I forgot. It takes me a full two minutes to finally work up the nerve.

His latest message greets me:

You read my blog?! Wow. Okay. First celebrity to have ever read my writing. Freaking out right now. Lol. Seriously though… thank you. That’s insanely flattering.

I want to respond, but, glancing at the clock, it seems too early. Jen wouldn’t be browsing Twitter at seven AM. So instead, I log off and go about my morning routine: I shower, brush my teeth and hair, get dressed, put on my makeup, eat a muffin. I can’t get him off my mind, though. I keep thinking about the photos of him. About his blog. His infectious excitement at having been noticed by a certified celeb. It’s cute. He’s cute.

As I put on my makeup, I pause to look in the mirror at myself. Really look—hard, scrutinizing. I’m cute . . . ish. Not Hollywood cute. Not “hot damn, what a fox” cute. But then, neither is he.

I turn to the side, pulling up my shirt to inspect my stomach. It’s not flat, but it’s not huge, either. My hips and thighs are kind of big, but I have a good butt. Small boobs, though. Shoulders that are a little too far apart, an upper body just a little too wide. Legs and arms a little too thick. Cute enough face, if slightly plain. Decent hair.

God. I hate evaluating myself like this. Like appraising a piece of meat. It’s gross, but I find myself doing it more and more often as the time I spend around celebrities increases. I tell myself it’s natural, that anyone would feel insecure when their boss is a tall, skinny goddess, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just insecure.

He’d like me, though—wouldn’t he? I mean, maybe not as much as Jen, but . . . he might like me. Maybe. I’m cute.

And chubby.

I wince against that voice in my head—the negative one that undermines every halfhearted compliment I give myself. Go away, I tell it, as if it’s a separate entity and not just the shittier, more judgmental part of me. The part that wistfully sighs every time I see a photo of Jen; the part that reads dumb articles online about how to lose weight quickly; the part that buys Spanx in bulk. That one.

Of course, it doesn’t matter anyway, whether he’d like me or not. Because he’ll never know me. And maybe that’s for the best.


I slip back into Jen Mode around noon. I go through her fuckton of notifications, giving out my usual likes and retweets, and post a few pre-written messages given to me by her team. Eventually, I see that Sir Smartie tagged her in another tweet:

Just found out that the amazing @RealJenPrentice has read my blog. Wow wow wow. Great way to start the week. #blessed

I smirk. It’s a bit thirsty, fine, but still cute. I hit it with my like-and-retweet combo and carry on without responding.

I don’t hear from him again until much later, as I’m getting ready for bed. I’m giving the Jen account one last check-in for the day when another private message comes in. He wrote, So what are you up to? 🙂

Oh, y’know. Working on lots of projects. HBU?

He starts typing his answer immediately. A moment later, the reply comes in: Working on my blog! Hoping to quit my job & turn it into a full-time thing soon. This accompanied by a fingers-crossed emoji.

It strikes me as sweet, if profoundly naïve, that he thinks Jen—or any celebrity—would actually give a shit about his blog and his life. My cynicism and first-hand experience knows better, but I can’t spoil it for him. It would be like telling a kid there’s no Santa Claus.

So I reply, You mean it’s not your full-time job? I assumed it was. What do you do, if you don’t mind my asking? I’m honestly curious. Jen wouldn’t be, but I am.

I’m a pilot. That’s why I’m able to do so much traveling and get so many great shots for the blog. Unfortunately I don’t have tons of time to explore each place I visit, but the blog’s doing well so, maybe someday soon, my passion and my career will actually be one & the same. I really envy those people. It’s so awesome you get to do what you love most.

I start typing: Oh yeah, I know what you mean. I’m trying to be a full-time writer but it hasn’t really— Then I stop, rather abruptly, and delete everything I wrote. I’d forgotten for a moment. Forgotten that I’m Jen right now, not Rhoda, and any anecdotes about my writing would be met with confusion rather than kinship. So I start again: It’s really great to do what you love. I can attest to that. I’m sure you’ll get there soon! You’re very talented.

