A Thorny Issue ~ Outside the Margins with Edmond Manning

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Edmond Manning OTM

I write books about kingship.

In my novels, men find the truest, most glorious versions of themselves beneath mountains of shit. They endure their worst nightmares for the possibility to grow into someone amazing. To win his kingship, the hero in each book must confront his unique shadow. In these tales, I speak at some length about the shadow, how its damage manifests in life when we ignore its strength.

Our MM community has been struggling through yet another not-who-they-said-they-were revelation, and while plenty of voices urge us not to dwell—to ignore our hurt feelings and ignore the community consequences as we race toward insta-forgiveness—I think it’s healthy to discuss the deception, to see what we can learn. I have no intention of raking the deceiver over the coals or rehashing what was revealed. That’s been done. Also, I will not urge anyone toward forgiveness. Not deliberately, anyway. Forgive, don’t forgive, forgive six months from now, never forgive…each of us must take that journey inside ourselves. No, I want to discuss the shadow archetypes behind a deception like this. In doing so, perhaps there is something to learn about ourselves and our community.

In my fiction, I usually analyze the four masculine archetypes (king, warrior, lover, and magician) but the deceiver in this case—whom I will refer to as Thorny—is a woman. The masculine archetypes have corresponding female counterparts: queen, amazon, lover, crone (some sources define many more than four archetypes, but I’ll just work with these four today). There’s so much overlap in the male and female shadow archetypes, I’m convinced this is not a woman-issue. To me, this feels like a “person acting in deep shadow” issue.

For example, the shadow magician—male or female version—could pull off a deception on this scale. The shadow magician knows how to create realities, inventing believable stories from half-truths. (Isn’t this what writers do? Exercise the magician inside each of us to create believable worlds?) The shadow magician’s gift for creating worlds is much more manipulative its creative, golden counterpart. The shadow crone intuits what kind of story you most want to hear and tells exactly that story. The shadow magician understands human weaknesses—and human trust—so well, that he or she can dance with reality and you get swept along in the lies.

But why? Why would the shadow magician go to such lengths to invent Thorny’s elaborate world with a half-dozen primary characters and a number of supporting roles? Why create overlapping lives that span years of self-revelation and growth? Why invent a love life for an aging grandmother? Who drives such behavior?

The shadow lover.

The shadow lover has needs that are not being met. Well, that’s not fair. The lover has needs that aren’t being met: love, intimacy, connection. The golden lover—the better part of ourselves—says, “I’m not getting enough intimacy in my life. To get more of what I need, I need to grow the relationships in my life.” The shadow lover says, “Or…I could get all that intimacy in faster, more intense ways.” Think of it like this: In a monogamous relationship, the golden lover says, “I’m not feeling intimacy and connection with my partner. I need to make some changes so we find that flow between us again.” The shadow lover says, “I’m not getting what I need at home. I’m going to find it elsewhere, cheating if necessary.”

However, it’s not always so clear-cut, so instantly recognizable as, “I’m going to cheat.” The shadow lover might enjoy a little harmless flirting at first. The innuendo, the smiles, the casual touch. It feels good to be desired and sexy. The need for that energy keeps building. The flirting intensifies. Suddenly, a line is crossed and the person is surprised. “I never meant it to go this far!”

I wonder if that’s what happened with Thorny.

In her final explanation, Thorny said, “I never meant to hurt anybody…” I don’t doubt that’s true. The shadow parts of ourselves rarely start out saying, “I will now begin hurting people.” Shadow emerges in the attempt to get a basic need met.

When you feed your shadow—even a teensy, tiny bit—the shadow wants more. Just a little more. Just give me a tiny bit more of the good feeling that came so easily. But the shadow’s appetite is insatiable. If ten people adore you online, wouldn’t fifty people feel better? If you create a fiction around your life and thirty people pour out their compassion and sympathy toward you, wouldn’t it feel amazing to have one hundred people pour out their love?

I never meant to hurt anybody.

Sure.

But.

This is what shadow does.

Also in her goodbye post, Thorny said, “I loved bringing sunshine to your lives as you read about him. I loved supporting you offline and how you supported me in return. Though he was a character, he was always more me than fictional. They all were.”

Of course they felt real. She poured her intimate heart into fictional characters and through them got her very real needs met. Of course that feels real! She ignored the part of respecting the other person—and their right to interact with real people—but her feelings were real. The shadow lover rarely understands why someone else is upset. For the shadow lover, it’s all about me and my needs, my feelings. “Why can’t you understand that?”

