“A few years ago, I received an email from a woman I had never met,” says William Dameron. “And the first line of her email read, ‘Your face has meant a lot to me, but now I’ve found out it’s a lie.’ She went on to describe how she had a four-year online relationship with somebody who used my pictures to catfish her. When I did a reverse-image search, I found out she was not the only one. My face was synonymous with the search term ’40-year-old white man.’ And it had been used by many men to create fake dating profiles. The irony is, I pretended to be somebody I was not for 20 years: I was a gay man married to a straight woman.”
Dameron chronicles his situation in the new memoir The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing & Coming Out. “It’s sort of me looking back at my life through that lens of catfishing and discovering what happens when you pretend to be somebody you’re not and how do you repair that.” Having grown up in the conservative and homophobic era of the 1980s in North Carolina, Dameron delayed coming out until 2007, at the age of 43 and after 21 years of marriage. The information technology officer by day started a personal blog about his experiences a few years later.
“I couldn’t find stories of men who had been in the closet and married and had children and what it was like when they came out,” he says. The book has helped strengthen the relationship between Dameron and his ex and two twenty-something daughters. “Once she read my book,” he says about his eldest, who was 16 at the time of the divorce, “she told me it answered questions she didn’t even know how to ask. It’s honestly healed some old wounds.”
Dameron uses his experience as catfishing bait with new hires at the Massachusetts-based company where he works overseeing cyber-security efforts. “I tell them to pull up their phones and do a search for ’40-year-old white man’…. They look at that, they look back up at me, and they’re sort of surprised. And I say, ‘Okay, this is the way we’re going to be hacked. Somebody’s going to pretend to be somebody they’re not. You’re going to trust them, and then you’ll give them something you shouldn’t.'”
The key takeaway? “Always, always, always make sure you know who you’re talking to. And in your personal life, make sure you do a reverse-image search on a picture before you swipe right or swipe left. Make sure you really know who that person is, because you can do a little bit of research to find out.”
William Dameron will appear for a reading and signing on Thursday, Aug. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Kramerbooks, 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 202-387-1400 or visit www.kramers.com.