A Rose By Any Other Name

Just one quick glance around our cultural landscape will tell you that we are all happily wallowing in some muddy blur between fact and fiction: pop icons masquerading as “singers”, Fox News Channel posing as “news” and reality TV programming warping the basic mise en scene of D-list celebrity.
The folks at IMAGINARY GIRLFRIENDS.COM have capitalized on this trend. Trumpeting a curious slogan of “Real Girls, Imaginary Relationships,” this website offers an opportunity unlike any I’ve ever seen. For $45.00 dollars, any lonely stroker can have a fake girlfriend for two months. The woman you select from the website is a real person, and they all offer varying types of services: on-line chatting, e-mails, phone messages, “letters on cute stationary” and lace panties.

For anyone who wonders why a person would want an Imaginary Girlfriend, the website poses such questions as:
“Tired of your friends and family telling you to get a girlfriend? Want to make that certain someone a little jealous? Need a confidence boost? Just feeling lonely sometimes?”

The whole concept struck me as so strange that I had to try it out for myself. What would a fake girlfriend say? What would I say to a fake girlfriend? And as a further twist-what would I say to a fake girlfriend as a woman posing as a man? Stealing my boyfriend Mike’s e-mail account, and his name, I signed up for two months of a counterfeit romance.

APRIL 15th:
I click the “browse girlfriends” prompt on the website and find a wide variety of Imaginary Girlfriends: sexy goth chick, sweet girl next door, the Texan outdoorsy type, studious librarian. I notice that the overtly sexual girls and stereotypically attractive blondes are unavailable due to over-flowing demand.
I choose Rose because she seems interesting: she wants to be a veterinarian AND an actress. A double threat! A sitcom in the making! I whisk my imaginary girlfriend Rose through to checkout. I soon receive formal receipt that states:
QTY 1 PRODUCT ID: Imaginary Girlfriend.
I had expected to pay $45.00 dollars, but I get Rose for the low-low discount price of $40.00. This is great. I love a good bargain.
APRIL 18th:
Still no word from Rose. I worry. Perhaps my Imaginary Girlfriend is defective. I write the company asking when I can expect to hear from her.
APRIL 19th:
No Rose and no word from the company. Have I been duped? Will I have to take this up with the Better Business Bureau? Where can my Rose be? I call my mother to tell her that my imaginary girlfriend refuses to write to me. She snaps, “You’re becoming the kind of man I always warned you of.”
APRIL 20th:
I get an e-mail with the cryptic title THIS IS ROSE:
I am so very sorry I didn’t write you until now. I just barely got back from a trip, and am very tired. I will be e-mailing you today after I wake up from a nap.

Of all the things I thought my Imaginary Girlfriend would be: hot, saucy, fun, jaunty, spicy–sleepy was not on my list of top five adjectives. But Rose is true to her word. A couple hours later I get another e-mail. I haven’t corrected Rose’s spelling errors, since they seem to add to the over-all flavor.
She writes:
Like we have already established, this is a pretend relationship. On the 23rd, e-mail me with a letter that states the basic way me “met” and you basically asking me to be your girlfriend, (that will be our official start date). When the two month time that you have payed for is over on June 23rd you either have to give me a weeks notice about the brake up that you are wanting and the reason why you are braking up with me, so I can beg for you back, or you have to repay two days before June 23. If I don’t recieve notification that you have repayed, I will brake up with you on the 26th of June.
I need to know if there is anything specific that you want. The occational phone message, any photo shoots, if there are going to be any online chats. During the relationship, you can casually mention them in your letters, and within the next day or so I will include whatever you have asked for in the e-mail, or you will recieve a message from me.
Any questions?

It appears that Rose, despite her aversion to spellcheck is quite a savvy businesswoman. It’s all pretty precise. But I do like the idea of inventing a “how we met” story. I write back and tell her she can take her choice of three meeting scenarios:
1.) At a Sci-fi/Tupperware convention
2.) When we were both starring in a Detroit, Michigan regional theatre production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. You were Mary Magdalene, I was Jesus.
3.) Skydiving

I also tell her:
I’d like some e-mails, a picture, (preferably in an “Old West” costume) and hand written letters about yourself. I’d like to know what books your read when you were a kid, which actresses’ careers you admire, what perfume you wear, what music you listen to when you are by yourself and you know no one else is listening, and how you felt the first time you ever got turned on.

I add the last question to gauge her temperature on what type of Imaginary Girlfriend she will be. I figure I will work up to asking for the panties. I don’t want to be too demanding right away. I think I make a pretty decent imaginary boyfriend, considering I’m new at it. I’m charming, witty, and express an interest in her life.

My confidence disappears when I don’t hear from Rose for a couple of days. I feel rejected, and write to her begging for some attention. I cannot believe what a loser I am. My Imaginary Girlfriend is forcing me to grovel for her affections.