I found it fascinating that in the final post, Thorny said people were persecuting her, threatening her in the real world. I saw two dozen response comments indignantly supporting her, saying, “Cyberstalking is just WRONG. You don’t deserve this.”

I had to shake my head. The shadow lover simply cannot turn off that intense desire to be fed. When the Thorny fiction fell apart, another fiction replaced it, one that was sure to create sympathy and empathy for someone who was currently experiencing a lot of pain. We can all agree cyberstalking or threatening someone in the real world is wrong. However, I’ve seen zero evidence this actually occurred. None. The shadow lover is insatiable. Even Thorny’s swan song had to appeal one last time for love and support. Tons of people responded just as (I imagine) Thorny had hoped. With kindness and compassion.

So, who permits this? What part of “you” thinks this behavior is all right—to take such severe actions to get what you want? The shadow lover is welcome to want what it wants…but who gives the blessing to act it out?

The shadow queen.

The shadow king.

This shadow regent says, “For convenience sake, I’ll just give the character a love interest so I don’t have to endure flirting with men online.” The shadow lover is fed immensely by everyone “ooo-ing” and “awwww-ing” over their smexy relationship. After the novelty wears off and the shadow lover hungers to be fed again, the queen’s voice says, “I’ll add a character who is a wounded war vet to draw attention to an important cause. What I’m doing is practically a public service.”

The shadow lover insatiably wants.

The shadow magician brilliantly executes.

But it’s the shadow king/queen who bestows permission. He or she thinks it’s okay because, “I’m doing this for the people.”

At some point, the deceiver—if she or he has a soul—says, “This is nuts. What I’ve done is wrong. I’m lying to people who trust me. I have to come clean.”

Enter the shadow warrior/amazon. The shadow amazon gets angry. “Are you fucking nuts? You can’t admit this is all a lie—they’ll crucify you. You’ll devastate them. The people need this ray of sunshine. No. You will keep up this deception. You will see this through. You will not let go. In fact, maybe you need to build this world further.”

The shadow queen says, “Okay, let’s have Thorny and Jazz get married.”

The shadow lover says, “Ooo, yes. How about a double-wedding with Carter and Alec?”

The shadow magician says, “I can make that happen. We can set up a webpage where people can donate money and gifts.”

Perhaps the golden queen interjects at this point and says, “Gifts? Wait, wait, that’s going too far…”

The shadow lover says, “Ooo! Presents! YES! PRESENTS! Presents are a symbol of love, and I need love!”

The shadow queen says, “Golden queen, you’re overruled. It might look suspicious if we don’t. Everyone accepts presents at their wedding.”

All four shadow archetypes contribute to tearing down the very best inside a person. Undoubtedly, the psychology behind this level of deception is more complex than this. I haven’t even tailored it to the individual who perpetuated these lies. But once you understand how archetypes operate, you get a little insight into the ways those internal conversations probably flowed.

When a lie like this is uncovered, the deceiver usually offers this as an explanation: “It was a dark time in my life.” Yes, undoubtedly. So? Dark times happen in everyone’s lives. How we respond to those dark times—with our shadow or our gold—is what makes us unique. A massive, years-long deception like Thorny’s may begin simply and without true malice during a dark time, but when shadow starts taking over, it doesn’t stop. It can’t. Lies beget more lies. The network to support the lies builds. Thorny’s deception lasted five years. Was the entire five years “a dark time?”

But hey, that’s on Thorny.

Shift focus.

What about us?

How did we—as a community—contribute to this situation? Don’t get me wrong, we are in no way responsible for Thorny’s actions. But did we make it easier for her to manipulate us? (I’d like to be clear—when I say, us, I mean us. I wrote several posts for Thorny’s site, including one about living with authenticity. This is not an academic question for me. I was deceived. I believed in Thorny and Co.) Let’s take a moment to look at our group shadows.

Online, Thorny presented himself in the guise of exactly what this community wants to see: blushing, shy, ingénue who overcame terrible childhood/young-adult struggles and arrived at maturity and true love by the age of twenty. (True love and maturity by age twenty? Uh….how often does that happen in the real world?) Throw in some kinks, sexy innuendo in a MONOGAMOUS relationship, and our entire community is hooked. We wanted this to be true. We wanted lives to work out that well. The MM community’s desire for happy endings can be golden—we love happy endings!—or it can be shadow—we need picture-perfect happy endings, all the time.

