I'm going to need the entire internet to bear with me on this one, because this story basically transcends any ludicrous Lifetime movie plot you've ever seen. Grab your popcorn and your Snuggie and settle in, y'all. On Thursday morning Jeff Maysh, a crime reporter for The Atlantic, published the article "A Catfishing With a Happy Ending"; by Thursday afternoon, it was heralded as what might just be the romantic story in the crime reporting beat to date. The story, you see, is about a woman who found love with the model a catfisher used the pictures of to trick her.
The concept of it is striking enough, but the whole sweeping two year tale of it is something else entirely. Through firsthand accounts from all three people involved in this narrative, Maysh takes readers through the equal parts cringeworthy, personal, and bizarrely romantic story of Emma Perrier, who decided to bounce back from a heartbreak in 2015 by joining the online dating app scene. She downloaded an app called Zoosk, where she was immediately charmed by pictures of Ronaldo “Ronnie” Scicluna, a "down-to-earth" man who lived about 100 miles away.
Spoiler alert: that dude was not Ronnie. That dude was, in fact, a man in his fifties named Alan Stanley, who would continue to con Perrier for six months.
The story is rife with twists and weird encounters from all sides, but at some point Perrier used a Reverse Image app to determine that the pictures Alan/"Ronnie" was using were actually pictures of Turkish model Adem Guzel. Perrier got in touch with Guzel to let him know his pictures were being used by a catfisher, which led to a talk over FaceTime, which led to the two of them meeting up in London in April of this year. They were both nervous at first, but it was clear that it was a match — they kissed before even leaving the airport.
Truly, you need to read Maysh's account to get the full breadth of just how wild this whole story is, because it goes into fascinating detail on all three of the people involved and what led them to the events that have unfolded over the last few years. If you're team "I'm not crying, I just have the sweeping, impossible narrative of this encounter that has me questioning the line between chance and fate," then you're far from alone. Once the article was shared this morning, Twitter promptly freaked out.
The term "catfish," popularized by the 2010 documentary Catfish and branded permanently into the millennial lexicon by the MTV show of the same name, is rarely used in conjunction with anything romantic; in fact, most of these stories are sad and even occasionally quite dangerous. As the practice of "catfishing" becomes easier and easier for users, it's clear that wariness is on the rise: a Pew Research Center study indicated in 2015 that 54 percent of online dating users suspected that other people were presenting false information in their profiles. As unromantic as it is to be suspicious, it's always safe practice to be sure you know you're actually communicating with the person you think you're communicating with. And of course, in all cases, it's safe practice to make sure that if you're meeting with someone IRL that it's in a safe and public space, and that someone knows where you are at all times.
But considering this the rare exception to the catfish rule, I've already started adapting "Emma & Adem" into a novel, a book, and a one-woman puppet show. Granted, I'm going to have to wait to start writing anything definitively until my brain stops screaming from the cuteness of the whole thing, but I will suffer for that art. In the meantime, carve out a good hour of your life and read Maysh's full piece for The Atlantic here.