Noah Marshall is a pretty decent dude. He does yoga and likes to travel. He's a lawyer. He likes old Japanese films and smokes weed. And like a perfect boyfriend, Noah doesn't exist.
"Invisible Boyfriend" is an online service that lets you fake being in a relationship ("Invisible Girlfriend" is also offered). For $25 a month, you get 100 texts, 10 generic voicemails, and one hand-written postcard (!) from a man of your creation. The object is to convince someone — your parents, your friends, a potential love interest — that you A) have a significant other and B) have proof.
I'm married, so it's been a long time since I had to come up with clever, flirty things to say to a new man via text message. I was intrigued. So I created Noah Marshall.
I got to choose his name, his age, his photo, his interests, and his personality type. (I also got to write the most insufferable meet-cute of all time.) Then I plugged in my phone number and my corporate card information and let the seduction begin.
So my new boyfriend doesn't have iMessage or use emojis. Those are two strikes against him, frankly.
After filling him in on my workout ("extra person to humblebrag to about exercising" is as good a reason as any to download this app) I clicked the button on the site for "send voicemail." I was very curious about the voicemail feature. Would he use my name? Would he use his? Would it reference our existing text conversation?
A moment later, I got the new-voicemail beep. A friendly male voice said: "Hey, just wanted to know what's going on this weekend. You never call me back! Just text me."
I guess the voicemails aren't personalized. Though I did appreciate that he told me to text him back. If I were using this app for its purported purpose — convincing other people I had a boyfriend — getting a voicemail from him and texting him back seemed like a legit thing to do. Overall, I was interested in finding out whether this service actually provided legitimate-seeming evidence of a relationship.
Up next: Could I figure out how to make it seem like we'd been on a date? I texted him about a movie I was seeing and asked him along. (Also I weirdly felt the need to apologize for not responding to his text sooner. Can I live, Noah???)
I was 99 percent sure at this point that I was talking to a human being, not a bot. (More research on Invisible Boyfriend proved this theory correct.) I appreciated that he hedged why he might not make it. The next day, I thanked him for a great time and asked about his weekend plans.
Oh. I was a little put off by his vacation plans until I realized this would give me an excuse to explain to friends why he wasn't around that weekend. Right, the boyfriend is supposed to be invisible. I filled him in on my (real) plans.
Also: He makes pot jokes??? Invisible boyfriend is chill.
At this point, I was noticing a 1-1 ratio of texts with him. I decided to play it cool and ignore him all weekend and see if he would text me unbidden.
He did! At 6:32 a.m. On a Monday morning. Not cool, Noah. Yes, I am alive. I try to schedule another "date."
I… yeah, I guess I like walking around? That's a weird thing to ask.
I briefly considered trying to pick a fight with my Invisible Boyfriend, but I realized it's nearly impossible to fight with someone when you don't know anything about him. I made fun of his Dr. Seuss text and, for the first time in our relationship, didn't get a response.
It was time to test him against a skeptic. My sister lives in New York City and was spending her Monday taking a snow day along with the rest of the East Coast. I sent her screenshots of the texts and asked if she'd buy that I really had a boyfriend if I showed them to her.
"Surprisingly convincing!" she texted back. "It does seem like a real person, which somehow makes the whole thing extra sad."
Sad indeed. Frankly, I was starting to have weird feelings about the whole thing. It was time for Noah and I to break up. I asked him if he had a minute to chat, and then I let him down easy.
It's been a long time since I dumped anyone. This was nice, right? I thought so.
Anyways, I still have 59 texts and eight voicemails left, so I guess Noah and I will stay in touch. I'm definitely looking forward to my hand-written postcard — even my husband hasn't sent me one of those.