Like Fox Mulder’s iconic poster proclaims in the television show, The X-Files, we want to believe. How strong that burning need consumes us can alter our perspectives and veer us into shadow.

Let’s examine this from another angle. Western culture has a youth-obsession shadow. I’m not sharing anything new. Given that shadow, would Thorny’s story have hooked us if his characters were forty-seven? If he’d discovered he was gender fluid at forty-five and bought a cute pair of pumps? No. When we see older gay couples holding hands or touching heads affectionately, we think, “Awww, cute!” But we don’t want to know about their sex lives. We want to know about young peoples’ sex lives. Thorny’s shadow magician played on that cultural shadow to present us a cute, fresh-faced youth. The entire story depended on youthful exploration. Our culture’s obsession helped ease us into buying this story because it was what we wanted to hear.

I hope these two examples illustrate how culture and communities can have “group shadow” that entangles our mutual desire for something to be true. But shadow manipulation also works when our own individual shadows get triggered.

Take my involvement, for example. I always thought that Thorny’s story sounded fake…too much like fiction. And yet, I believed. Why? Well, friends of mine believed. A ton of people I talked with in the real world knew—for a fact—that Thorny was a real person, so who was I to question it? One friend emailed me: “I did a little digging into Thorny’s past based on something revealed on the blog. It’s true. He’s real.” This person wasn’t trying to deceive me—she stumbled upon a clue she genuinely trusted was “proof” of Thorny’s existence. So, I went along with the fiction. My shadow is that I’m often gullible. My shadow is that I can be lazy and accept the truths of others without questioning. It was convenient to simply accept the story at face value, even though it did not ring true.

Is this shadow a dangerous quality in me? You bet. In our world, we’re debating some very serious issues right now: immigration of Syrian refugees, presidential candidates, global warming solutions, and more. Someone like me who takes stories at face value is dangerous. I contribute to mob mentality, especially if I act on my shadow beliefs without doing the research—or at least remaining skeptical and open to further proof. I need to be more vigilant. I need to listen to my gut when it says, “This sounds like it might not be true.”

Well, that’s what I’m taking from the Thorny issue.

How about you?

What will you learn?

If you harden your heart to genderfluid young people living their lives with triumphs and setbacks, you’re taking the wrong lesson from this adventure. If your heart was bruised by your faith in Thorny and Co., good! It means you have a heart open to loving strangers. Don’t squash that part of yourself because you got burned. Learn from this. Find a way to be big-hearted, yet still protect yourself. It can be done.

There is no cure for shadow. We all have a shadow unique to our upbringing and experiences (usually an uncomfortable parallel to our gifts), and we all acquire shadow through various group affiliations (gender, where born, race, profession, neighborhood, etc.). The great news is that when you observe shadow—bring it into the light and see the damage it does to your life and others—it’s easier to choose vulnerability. Looking at others in that shadow place, it’s easier to say, “I’ve felt that way, too.” Acknowledging shadow creates more room inside your heart.

If you’re frustrated by Thorny’s deception and trying to decide how to move through this, consider looking at Thorny’s shadow. Wonder about it. Compare it to your own shadow and the things you do when your needs aren’t being met. Maybe you would never do what she did. But can you relate? A little?

Your shadow archetypes can guide you to your golden self. Listening to your shadow lover bleat out its demands to GET MORE LOVE NOW might be how you start paying attention and fixing the things you can. Shadow can guide you to a greater part of yourself.

Maybe even guide you to your true king- or queenship.

~Edmond Manning

About Edmond Manning

Edmond Manning is the author of King Perry, King Mai, The Butterfly King andFilthy Acquisitions. He spends a great deal of time standing in front of the fridge with the door open, wondering why it’s not stocked with more luncheon meats and cheese.
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I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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29 thoughts on “A Thorny Issue ~ Outside the Margins with Edmond Manning

  1. I always looked at it from a strict psychological standpoint, and this blog post fascinates me. All of the Shadow Aspects and their correlating motivations are equitable to examples of behaviors indicative of sociopaths and their identifying traits. This was a very insightful and intelligent look at a controversial event. Bravo.