I half-expect him to write back asking “Jen” to promote his blog so that he can indeed fulfill his dream, but in this case, my cynicism doesn’t prove true. Jeez, thank you! I still can’t get over that you’ve actually read my writing. You’re really fucking cool, you know that? I bet you’re one of the most down-to-earth actresses around, huh? Not to bring up a sore topic, but that whole Chelsea thing—I know people gave you shit for it, but I love that you were so candid and real. Nothing you said was that bad. I always thought that whole thing was blown way out of proportion, and talking to you now, I know it to be true. You’re a really good person, Jennifer, no matter what any dumb hater says. 🙂

This one takes me a while to respond to. I know Jen would love it—anyone who excuses her bad behavior is sure to receive one of her big-ass smiles—but to me, it feels . . . less than charming. Because Jen was an asshole to Chelsea. She wasn’t “candid and real.” But hey, all this guy knows is that “Jen” took an interest in him, Jen read and complimented his blog, Jen asked about his life . . . of course he’s going to be quick to dismiss her bad past behavior, because to him, she’s just so damn nice. I can’t fault him for that.

. . . though, I also can’t exactly agree. Especially since there’s the possibility he could leak these messages, and it can’t come across like Jen feels indignant about the whole Chelsea incident. After her official statement was released, she has not said a word about it, and probably never will.

So I have to dance around it: That’s really nice of you to say. Thanks. A part of me wants to keep the convo going, but it’s late and I worry that soon, he might directly ask me for some insight into the Chelsea thing. Insight which I definitely can’t give. It would be awkward as hell to have to respond with the classic “no comment.” Or not respond at all.

I quit while I’m ahead by sending him a simple “Have a good night!” message. Then I log off and hit the sheets.


The next day, I go to a café a short walk from my apartment and take a seat by the window. I get to people-watch your average Los Angelenos strolling by: skinny blond women on their way home from yoga, grasping their complicated Starbucks beverages and gazing at their phones; skinny blond moms pushing strollers; skinny blond struggling actresses, probably on their way home from an audition, staring into the café and wondering if another iced coffee would exceed their calorie limit for the day.

Okay, fine—there are other types of people in LA too. It’s not exclusively run by skinny blonds. But I swear, they’re so ubiquitous that it sometimes feels like that’s the only type of woman who exists here.

You are not skinny or blond, and that’s okay, I tell myself as I munch on an everything bagel smeared with cream cheese. One of the blonds passing by me takes a long look at the bagel, then at me, and her expression veers from contemptuous disgust to envy. I smile at her, pretending I don’t care.

Then it’s time to get to work. I take out my computer and hop onto Twitter. First I make the obligatory pit stop at my own account, clearing out my two notifications, and then it’s time to visit Jen Town.

There’s another private message waiting for me. Stupidly, I feel a little excited. Before looking through the notifications, I quickly read Sir Smartie’s latest:

You’re welcome. 🙂 Hope I didn’t make you feel too weird by saying all that. It’s just, I don’t want you beating yourself up over that Chelsea thing, and I know people are constantly bringing it up, which must get exhausting. But some people (like, well… me) would never judge you, for that or anything else. Some people can appreciate the finer qualities of a person. Okay, I’ll stop now. Sorry. I’m probably being way too forward, right? You can tell me if I’m crossing any lines.

I type back, No, it’s fine! You’re very sweet. I want to say more, but I can’t find the right response.

I go about my regular routine with Jen’s profile—at least for the next few minutes, until Sir Smartie writes again.

It’s Steve, btw. My name.

Smirking, I type back, What? You mean your real name isn’t actually Sir Smartie? That would’ve been so much more Hollywood, though!

LOL, he replies. I wish it was! Steve is so boring.

Jennifer is, too. There are like a gazillion Jennifers in Hollywood alone.

Jennifer’s a nice name. Pretty. It suits you.

Well, thanks. You can call me Jen, you know. Just about everyone does.

Okay, Jen. Hey, um… can I ask you a question?

I swallow. Here it goes—he’s going to ask for money, or publicity, or something. Might as well get it over with. Sure, I type back.

What’s it like, being famous? I mean, what’s it REALLY like?

Huh. I was not expecting that.

I drum my fingers against the café table as I think of how to respond. I could play it off, write back some evasive joke. I could change subjects. I could just not answer at all—vanish mid-conversation, in that way pretty famous people can get away with. But I want to answer.

I close my eyes and think of Jen. I think about her dumb, pathetic spat with Chelsea. I think about how she confided in me about wanting to have access to her own social media accounts again. About how she was worried what people thought of her, worried she’d come off elitist, desperate to be relatable. I think of those photos I’ve posted to her Instagram account, how no matter the size and shine of her smile, there’s always an emptiness in her eyes.

