Catfishing, true love and obesity


Catfishing, true love and obesity

KERNEELS BREYTENBACH was amazed by one woman's gender fluidity, a novel about undying love, and research into diet pills.


LIFE is wonderful. Somewhere there is always someone taking care of us. I have been informed that several people have left me millions of dollars. I never followed up. I stay poor because I know bullshit when I smell it. But in America, the land of abundance and miracles, there are people who have taken the bulldust to incredible heights.

Catfish Slutsky

Does the name Emily Slutsky ring a bell? No? Google it: “Emily Slutsky is a tech professional with a background in science and engineering. Emily's long and successful educational journey prepared her with the necessary skills to tackle this new era of technological challenges. In 2007, Emily Slutsky graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering. She then completed her Master of Applied Physics at Columbia University. During her time at Columbia University, Emily gained some experience as a clinical research fellow at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in New York. In 2009, Emily Slutsky took her studies abroad and earned her M.D. from University College Cork School of Medicine." (According to her own website.)

Slutsky also entered into correspondence with numerous women under the pseudonym Ethan Schuman. She doesn't mention this on her website, but it's revealed in Anna Akbari's astonishing There Is No Ethan.

Akbari, a sociologist, is one of a string of women who became emotionally addicted to “Ethan" — until she unmasked him.

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There Is No Ethan is a story of catfishing on an enormous scale. Catfishing means engaging people in an online relationship under a false name. In Akbari's case, the contact came via a so-called dating site. Ethan understood the art of enslaving women through understanding, supportive correspondence — to the point where he could manipulate their lives. Correspondence soon grew into full-fledged love affairs.

However, there were all sorts of worrying clues, and Akbari was able to end the entire episode only after more than 10 years. What astounds me is the fact that Slutsky continued her activities as Ethan after she began working as a medic and was in charge of caring for female patients.

Jonathan Haidt's The Anxious Generation, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, mentioned that men's mental health came under siege in the digital revolution. There Is No Ethan was written by an eminent sociologist, a famous academic — but also someone who is active on dating sites in an attempt to connect with people. Slutsky cares for students and patients but can only realise herself, romantically speaking, as a man in cyberspace.

Goodness! Talk about fluidity!

One can't help starting to think that the US has gone to the dogs. The behaviours, habits and ways in which people live out their socialisation needs have collapsed.

Dating sites are not just places where people meet possible lovers. They are where new aberrations develop in the field of psychological disorders. Slutsky is a medical doctor with a background in nuclear science and engineering. Her greatest pleasure in life is to make women fall in love with her male avatar, then psychologically enslave them. I can visualise her — white coat, stethoscope around the neck, cellphone in hand. She's constantly watching, like one of Pringle Bay's baboon sitters.

Several women who shared Akbari's experience with Ethan Schuman said they thought they had started to experience Stockholm syndrome. One even continued with the correspondence and love affair two years after she found out Ethan was actually Emily. Others collapsed psychologically and had to seek treatment.

All of them are in professions where one expects the highest levels of sober thinking.

There Is No Ethan haunts me. I shudder to think what destruction the Emily Slutskys of the world will wreak now that artificial intelligence is taking over the structuring of our thought patterns.

There Is No Ethan by Anna Akbari was published by Grand Central Publishing and cost $23.59 at Amazon.


One day, said Cinderella, my prince is still going to pitch up. André Aciman says it could be a princess, too. I was afraid this Aciman novel was going to be like an attempt to emulate the TV series White Lotus (a group of friends together on an island befriend a mysterious stranger) or that it would be another sequel to Aciman's highly acclaimed Call Me by Your Name.

But no, it's a unique beast. Esoteric mumbo jumbo you devour in one sitting. The only prerequisite is that you must be willing to believe, like the Hindus, that man's soul can reincarnate again and again. And that true love has very long legs. I hope you guys are curious enough now. I'm not going to reveal any further secrets. All I can say with a song in my heart is that this was the best escape I've had in a very long time.

The Gentleman from Peru by André Aciman was published by Faber & Faber and costs R380 at Exclusive Books.


For several months, I indulged in medical science and took injections to do something about a fairly visible weight problem. I stopped it after a while — high cost, big stomach ache.

Johann Hari's Magic Pill (subtitle The Extraordinary Benefits and Disturbing Risks of the New Weight-Loss Drugs) was written for people like me (who have tried every diet imaginable). Are there more risks that we are unaware of, it asks. And are the side effects the same for everyone? The answers he finds eventually convince him not to become a campaigner against this medication. However, he strongly opposes prescribing it to children.

His vision is that we should learn to eat more correctly, get the right exercise regularly and use our common sense. Well, I could have told him that too. Away with the bread and sugar, meat and liquor. It is the nightmares he describes between the beginning and end of his investigation that make this book a worthwhile read.

Magic Pill by Johann Hari was published by Bloomsbury and costs R414 at Exclusive Books.

♦ VWB ♦

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