APRIL 25th:
It is hard to believe that it has been so long since we last saw eachother. The memories of you being Jesus, heh. I’m so glad that we are finally together. Ever since I first laid eyes on you, I knew that I cared for you, and I hoped that we would finally be together.
For me to be this far away from you is hard, but I still have the memories of when we were in the play together, and hopefully soon, I’ll have enough money to come out and see you.
My life right now is filled with many things. I’m working on a Musical Review right now, which is absolutely fun. I barely get any time to myself anymore, but when I do I just like to sit back and listen to music. I mainly listen to alternitive, but I like to go to sleep to the sounds of Evanescence.
I’ll be sending some letters off soon that I wrote for you today.

Although I have provided an unusual “how we met” set up, it seems that Rose still managed to fit it into a readymade template. I suppose that makes for less work. I also notice she brings up sleep again. My girl sure likes to sleep.

I am a little concerned about the Evanescence reference. I wonder if this implies that she is devout Christian, and thus would not be amenable to panty deliveries. Worse, she doesn’t answer most of my questions.

I am also confused by the blending of real life details and fantasy. This makes me vaguely concerned about the prospect of Rose visiting. I have not scrubbed the toilet in two weeks and my sofa is a little worn. The sexual subterfuge is all too much for me. I write back asking:
Please send me a picture soon. I would like to put it on my kitchen wall, so I can look at you while I drink my morning coffee and eat my Honey Bunches of Oats cereal.

MAY 2nd:
Haven’t heard from Rose. I am alarmed and strangely lonely. I write:
Are you upset with me? I feel as though you are not into our relationship. I hope you really have sent
the letters you promised, because I need more communication from you.

MAY 3rd
No! I still love and miss you dearly. My computer is going on the fritz. It only allows me to check my e-mail when it feels like it. I did send the letters off. I miss you so much, I really do. I feel like I love you too. I hope that you aren’t mad. My computer just seems to hate me.

My boyfriend reads the e-mail first and announces, “She loves us.” I think he is enjoying the cyber romance by proxy. It’s disturbing. We are engaged in some type of meta-threesome.
Rose e-mails pictures. In one, she is dressed in a princess costume. I print them out and put them next to the wobbling hula girl on my desk. Rose seems more tangible now.
MAY 6th:
You are so beautiful. Your skin is like porcelain, and your hair is so shiny and thick. I especially love the picture of you in costume. You deserve a golden throne in a castle, because you are a queen.

It amazes me how we women are so susceptible to compliments on our appearance, because for the first time in our relationship, Rose e-mails back immediately:
Oh Mike, you are so sweet! Thank you so much.
I think of you every day when I wake up. I hope you recieve my letters soon. I will probably be sending more off tomorrow.

The main issue in this relationship is that I have yet to “recieve” one letter, and I am a little upset. When will I get these letters? I know the policy is that she sends the letters to the company, and they repackage them and send them to me, but it seems that they are taking a mighty long time to get here.
MAY 6th
Another e-mail from Rose:
I miss you so much. Tell me more about youself!

MAY 7th
I’m flattered you that want to hear about me.
I believe that all of our experiences, good and bad, push us down whatever path we are on.

I dribble out some more masculine sounding platitudes about strength of character. Then, trying to by polite, I ask her questions like:
What is your idea of a perfect day?
MAY 10th
Ofcourse I want to hear about you. You are my boyfriend! My idea of a perfect day is no pain, no stress, just either sleeping or watching the stars.

Again with the sleeping. Perhaps my Rose has some type of sleeping disorder. If so, wouldn’t that hinder her dreams of playing Hedda Gabler while treating glaucoma- afflicted Shetland Ponies in her spare time?
MAY 13th
Still no letters. What is going on here? I e-mail:

I realize you do not send them directly to me, but it has been over two weeks since you claimed to have sent them out, and they have not appeared.

MAY 19th:
I finally found out what happened to the letters, and you should get them in a couple of days.
What has been going on. I miss you very much, and am interested in what you are doing. I hope to hear from you soon.

I fear I am getting the run around and will never receive my letters. I have been played for a cyber fool. I decide it’s time to “brake up” with Rose, mostly because if I’m not going to get any letters on cute, sweetly scented stationary, then I want to see how all the begging is done. I want to be worshiped. Besides, I have the relationship on a strict timeline and notice that in my Day Runner I have already written that it is Break Up With Rose Day.
MAY 19th
I feel I must end our relationship. I am so lonely, and yet I feel that I have very little communication with you. Perhaps I need to find another “girlfriend”. Each day I have gone to my mailbox with high expectations for a letter from you, only to find bills, an occasional Cat Fancy magazine from the previous tenant and assorted Hickory Farms brochures.
This is most depressing.
I had hoped to find a connection, but alas, you don’t seem to care for me. I can’t take the rejection anymore.