It’s lonely, I write back. I’m lonely, sometimes.

Oh. A moment later, he adds, Well… that can be changed.


I don’t know how it happens, exactly, but somehow I find myself spending the next few hours talking to Steve.

I like it. I could lie and say it’s all for the job, that I’m doing it in an effort to help Jen seem ever more relatable and down to earth . . . but the truth is, I like talking to him. A few times during our chat, I secretly read his blog on a separate tab, scrolling through the photos of him and gazing at his dimples, into his eyes. I like our conversation, and I like him. There, I said it.

I know I shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t be masquerading as Jen in a one-on-one, private conversation with some guy, some dude who obviously likes it and maybe a bit too much, and who I obviously like in return (maybe a bit too much). But he’s easy to talk to. Even over Twitter, our conversation flows effortlessly, the back-and-forth smooth and familiar. It’s like we’ve known each other for years. We crack jokes, we talk about traveling, he shares stories from his life as a pilot and seems to accept the vague anecdotes I share in return. For the most part, I try to keep the information I share on Jen limited to things I know for certain—like telling him that she spent New Year’s in Aruba, which she did, or just got back from Ottawa where she was doing some filming, as she also did. More specific details I carefully avoid. A couple of times, he asks if I need to go. I don’t want to bother you if you’re busy, he wrote.

It’s fine, I replied. I’m not shooting anything rn. I’m actually sick in bed, so I’ve got nothing better to do. It’s true that she’s not shooting anything currently . . . though, the sick-in-bed part was a fib, but how else was I to explain why a famous celebrity had time to talk to a stranger on Twitter for hours?

Luckily, he didn’t question my cover story. Our conversation continued . . . and continued . . . and only stopped once my butt was getting sore from sitting in the café for so long. I should get going, I forced myself to type. But talk soon, okay?

Definitely, he wrote back. I smiled.


It’s been three weeks. I’ve been talking to Steve for three weeks.

I know I shouldn’t, I know it’s wrong, blah blah blah. I’ve chastised myself a million times and quietly justified it to myself just as many. I like him, he likes me—what’s the harm, really?

But then I remember I’m lying to him. I’m impersonating Jen in a way that’s too much, too intimate. And I’m beginning to like him more than I should. More than any friend should like another friend, and certainly more than any stranger should like a random Twitter user.

What’s worse? I know he feels the same.

I’m sure guys hit on you all the same, he wrote a few days ago. I know it must get exhausting, even sickening. I don’t want to be one of them. But man, Jen, I can’t help these feelings. I don’t want to be too forward or anything… it’s just, well, I think about you a lot… more than I should. I think about your smile and I wish I could see it in person.

He lives in Southern California, just two towns away from me. I could meet him. I could invite him out to a club, maybe, and show off my awkward dance moves and make him laugh and then go home with him, drunk off my ass and giggling, pulling at his clothes . . .

Only, wait, I can’t do that. Jen could, but she’d never. She’d take one look at him and think, I’m out of his league. She wouldn’t give him the time of day. And, hey, that’s her right. It just sucks that while he’s pining for a girl he’ll never have, I’m right here, willing and available.

Then again, part of that’s my fault, too. After all, I made him think he actually had a chance with a girl like Jen.

I’m in too deep. I know that. But I don’t ghost him. Can’t seem to find it in myself. I keep talking to him, stoking the flames of his attachment and lust with coy one-liners. I never shoot him down, nor explicitly encourage him. Occasionally I get dangerously close to flirting—a dirty joke here, a coquettish compliment there—but nothing too risqué or overt. The kind of comments that could be flirty or, read another way, goofy and familiar. Two pals joking around. I figure I can get away with it that way—if it ever gets out, I’ll just shrug my shoulders and say, “I was trying to be friendly.” Too friendly, maybe, but friendly nonetheless.

You know, I was thinking about it, he types now, as I sit in my go-to café, hunched over my computer (as I have been for the past hour and a half), and I realized your hair is really amazing.

I snort into my latté. As if sensing my reaction, he hurriedly adds, Is that super geeky of me to say?

No! Only a little bit geeky. 🙂

Haha. Well, what do you like about me?

Hmm. This is a tricky one. If I’m too complimentary, he’ll think for sure that I’m romantically interested; if I’m not complimentary enough, he’ll be insulted. It takes me a moment to formulate my response. Your whole face. It’s nice, you know? Comforting. There’s something about it that’s trustworthy and makes me feel like I’m safe.