    • SJ Himes, thank you! I’m delighted you think this is insightful. When something like this happens in my life and I’m trying to grasp how to respond and what to take away, it really helps me to break it down like this and consider what *might* have been going on in the other person. I’m not saying this is accurate–it’s all my projections, right? But I think if you’re trying to be fair about your observations, a few arrows will land accurately. Thank you for your kind “bravo.” I mean it.

  2. A very thorough analysis, Edmond, and this is an excellent perspective for those who were hurt the most. I wonder though…how many people actually buy into these fictions and how many allow it out of over civilized politeness? Those who came from old online RPG worlds and so on will often assume you are fake until they actually meet you. They allow you to be fake. They won’t call you out on it and they shrug when someone points it out. Yes. We assumed so. Oh, well.

    And perhaps that’s as sad as buying into it – a shadow world onto itself. The unless I’ve met you in a physical sense, you don’t really exist way of looking at online interaction. A distance that keeps you from harm, but yes, distances you and keeps that careful barrier in place.

    • Angel, you’re so dead-on. We live in a really interesting time of what to trust and not to trust online. Whom to trust. I think you’re right–those who grew up disbelieving (in the world of role playing and online games) don’t assume whoever they meet is real.

      I like your ‘civilized politeness’ observation. I know of at least one fake persona one FB who is sucking up a lot of loving attention the way Thorny and Co. did. Same desperate shadow lover energy. I don’t have the first-hand proof myself…but I know who does. I haven’t blown the whistle because if I don’t have the proof, I don’t feel it’s my place. I’m allowing “civilized politeness” to govern me by not exposing this person. What’s my responsibility here? What is the responsibility of those who have ‘the proof?’ All sorts of interesting questions to explore.

      • I grew up playing MMORPGs, and I have to say, the very crude idiom of “penis before pussy” is what I was taught. In this case I don’t mean literally–but in regards to the issue of trust. No one online is who they say they are until you meet face to face. I’ve since loosened my almost instinctive disbelief after branching out into the wider world of social media, but that very early lessen learned playing vanilla first-gen World of Warcraft has never really gone away. I agree with Angel to some degree–there is indeed a large percentage of people who all but live in RPGs and follow the customs of that society to the point of those norms usurping the societal norms of the Real World.

  3. I am glad Angel came up with the term “over civilized politeness”, because that is what has been bothering me the most since this came out. People knew Thorny wasn’t real four years ago. They warned other people privately. He left the Goodreads MMR group and closed his blog. But everyone was too polite to actually nail it down publicly, so after a while he opened a new blog and carried on for four more years. That’s … not good.

    I think the whole “everyone get over it and forgive” is another aspect of over civilized politeness. Thorny et al. is like the missing stair – everyone who knows sidles around it, but the people who don’t know are hurt.

    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Missing_stair

    • Charming Euphemism, great points! I love the idea of the “missing stair” which I hadn’t heard of before. Ha. Love it. I believed in Thorny up until a week or two before this big story broke.

      The person who told me had seen the proof first-hand but…was afraid of being accused of “outing” this person or being anti-genderfluid or being a stalker for having found this proof. The thing is, she wasn’t wrong. Those accusations HAVE been leveled at her since this story broke. I get why people want to keep their mouth shut.

      If you voice a dissenting opinion in the MM community and you’re an author, you might be unofficially blacklisted by readers for “creating drama” or “not being supportive.” Authors have to be very careful about what they say in public, thus contributing to that “overcivilized politeness.” I do think it’s a problem.

      Maybe by talking about situations we take some of the “drama” and “sting” out of them and have more level-headed conversations.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • I do think that “creating drama” is what some people revel in. They like the nasty stirring of unpleasant things. But as far as responsibility? As far as obligation when you know something is true? I’d say A) reveal it privately if you know someone is being hurt, and B) avoid being that person who whispers poison in everyone’s ear. If it’s not hurting someone, it’s none of their business.

  4. Edmond: Interesting point about possible backlash for authors revealing a situation like Thorny which included her accepting money/gifts. I, too, found proof of Thorny’s identity online and have it saved and I would have had no qualms about “outing” Thorny as a fake. But I have no dog in this fight, so I offer my admiration for those who did the right thing in exposing Thorny’s deception, despite the possibility of personal cost.

    • Lisa, it’s a really tough decision, isn’t it? Thorny expanded his business to do book formatting (he formatted *my* last book and did a good job), covers, customized art….so when you think about making this information public, you’re also potentially taking away that person’s income. It’s a very tricky situation. Thank you for commenting.