Hah! Bring on the begging Rose!
MAY 20th:
Why? Why are you braking up with me? I miss you so much, and I care about you. I had hoped we would have a future together. Why do you e-mail me to say the relationship is over when I say it will only be acouple of days before the letters get to you? Why do you do this to me? I have cried for hours.
If you feel this relationship is over, I am requesting all mail that I have sent to you to not be shipped out. I’m sorry, but you will not recieve them if this relationship ends. Take me back. I’m yours.

Now, this actually riles me up. She claimed to have sent these letters WEEKS ago. How could she stop shipment on them now? And shouldn’t she be sending more letters not less to convince me of her love? I experience the kind of irritation I get after purchasing do-it-yourself furniture in a box and getting home to find that four vital screws are missing. Those are my letters! I paid for them. I am pissed and also curious about how Rose will react to criticism of her job performance. I fire back with:

First of all, I have caught you in a lie, and I cannot stand lies. You claim to have sent these letters over three weeks ago. So how would it be possible to not have them shipped out? That’s idiotic. You either sent them or you didn’t. Second of all, those letters are mine. I have paid for them. Should I not receive them, I will contact company and tell them that you have not been doing your job properly, which, quite frankly you haven’t. You have claimed to be too busy, too tired, or that your “computer hates you.” I have given you the benefit of the doubt, but if you were too busy for this job, you really should have allowed someone else to
do it.

It is a pretty nasty letter, and it amazes me that I have just accused my Imaginary Girlfriend of lying, but “brakin’ up is hard to do.” I figure I am in the driver’s seat, being the paying customer and all. But a couple hours later I am proven wrong when she writes back:

Although I did not tell you of this, from the beginning I have felt uncomforitable working with you. You have seemed to be rude, you have asked personal questions that I did not want to answer, and have seemed to try to be manipulative. I have not felt comforitable giving you any of my services at all from the start, but I have sent you pictures of me, and e-mailed on a regular basis. I feel that I was doing a good job. The letters must have been some mix-up, and I did not lie about them either.

Because of these feelings, I must tell you that the agreement that I signed with the company states that if I feel uncomforitable with the customers I have the right to stop the relationship. It should have stated that in your terms and conditions.
Also, I have e-mailed the company and they agree with me. Since I feel uncomforitable, I have no obligation to finish this relationship with you, nor do I have an obligation to give you your money back or the letters.
I apologize that things had to work out this way, but if you feel that this is unjust, you can e-mail the company. If you do want to try to continue this relationship, I do not mind giving it a second chance. Although, you must understand that we would be under the agreement that you can not threaten me. Second you can not try to make me feel as if I’m stupid or “idiotic”. And thirdly, if I feel as if you are trying to be manipulative, hurtful, or rude in any way, (including asking personal questions), the relationship will be over.

I re-read the letter a couple of times. The imaginary boyfriend in me is vaguely upset. Here I was, thinking I was being charming and witty, and THE WHOLE TIME I made her “uncomforitable”!

The woman in me however, is profoundly proud of Rose. It’s so great that she has COMPLETE CONTROL over this relationship. She has turned this situation around and remained in power. Rose doesn’t take any crap. A modern day Norma Rae for imaginary girlfriends everywhere. I am feeling downright sisterly towards Rose at this point, so I send off a final e-mail entitled THE TRUTH:
It was never my intention to make you feel uncomfortable. The questions I asked were only a way of trying to express interest in your life. If
that upset you, then I apologize. At any rate:
I just wanted to tell you the truth. I did this as an experiment for a publication. The reason I kept hounding you for the letters is because I wanted them as research for my piece. I wanted to know if they were actually written on “pretty
stationary sprayed with perfume” as the website claims. I am under a deadline, so you can understand now why I was so intent on getting them. Best of luck with school and your acting career.

I’m not sure if I will hear back from Rose, but a couple hours later I get a response:
Hahaha, that is quite interesting to find out. Well, each girl does things diffrently. My letters are written on regular old paper. Possibly they smell good, possibly they don’t, but they do have dried rose petals in them.
I do apologize for the mix-up, but sine we are telling the truth, I figured that I’ll just say this. My real identity I would like to keep to myself, but my name is not Rose. I pretend to be Rose for those who need someone to talk to, (although you probably know that from the website).
Thank you for telling me the whole sceme.

Dried Rose petals! Ah, would a Rose by any other name smell as sweet? Possibly, but it wouldn’t be as thematically apropos.

UPDATE: The last time I checked on this site, it had changed to “referral only”. Guess that’s one way to keep creeps like me at bay.


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