I look away as he types his response, glancing around the café. Across from me, one of those skinny blond women is drinking an iced tea, and sitting beside her is a tall, ruggedly handsome man. His arm is around her waist. They’re curled up together, chatting quietly, staring into one another’s eyes as if they’re the only two people in the world . . . which is a miraculous feat, considering there’s a screaming baby less than five feet away.

Turning back to my computer, I see I’ve gotten a response. Oh yeah? Good to know.

You’re wildly flattered and trying to play it cool right now, aren’t you? I shoot back.

I plead the fifth.

I smirk at the screen. Looking back up at the couple, I see the man lean down and whisper something into the girl’s ear. She giggles, then playfully hits his shoulder. I get this strange feeling watching them—it’s not quite yearning, but something similar, mixed with a warm and fuzzy sensation, as if it’s me over there being whispered to and held. And then the sadness of realizing it’s not. The thing is, I can almost taste it, just . . . not quite.

Steve’s written me again. You disappear on me?

Nah, I’m still here.

Just can’t get enough of me, eh?

Guess it’s that comforting face of yours.

Must be.

We get lost in banter, the way we sometimes do. The minutes tick by and I hardly realize it. When I next look up, the couple have vanished, leaving only a stray napkin behind. I feel an odd sense of melancholy at having not noticed them go. Luckily Steve distracts me.

Do you think of me when we’re not talking? he asks.

I answer truthfully: All the time.

This is going to sound dumb, but… you’re probably the closest friend I have right now. I mean, I have friends, and some great ones, but you’re the only person I could spend hours talking to without getting bored.

Same here, I reply.

Are you sure I’m not keeping you? Or bothering you? Or holding you back from working on one of your terrifically silly films?

Haha, don’t worry. I’ve got nothing but time right now. No movie to film for months.

Well, good. I’ll keep you company in the meantime. 😉

He’s too invested in this, and so am I. It’s too real now. I know that already. And I know I have to make a change—I have to stop this, somehow. And I will.

Just not yet.


Do you think we could meet sometime? he asks me a week later. Or, to be more blunt… do you think there’s a chance that, in this crazy world of ours, a girl like you and a guy like me could have something more than friendship?

I wince. How can I answer that question? If I say yes, I’m telling him Jen might actually date him—a flat-out lie that, no matter how crafty my Jen impersonating skills may be, I could never make true. If I tell him no, I break his heart.

I go a different route, the cop-out avenue. Well, Steve, I really don’t know. It is a crazy world indeed. I’d never want to put you through the hell of dating a celebrity, and, more selfishly, I’d never want to lose our friendship. So, basically, a big, fat “maybe.” The best I could do.

I get it, he replies, but I swear I can see sadness in the typed words. Then: I really care for you, Jen.

It’s a gut-punch, a knife-twist. He cares for me. No, he cares for Jen, but a version for Jen that doesn’t exist, one I cruelly orchestrated to sate my own pathetic loneliness. What’s wrong with me? I should’ve never started this. I should’ve never followed his account. There’s no way out now, is there? At least, no way that ends with us being best buds.

But maybe . . .

Jen? You there?

I’m here, I answer. Right here.

Oh good. Got worried I scared you off for a second there.

If anything, I say, it’s ME who’ll scare YOU off.

What do you mean?

My fingers are shaking. There’s a knot in my stomach. Quickly, I type, I’m not Jen. I’m her employee. I’ve been lying to you. I stare at the message, the horrible truth right there in black and white. My hand hovers over the return key. I take a big breath. Then—

You could never scare me off, he assures. Never. In fact, and I know this is totally ridiculous and might terrify you, but… I think I kinda love you? You’re just an awesome person. I want to be around you. I want to talk to you constantly. It’s stupid, I know, but there you have it.

I stare at the screen, gobsmacked. My mouth hangs open. Slowly, I pull my hand away from the keyboard.

Jen? he asks. Oh, shit. I finally did it, huh? Scared you off. 🙁

I delete everything I wrote and type something else: I’m here. And I’m pretty touched, tbh.

Do you feel the same way? he asks. Maybe I’m projecting, but I swear there’s urgency and desperation to those words. “Please love me” they say.

I start typing, then delete it. I start again, then delete it. Finally, I write, I love you too. And I know I’ve crossed a line—I know I’ve betrayed both Jen and Steve worse than I ever have before—but I can’t help it. I send the message.