  5. I think you did an amazing job deconstructing and reconstructing the Thorny issue. For me, I’m a simple girl…I wasted a significant amount of time and money on someone who didn’t exist (Alec) and it saddens me to know after the fact that people have known about the lie well before I engaged and endured a heartbreak over this. The funny thing is…I am very cynical and not trusting by my very nature, so forming this friendship was an aberration for me. Probably the only reason I was heartbroken. If you know of someone else who is perpetuating a similar scheme, I would urge you to bring that information to light. It may save others from going through what I did. Thank you.

    • Kris g,

      I’m SO SORRY that you were so deeply involved. It’s hard to say what feels worse–giving time or giving money. Ugh. It just sucks. I’m very sorry about your being heartbroken.

      Sadly, I fear the “thing” you’ll take from this situation is “Don’t form relationships with strangers. They’re probably lying.” No! Don’t learn that lesson! YOU did nothing wrong! What you did was the thing we’re supposed to do in this life–open our hearts to others. Sadly, this choice didn’t pan out. But who knows what amazing person you might meet by taking the chance again.

      It’s easy to give advice to others, so I’ll stop there. I’m just sorry that you got hooked. Be gentle with yourself as you remember this unfortunate relationship.

      ((hugs))

  6. Thank you for this post. This is a great explanation of the Thorny situation, and it sounds correct (if somewhat sad for what this means for that real person). I too am gullible by nature, I’ve had it all my life and I don’t see it changing. At least I recognize my naiivete and try to do my research before doing something stupid. I would never have thought to create a fake person online in order to get sympathy. I couldn’t sleep at night if I did that. I am not that person.

    I have decided, for my own sanity, that I cannot be skeptical of every persona online. I will continue to take each person at face value until they prove that they cannot be trusted.

    • Ladygodivamagic,

      I think there’s a huge blessing in being naiivete. So let’s be that together! The golden side of that naiivete is trusting people. Open-heartedness. The shadow side (for me at least–no reflections on you) is that I don’t research stuff enough before having an informed opinion. I think the quality of naiivete isn’t a bad thing. As you said, I think I’m going to have this quality all my life! But I can embrace it AND recognize that it leads me to some places where I shouldn’t trust it.

      The gift of talking about shadow is “putting it in front of you,” where you can see it and keep an eye on it. Owning what is awesome and shadowy about you gives you more options for how to respond. So I will, like you, embrace that quality in me that trusts people until they prove they cannot be trusted.

      Good to hear your thoughts.

  7. I used to be gullible too. Because I’m an honest person, I believed that everybody else was honest too. It’s a childish way to look at the world, but then the people around me are very honest too, so I don’t have a lot of experience with liars and deceivers. Had I not already been catfished by someone playing a character that was so much like Thorny’s, I probably would have believed it. But I stepped away from anything Thorny a long time ago (but kept my mouth shut because I didn’t have any proof). And honestly? I’ve stepped away from any young gay man who sounds too mature for his age a long time ago. There are still a number of such characters within our M/M community (like you said, people with stories that sound too good to be true). I bet the people behind those characters are sweating now that people have started to realize this. But this is also why these kinds of immoral stunts are damaging to the real young gay men who are mature. People will be reluctant to believe they’re actually who they say they are, so that’s something these deceivers have on their conscience (if they have one).

    I spent years blaming myself for being catfished, and that’s why I get so angry when people try to shift the blame away from the deceptive person. Yes, I was gullible and therefor I was deceived, but that blame isn’t on me. That’s like saying that the girl put herself out there to be raped because she wore a short skirt. So sure, be more vigilant, but this wasn’t your fault, Edmond.

    As for Thorny actually being genderfluid? Yeah, not buying that (and sorry, but I never buy it, Thorny or not). Why would I? The person behind Thorny’s been lying for over five years. It sounds like a convenient excuse to try to dampen the fall. Appropriating one LGBTQ+ identity for another.

    Just think how insanely popular Missy Welsh would be if she’d put all that time making up these characters, all that time put into writing the posts and interacting with people, and all the effort of keeping up the lie, into books? This could have been great material for a book, but instead she crossed the line time and time again–the first one being by appropriating an identity of a minority group that she’s supposed to be supporting.

