When I was 14, I was catfished by a guy thirty years older than me
Despite knowing my age he persistently pursued me
by Lydia Brown
When I was about fourteen years old, I had an unhealthy addiction with the CBBC chat forums, and could spend hours bemoaning the woes of being a teenager with other like-minded teens. The assumption I, and many others, made was that everyone there was sixteen or less – as the rules dictated – and that this was a safe space for us.
I’ll admit I was a bit of an idiot, as there were clearly noted rules in place to tell us not to give out our information. But I was fourteen, a guy thought I was cute, and I didn’t get any vibes to tell me that he was actually a forty-five year old guy, masquerading as a fifteen-year-old.
Once I gave out my name, he quickly popped into my Inbox as Jack Jones, an attractive fifteen year old guy who lived about forty minutes from me, with long floppy hair and who claimed to skateboard. He was so cool, and I could hardly believe that he actually wanted to talk with me, a just turned fourteen girl with glasses who was a bit of a dork. Of course the natural response to being added was to have a quick stalk through his profile, to see his cool photos doing skate tricks that I definitely didn’t know the name of.
There were indeed loads of cool photos, plenty of them him skateboarding alone or with other people. But what really caught my eye was that he was a model – for a company also called Jack Jones. Whilst I may not have displayed any brains up until this point this did seem strange that he would happen to be a model for a company that had the exact same name as him.
I asked him about it, of course, but when he replied it was vague and skirting around the true question.
So I turned detective. He had about seventy friends – not unusual in the early days of Facebook when many more sensible classmates had yet to sign up – but what was weird was the demographic of those friends. Every single one was a girl about my age, no guys whatsoever. I actually ended up chatting to one of them, and she told me a similar story to my own – she had met him on a teen chat group, he’d added her.
But then one person on his friend list did stand out – the only man among a sea of girls. Glyn had a different surname to ‘Jack Jones’ and was a forty year old guy – I wondered briefly whether he could be an older relative. Eventually, as the conversations I was having with ‘Jack’ got more and more strange, with lies piling up every sentence, I reached out to Glyn.
“Hey. How do you know Jack?” I messaged him.
“He’s a friend.”
Another vague answer made me wonder whether I was actually ever going to get a proper response from anyone about who this Jack is. I eventually stopped talking to Jack, but Glyn continued to message me. Again and again he invited me out to lunch, promised we could do something after my GCSEs, and sent me endless messages about how much he liked new pictures I posted, calling me sexy and gorgeous.
I didn’t respond to his messages, told him how creepy it was, and eventually unfriended him. Months later I got a message with him adding me again, saying, “Thought i’d better send a private message…seeing as you had some trouble before about us being friends….age difference and all that…. ;)”
I didn’t tell anyone in my family about this because I was embarrassed I had been an idiot. Creepily he also knew where I went to school, as there were pictures of me in my uniform, and I was worried that if I shunned him completely things would escalate. I brought it up conversationally at lunch one day, and my friends were horrified that I was in contact with anyone who was forty. I blocked him and never heard from him again
Once or twice I have glanced at his profile again, just to see what he’s like now – he has two sons and seems fairly normal as far as I can tell. But I still feel slightly afraid when I think of what could have happened, and how the information I chose to share could have got me into a lot of trouble.