He sends back about twenty heart-eyed emojis. For a moment, I feel great . . .

. . . and then I feel sick.


The guilt is a crushing weight. It’s with me constantly. I still read and reply to Steve’s messages of course, but now there’s anxiety every time I open Jen’s inbox. Now I feel dread whenever I see a new message awaiting me.

For the next few days, he’s on a cloud of excitement. He talks more and more about “us” meeting up. He praises Jen nonstop—her looks, “her” personality, this friendship. Sometimes he’ll wander off to other topics—work, his blog, how his day went—but inevitably, talk turns to Jen and his affection for her. For me. I’m glad you’re the type of girl who was willing to straight-up say how she feels, no matter how crazy some may deem it, he wrote, referring to my pressured confession of love for him. It’s sweet and it’s great and I’m the same way. 🙂

Sure, I reply. I’ve started sending more and more one-word answers his way. I can’t seem to muster the nerve to carve out the lengthier, more vulnerable messages I stupidly wrote him in the past. And I worry that with every nice, carefully-crafted message I send, he falls more and more in love with me. I can’t have that, now can I? The guilt is bad enough as it is.

It’s only been a month but he’s convinced Jen’s some angel or dream girl or whatever rom-com bullshit he’s been sold. He has never flat-out said he wants to marry and impregnate me, but there’s an undercurrent of that running through his messages. I can tell he’s hoping that if he drops enough hints, eventually Jen will say something to the effect of, You know what, fuck it, let’s date! And then they’ll meet, and go to some upscale restaurant in the Valley, and make out in the back of her chauffeured limo, and he’ll get a metaphorical taste of fame and fortune as well as a literal taste of Jen’s signature Jen-essence lipstick. It’s a nice fantasy, but only that: fantasy.

I have to tell him. I know I’ve said it before, but now I really have to tell him.

Four days after that horrific L-word conversation, he’s talking about his brother’s boat while I’m only partially paying attention.

She’s a beaut, he says, referring to the boat. You’d love her. We could go for a spin sometime. My brother would flip out if he got to meet you. He’s almost as big a fan as me. 😉

I don’t think that’ll work, I type. My stomach is churning, knowing what’s to come.

Why not? Do you not like open water?

No, it’s not that. Steve, listen… I have something to say. It’s going to be hard as hell for me to say and probably terrible for you to hear, but it has to be said—for both our sakes. Okay?

Jen, you’re kinda scaring me here. What’s going on? You know you can tell me anything.

I sure hope that’s true. Taking a deep breath, I hastily type it out before I lose my nerve. I’m not her. I’m not Jen.

I hit send.

Then I wait.

It takes him several moments to reply. What are you talking about? This is Jen’s verified account. This has to be her. Are you joking?

No, I’m not. I work for her. I manage her Twitter & Instagram accounts. She hasn’t posted anything on here since the Chelsea incident. She doesn’t even have access to this account anymore. I’m not her, I’m not famous, I’m just a random person.

Another pause. Then: So you’re telling me I’ve never spoken to her? This whole time, it’s been you?

Yeah, I reply. I’m wincing as I type, bracing for the fallout.

Jesus Christ. Another pause. I start to think he’s walked away from his computer, but then Sir Smartie is typing pops up at the bottom of the screen. Who are you, really? Are you even a girl?

Yes. My name’s Rhoda.

This time, he’s quick to respond: I just can’t believe this. I feel completely betrayed. I don’t want to discuss this anymore. I need to think this through on my own.

Okay, I meekly reply. What else is there to say?

He doesn’t write again after that.


A few days pass. It feels strange to not hear from him, after a month of almost nonstop communicating. There’s an emptiness in my day now, a big hole that I don’t know how to fill.

Of course I think about him. I think about him at night, as I lie awake and scold myself for all my dumb mistakes. I think about him every time I log onto Jen’s account. I’ll admit that I stalk his Twitter, waiting for him to post something about the “real” Jen Prentice being nothing but a scam. He doesn’t, though. In fact, for the next few days, he posts nothing to Twitter at all.

It’s extreme, but I begin to worry if he did something—you know, hurt himself, somehow. I imagine a scenario where a distraught Steve kills himself, and I feel a terrible fear sweep over me like a chill. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened. The guilt would probably eat me alive.

Then, suddenly, I get a message from him.