    I’m very unsympathetic when it comes to catfishers, and especially catfishers who pretend to be a part of a minority group, and knowing myself that will never change. I’m okay with that. As for Thorny/Missy, google “sociopath vs psychopath.” I’m not sure which, but I’m certain Thorny/Missi is one or the other. A non-psychopath/sociopath would never have taken this so far. But it’s a good post anyway. I’m sorry you got sucked into the lie like so many other people <3

    • Thanks for your comments, Erica. I want to be clear, though, that I am in no way tossing around the terms “sociopath vs. psychopath.” I’m not a professional psychologist and have no idea, no opinion on that. I think it’s useful to examine the behavior under the lens of shadow, but my observations are pretty generic about how those roles work under circumstances like these. Who knows if anything I said is true for the Thorny creator. Dunno.

      And yes, it does sting to be deceived in this way. I was never “close” to Thorny, but I posted on his site and I hired him to do the formatting of my last book published…so I feel like I was “involved” in the lie, even though–as you said very clearly–that’s not true.

      Thanks for chiming in, Erica. I’m sorry you have experience with catfishers, too. But it sounds like you grew from that, which is about the best you can do in situations like this.

      • Oh, no, I didn’t mean to insinuate that you were bringing up the terms of psychopath/sociopath. That’s all me. I started looking into it after my three times of being catfished (yes, I’m THAT gullible, and no, none of those people were Thorny). I can’t imagine why someone would do a thing like this if there wasn’t some serious psychological reason behind it. But no, I cannot relate even a little bit with this person (or the others), even though your shadow analogy made sense (it was a very clever analogy). Sure, attention and sympathy can be nice, but this went so far beyond that. So, so far. And so many of my friends got hurt. Seriously, if I had believed Thorny was real and been there when that guy committed suicide? It would have damn near killed me with grief. But would she have cared? I doubt it.

        Even if it had started out as a marketing scheme, Missy could have abandoned this years ago when she felt that she’d taken things too far. I have to wonder though if she even ever felt that she’d taken it too far. She didn’t sound one bit remorseful. She came up with excuses and tried to play the victim card, casting the blame onto others (like these catfishers tend to do when they’re found out/come out). It’s as if she can’t relate to the people who were hurt by the scheme or understand why they’d be upset. Again, that seems to be a common thing with these catfishers. It’s all about them and to hell with the rest. And that’s a signature symptom of psychopaths/sociopaths, not being able to relate to other people’s feelings.

        Sociopaths have a conscience, but it’s very weak and won’t stop their behavior. Psychopaths don’t have a conscience and don’t feel any guilt for what they do. Sociopaths tend to make it clear they don’t care while psychopaths are great actors, skilled manipulators, and very good at emulating feelings. Neither have empathy (but the psychopath will pretend he/she does). Here’s an article about the differences (you know, just because it’s interesting): http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/sociopath-psychopath-difference (don’t forget to read page 2). Now I’m no therapist either, but I’ve read a lot about psychology over the years and when something like this happens, I tend to speculate. Like you, I find myself trying to figure out the reason why a person might behave the way they do.

        This is such a hot button for me that I should probably stay quiet now -.- I have to fight back the viking in me every time I see something like this happen. The viking wants blood, but I’m trying to reel it in and remain professional. I’m very harsh when it comes to catfishers, unsympathetic, and probably judgmental. But that’s how I get when someone hurts the people and community I love. My own experience–all the hurt, betrayal and self-blame–comes back to me when these things come out. The memory of what happened sinks me into depression every time and it takes me weeks to crawl up again. Not that the catfishers care.

  8. I don’t know the specifics of the whole debacle, but deception like that I can’t condone. I just won’t go there. I get what you’re saying about the headspace – though I tend to roll my eye at the little labels we put on them (this comes from being married to a psychiatrist/quantum mechanics physicist (yeah, he one doctorate wasn’t enough for my guy)) so while I the headspace of it all appeals to me – the choice was made. NO ONE put a gun to their head (even metaphorically). they chose to do what they did, despite the inward conclusions we draw to try and make sense of it. Goes back to that classic line, doesn’t it?

    “Oh, what a tangled web …” heh. Yeah, that lot was cast the moment the idea was formed. Personally I’ve got no room for that type of thing. Glad I wasn’t a part of it. (Shakes head).

