My Fake Boyfriend Tom

You know how you had imaginary friends when you were a kid? Well, that continued with me from middle school through high school with my boyfriend.

I named him Tom and he is from Kansas. Kansas was far enough away from Denver that nobody could look it up, and yet just close enough that some cute boy would come to Denver on vacation with his family and meet this shy, quiet girl in the park or whatever.

What city in Kansas, Alana?

I only knew Topeka (thanks to my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Wallis who taught us the state capitals) so that’s where I told everyone where he’s from.

Now, you may know really good liars. That friend who successfully convinces you they were definitely at the movies that night, and not actually at your house drinking all your good whiskey. Or they really knew all 50 state capitals and didn’t cheat on the test, really Mrs. Wallis, that book was just in my lap for …fun?

Right, so I’m obviously not a good liar. And really I knew all the state capitals and I shouldn’t’ve cheated. Sorry, Mrs. Wallis.

But Alana, you may ask, after asking me the capital of Washington (Olympia!), why did you make up a fake boyfriend and name him Tom?

Well, that’s because all the girls in class going into 8th grade with me got their first kiss over the summer!

I don’t think it bothered my friends that I obviously made up Tom. They didn’t ask a lot of questions about him and we went along as if Tom had never happened. 8th grade is awkward as it is. In fact, I don’t remember a lot of it. It is really just a blur of emotions for me, mostly of embarrassment and rage and also horror. Usually these emotions come and go in the span of a few minutes. Being a pre-teen is hard.

Anyway, Tom had to come up again when I was sent away for 10th grade because my wild pre-teen emotions fully blossomed into teenage-hood and my parents were like, hell no, and also the school I attended in 9th grade wasn’t fond of my outbursts of crying and emo poetry I left on the back of my tests.

Man, what was it like for popular kids who actually enjoyed high school?

Anyway, I was in this country where I had a few family members and didn’t really speak the language. We were a group of teens who were lost and confused and (largely) unsupervised. Obviously, shenanigans happened. I, proudly, introduced everyone to the band “Good Charlotte.” My peers were more interested in making out and getting things pierced. So here I was, yet again, stunted and late to the party and feeling weird feelings that I had no idea how to navigate. So, out came Tom! An old flame, reignited.

How did Tom come to Israel from Topeka, Kansas? you may ask.

Don’t worry. I knew he had to stay in the US. He would just call me.

It was a great alibi for me, and a great excuse to leave the room when I felt awkward because everyone was busy making out.

Not that they noticed.

But then, someone called my bluff. Obviously it was my crush, whom I was simultaneously trying to make him jealous and intrigued in me. I came into his room “talking” to Tom, the art of talking on the phone to an imaginary person taught to me by TV. You know, the fake answering with a “What?” and then a weird pause and sometimes you even make plans like “see ya later?” and you say “sure!” and then just hang up even though the “plans” were not solidified and neither of you know where or when or why you are meeting up.

This plan could’ve gone well, except that my roommate calls me during my fake call with Tom!

I answer that too, saying “Oh I guess we just got disconnected.”

Nice cover, right?

Then my roommate asks me “Where are you” and “Why aren’t you in class” and “I forgot my notebook can you bring it for me please” and then hangs up (she said goodbye) and then my crush goes, “Howcome I could hear your roommate and not Tom on the phone?”


After fumbling around with more lame excuses, I had to retire the idea of Tom. Basically immediately, too, or I would never heard the end of it. That’s what friends are for, right, teasing you until you give up and crawl into a sad, dark corner and cry?

So, now that Tom is dead, and I am a fully evolved adult human, I am resigned to the fact that I am a bad liar. However, due to some sketchy guys who will not leave you alone if you say “Sorry, I am not interested in you or your greasy hair, please leave me alone,” I find myself in need of a fake boyfriend. And no, I can’t just say, “I have a boyfriend” because then situations like this happen:

Sketchy guy is invited to my friend’s for a cute Shabbat dinner.

Sketchy guy hits on all the women there. Everyone feels uncomfortable.

Someone is late for dinner so we have to wait awkwardly while sketchy guy rambles on about how much he knows about shoes. (Example: I know a lot about shoes. What kind of shoes do you have? Me: Um, Nine West. Him: Oh, yes, those are very good shoes.)

During dinner, Sketchy Guy goes on a rant about his ex.

His ex-wife.

I hate women, he says seething.

We have dinner.

Sketchy guy falls asleep on the couch and nobody knows what to do.

I offer to walk home with him to get him out of my friend’s apartment.

Sketchy guy proceeds to talk about his anger at his ex-wife and women in general and then asks: So, are you dating anybody?

Me: Uh, no, I — I guess not.

Sketchy guy: So will you go out with me?

Me: Oh, no I have a boyfriend.

We women are trained in this reaction because for some reason guys will still pursue if we are single but will “respect” the fact that another guy is dating us.

Sketchy guy: But you just said you’re single.

See, he’s got a point. I realized I have to out-crazy him. To show that despite all his red flags and my lying, I gotta make him go, oh no, I don’t want to ask her out.

So that’s where I came up with my new boyfriend Toothpaste.

It is such a crazy lie that I can go through with it while also freaking guys out!

This is just my method. I’m sure you have better, well though out methods, of how to avoid weird sketchy guys who are mad about their ex-wife and all woman-kind.

But ya. This is how it sounds: Sorry, I can’t go out with you, I have a boyfriend. His name is Toothpaste. He is definitely real.

How would you even respond to that?! That’s right. You can’t.

Follow me for more tips and tricks. And also good shoe recommendations. Nine West. Who knew they were a good shoe brand?




English teacher by trade, story writer for fun

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Alana Schwartz

Alana Schwartz

English teacher by trade, story writer for fun

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