Hey Rhoda. God, it feels weird calling you that. I’m still picturing Jen on the other side of the screen, reading this message. But I’m not writing to yell at you for lying to me. I’m over it… mostly. It still hurts, don’t get me wrong, but could be worse, right? You could’ve been a scammer out for money or a Russian bot or something. I take comfort in knowing you’re real, and a girl. I felt like we had a true connection. I know it’s crazy, but I kinda want to see where that connection could lead. I want to know who I’ve been talking to. I want to put a name to the face, a real name, and I want to explore what we have together. Would you? If yes, I want to meet in person, this week. No fucking around. I assume you live in the area because of all the LA-specific stuff you wrote me, so there’s no excuse not to meet. What do you say?

I’m grinning. It’s probably the widest I’ve smiled since I was a kid. I did not expect this message, and to say it’s a pleasant surprise would be an understatement.

I type back hurriedly, as if worried he’ll change his mind: Yes, yes, yes! I would love to meet you! I’m so sorry for what I’ve done. Truly. Your forgiveness and maturity means the world. We do have a connection, and we owe it to ourselves to see where it goes. I’m onboard if you are.


He told me to meet him at a coffee shop by his house. It’s a gray, smoggy day—almost foreboding—and by the time I get to the coffee shop, it’s a little after three.

I go inside and take a seat by the window. My leg jiggles nervously under the table. I’m dressed nicely—my most flattering sundress, short boots, a barrette in my smoothly-combed hair—and I took extra time to do my makeup, trying to get it as precise as possible. It’s quite sad, actually, how desperate I am for him to like me. No, not just that—to be attracted to me. There’s a distinction.

And then he walks in.

He looks the same as his photos. A little stockier maybe, but mostly the same. That beard, those eyes, and his white, straight teeth that beam every time he opens his mouth.

He’s looking around the coffee shop, scanning for me. To make it easier, I stand up and wave at him. “Over here!”

He turns to me, drinks me in . . .

. . . and then there’s this look. It takes me a moment to place it: disappointment. It’s written all over his face and he makes no effort to conceal it.

My heart drops. I sink back into my chair along with it, all the excitement rushing out of me in an instant. He’s disappointed. He turned and looked and reacted with disappointment.

But he’s a gentleman, so he doesn’t just turn around and hightail it out of there. Instead, he ambles over, hands shoved into his pockets. “Hey,” he says.

“Hi,” I reply. My voice is wobbly.

“Rhoda, right?”

I nod.

He sits down across from me. For the next few seconds, it’s quiet. He stares at his hands and shifts uncomfortably in his seat. I watch him, more scrutinizing than I should be, scanning every crinkle on his face for any sign that he might, even slightly, be happy to see me.

But all that’s there is a bitter, vaguely disgusted disappointment. For a long while, he won’t even meet my eyes. “Well,” he says finally, “this is really something.”

“Yes,” I say. “It is.”

More silence. I try not to cry, if only so my makeup—so precisely-applied—won’t run. Internally, I wonder what it was. The size of my waist? My hips? My hair, which is nothing like the “amazing” hair he loved on Jen? My entire face? What did he see when he looked at me that made him immediately deflate?

“I really wasn’t expecting any of this,” he says with a dark chuckle. “I thought I was talking to Jen. I really did. Naïve of me, probably . . .”

“No, no, it makes sense. It was a verified account. Of course you’d think . . .” I trail off. It doesn’t matter what I was going to say. I know that, and I’m sure he does, too.

“So you know her?” he asks, in a way that makes it sound like he doesn’t think I ever could.

“I do.” I give a small ghost of a smile. “She’s really nice, actually.”

“Huh.” He knocks his fist against the table for no apparent reason. Nervous habit, maybe. “Do you think—do you think you could introduce me?”

I didn’t think it was possible to feel any lower, but now I do. “Uh, I don’t know. I’m not that close to her.”

“Well, it’s sort of the least you could do, isn’t it?” Now there’s a hard, bitter tinge to his voice. He spits the words out like they’re poison. “I mean, you lied to me, led me on, made me think I was in love with her . . . you could probably schedule one fucking meet and greet, right? Couldn’t you?”

My mouth falls open. I want to defend myself, but what would I even say? It’s not like he’s wrong. Still, the sheer meanness of his tone—after he’d supposedly gotten over the whole thing—hits me where it hurts. I take a shuddering breath, then say, quietly, “Okay. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Good,” he answers—a bit softer now, but still definitely bitter. He knocks his fist against the table again. “Do you think she’d like me? Jen, I mean.”

