Recently, a young athlete from Notre Dame, Manti Te’o was duped into believing that the young woman that he started dating online and died a noble, tragic death and giving him his great love story wasn’t actually dead or his girlfriend. Or he made the whole thing up to have a tragic story for everyone to follow and the whole thing blew up in his face. (Because that’s what we do now. We make up a soap opera-esque story for everyone to follow, hook’em with that, and then sit on the bench for the Jets all season when someone realizes we can’t play.) Either way, everyone will have a laugh, take a few pictures with their arms around no one will really care because he can play a game really, really well.
However, since the whole thing blew up he’s really be handling it poorly. He’s denying everything, he’s saying he was duped, and going anywhere people will talk to him so they know he was duped. I mean, he’s not the first person to be caught with a fake girlfriend who lives just far enough away that she can’t meet your friends. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point or another, making up something that we wish we hadn’t. But what’s really important is how you handle it.
The first step is to not admit to everything to quickly. The first thing Te’o did was deny that he’d ever met this woman, despite the fact that many, many news stories talked about their magical meeting at the end of the Stanford game, and he never took a moment to correct anyone. Most of us aren’t going to have stories written about the first time we fictionally met our girlfriends, so most of us won’t have to talk about how it’s the truth until some fact checker does their job and finds out that it’s not true. Don’t admit it. Remember - there’s the truth, then there’s what we can convince people.
Double check where you get your pictures. I joke about my girlfriend, Emma Stone, all the time. If I show anyone a picture of Emma Stone, it’s pretty obvious that I pulled it from Entertainment Weekly and just photoshopped myself into the picture. She’s never really re-enacted episodes of Star Trek in my basement with my cats. (She would make a pretty cute Captain Picard, though....) Double check your source materials, people. Even if you pick “random” pictures, they’re pictures of a real person. Make sure they’re not in your circle, or it’s going to be pretty awkward explaining why you have pictures of your best friend’s cousin’s roommate’s brother’s girlfriend sitting on your desk.
Social media is your enemy on this. You were supposed to be having a good time with your fake girlfriend in Boca Raton at Spring Break, but you just HAD to post all those pictures of your risotto for one during that time. I mean, I’m sure it was good, but it just exposed you. Here’s what you do: you just say that you posted everything to Myspace. You’re just getting ahead of the trend and waiting for it to come back. No one will double check this. If they do, head to Friendster, if any of it still exists. If people still continue to check, change your name. It’s a lot less hassle than trying to remove your presence from Social Media.
Love letters, fake clothing, and sending yourself flowers may be old-school, but they can be effective at throwing people off your scent of admitting. How can they ignore the extra large cuddle teddy bear? Plus, if you order a large one, you can hide in it when things really hit the fan. It worked for Sean Connery in The Avengers that came out a few years ago. (The bad one. Not the cool one with Mark Ruffalo.) But you don’t remember that Sean Connery was in one of the worst movies ever made. And people will be thrown off as you hide in your giant teddy bear suit of armor. As a plus, you’ll look extra cute.
If all else fails, hire an actress. Look, there are a ton of actresses that can be hired out as fake girlfriends, and if romantic comedies have taught us anything, they’ll end up falling in love with you after you win over the woman you’re actually trying to make jealous by having a fake girlfriend to begin with, then you realize she’s not the one you’re want to be with, and you can go back and win the actress over with a big romantic gesture as she slowly walks away to the indie soundtrack. Ah. True Love.
(Side note: this post may seem a bit mean spirited, since yes, I am focusing on Te’o and his fake girlfriend. What’s more mean-spirited is trying to get the edge on the NFL Draft by having a story - one with factual errors you never correct despite countless new stories reporting it - using it to play on everyone’s sympathies, then crying “victim” when you are found out. This is part of a larger trend that is the sad price of reality shows: it’s not enough Te’o can play a game well, but without his story then he’s like all of the other people who can play a game. He needed a hook. A story. So he came up with one, and was found out. And he didn’t come clean.)