  9. It’s a delicate balance to be trusting and yet, savvy about any interactions. Absolutely love the breakdown of how the shadow archetypes function.
    In a small way, I can relate a little. For example; last night at the grocery store, I told a lie. To the cashier. We were discussing coffee and I lied and said I “only had good coffee for the holidays”. The truth is I buy French Roast ‘good” coffee all the time. I only drink Folgers as a last resort. When I left, I said to my husband “how did you like my big, fat lie?”. You know, I honestly had no idea why I felt compelled to lie. My husband said ” well, I know you didn’t want to be perceived as a coffee snob.”. And that was it. A lot of the lies I tell are to “look good”. Today, I face up to them, even if it’s awkward and uncomfortable.
    There is no excuse for this kind of deception. Knowing how it happens because the seeds of it lie inside me is disconcerting.

    • Jennifer, I love your honesty about yourself and your motivations.

      And the thing is, I think we all lie sometimes. We lie about little stuff, big stuff, and every size in between. We sometimes stop ourselves, we sometimes reflect on the lie and vow to never do it again…but we do lie.

      When I go order food or a beverage somewhere and they ask for my name, if I say, “Edmond,” they look at me and say, “Edmond? Did you say Edward or Edmond?” I repeat myself. They look at me skeptically and write down some variation of what they heard. These days, I just lie and say, “My name is Eddie.” It’s easier. Innocent little lies…they don’t mean anything…until suddenly that line between lying and the truth is blurred.

      It’s interesting to reflect on those little lies and see if they point at anything meaningful. I was touched by your husband’s unflinching and unemotional honesty to you, even about the small lie. That speaks well of both of you.

  10. I never followed the thorny blog. There was someone I donated to because someone desperately begged me to give money since this guy had been abused and was hiding but afterward I figured I’d been duped. Anyway, I’m not sure why I knew this or how I got the information but at GRL Chicago as the cockwalk was ending there was something being done about Thornys book and Thorny was sad he couldn’t be there. I have no idea who said it but as they were walking out they said something to the effect that Thorny couldn’t make it because she was w middle aged woman. They said it in such an off hand manner I really thought everyone knew. I wish I had said something then but I really thought everyone knew Thorny was a woman. There are too many people who take advantage of others in this genre.

  11. I have a naturally trusting nature. I don’t think anything can change that. I tend to accept people as they present themselves. That doesn’t mean I trust them in all things. It only means, if you say you’re a hot young gay guy with a bear husband, I’ll believe you until I find out otherwise.

    Interesting article, Edmond. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

      • There are a lot of people online pretending to be someone they’re not. In most cases, they are simply taking advantage of the medium in order to be their truest selves. Maybe they’re safely exploring different parts of themselves. It’s really hard to know where the line should be drawn when it comes to make believe.

        The only time I’d draw that line is when they are purposefully taking advantage of others. THAT is totally wrong.

  12. As one who was also caught up in the catfishing scam Erica Pike speaks of, I’m afraid I stand with her on this issue. We were both burned so badly by that sociopath – and I have no doubt she is a sociopath. I’ll call it as I see it – that I have zero tolerance for this type of emotional blackmail. My empathy is with those who get hurt by them, not for the one who perpetrated it.

    I admire your ability to look at the whole Thorny scam from that perspective, Edmond. You’re a more forgiving man than I am. Possibly that sounds like sarcasm, but it truly isn’t meant that way. I admit I’m a jaded prick sometimes and, like you, I’m waiting for that next catfish to fall. Sadly, more and more people are becoming jaded due to this happening too frequently.

    Although, in retrospect, jaded may not be a bad thing. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true. If someone’s life reads like a romance novel, then it probably IS fictitious. If someone or something seems perfect, then it is probably NOT perfect.

    My advice for anyone online, after being catfished more than once, if 2+2 has a tendency to add up to three more often than it adds up to four… get the hell away from that person!

    • Good advice, Zathyn! If it seems too good to be true…run!

      I don’t think I’m a more forgiving person than anyone else. Well…maybe. But I don’t think I was cut to the core–hurt to the core–the way some of my friends are. It’s easier to forgive when you haven’t invested as much.

      And hey…I’m not sure this is a situation requiring forgiveness. I think you SHOULD forgive if it’s holding YOU back in some way…but if it’s not, well, fuck ’em. (Ahem…that was a little strong. LOL)

      Regardless of the forgiveness angle, I think it’s important to look at these things from the shadow perspective, to see what I can learn about myself. Learning about shadow–in others and myself–helps me reduce how much pain courses through me. Has nothing to do with forgiveness. Because honestly, I want to move forward and let my brain be occupied by other things.

      Thanks for an intriguing reply, Zathyn!

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