“Like you? Well, do you mean ‘like’ as in—”

“As in have sex with me,” he says bluntly. “Date me. Fuck me. I don’t know. Be in a relationship with me, let’s say.”

“Uh.” I’m so caught off guard by his frankness that for a moment, I’m at a loss for words. “She’s really . . . she dates celebrities, mostly. Famous guys.”

“So that’s a no?”

“Probably,” I say slowly. I don’t want to disappoint him, but lying to him further seems like an equally bad idea.

He nods, clenching his jaw. His eyes wander around the coffee shop—anything to avoid meeting my gaze. After a moment, he asks, “Well . . . is there anything you want to discuss?”

I want to remind him that he was the one who asked me here, that it was him who picked this coffee shop (which is in his town, not mine, and which I had to drive out to get to), and so he should be the one wanting to discuss things . . . but I don’t say that, because again, I know I lied. I know I shouldn’t be the one on a high horse. Not right now.

“I guess not” is all I say. All I feel I’m allowed to say.

He meets my eyes, finally, and there’s something cold about his. Something I didn’t notice in the photos online. “Okay,” he says stiffly. “I think I’m going to go.”

“Okay,” I repeat. I feel like a doll—he can pull my string and hear me robotically recite a bunch of bland pre-recorded messages. Again, not that it matters. What’s said here, in the grand scheme of things, won’t make a lick of difference.

He pushes back his chair and rises to his feet. Standing over me, he looks a little sinister. He stares down, his eyes burrowing into me. Now that he has finally started looking at me, I wish he’d look away—his gaze is too intense, too judgmental. It seems like he’s about to say something—and, judging by the expression on his face, I expect it to be some kind of insult or stern admonishment—but then he appears to think better of it. Without another word, he exits the coffee shop, making a clean break from my life.


I do receive one more message from him. He sent it to Jen’s inbox and addressed it to “Rhonda.” After some thought, I’ve decided I’m not interested in pursuing a friendship or romance with you, he flatly stated. The message was long, the most clinical and loveless goodbye you can imagine, but the way it ended was clear: Please do not contact me again. 

I expected him to ask about the meetup with Jen I’d kind-of-sort-of agreed to facilitate, but—perhaps having lost interest when I told him Jen most likely wouldn’t date him—he didn’t mention it at all.

It’s been almost two weeks now. I still miss him. I still replay some of his sweeter messages in my mind, pretending they’re addressed to me instead of Jen. And I still think of that look of disappointment when he saw me in the coffee shop. I know the real reason he “decided not to pursue a friendship or romance” with me. It was on his face the moment we met eyes, and I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life. Certainly it pops up whenever I stare at myself in the mirror, contemplating those round cheeks, that little belly, those upper arms. On my sadder days, sometimes I’ll shed a few tears over it, wondering what might’ve been had I looked just a little bit different.

I guess all of this is what brought me to his Twitter page today. I’m scrolling through, reading his tweets and trying to feel that connection we so briefly had. Trying to feel something. And then I see it: a thread of tweets addressed to none other than Chelsea Juvetta.

Hey Chelsea. So I just went through something really difficult (long story—basically I was betrayed and lied to by somebody close to me) and, well, your music’s helped me out of my funk. I don’t usually do this—talk to celebrities over Twitter, that is—but I just had to tell you what you’ve meant to me these past couple of weeks. Also, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on your art. First of all, I want to tell you that you don’t get the credit you deserve. Seriously, you’re a great, nimble singer/songwriter. A lot of your music seems like the traditional 21st century pop sound, but you always manage to bring something to each song that makes them sound unique and really possess heart and soul. I don’t know if it’s your natural charm or some insane secret skill you have, but whatever it is, it sets you apart as an artist. I love your work. I can’t wait to hear more from you.

I stare at the screen in shock for a good few seconds. That’s . . . that’s almost exactly what he wrote to Jen, isn’t it? Yes, the part about his recent betrayal was new, but the rest was mostly recycled. I scroll down to confirm that it’s basically the same thread—

—only to find that his thread to Jen was deleted. Completely purged from existence. Skipping over to Jen’s account, I find that all that remains is the response I sent him. Barring that, it’s as if our first interaction never happened. Erased from public Twitter history, just like that.

If only real life was so simple.