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A Dish Best Served Cold

This super entertaining, viral story was originally posted on Reddit:

Posted by u/MeriMooMoo


Online dating is kinda like swimming. First, you might almost drown. Then, you learn a thing or two. Eventually, you might have fun. You might have the time of your life. Or maybe you get brutally ambushed and eaten by a shark. Luckily, Phoebe knew how to navigate sharks.

She’d been on all the apps - Bumble, Tinder, and then the obscure ones that even her nosy mother had never heard of. These were bizarre, tiny elitist dating sites rumored to host A-list celebrities that she would have to jump through strange social hoops just to receive an invitation. The whole thing felt absurd. But, hey, how long could you really fight it? She wanted to meet someone and had exhausted the other options.

She was as smart about online dating as she could be. She pulled out all the stops to weed out the riffraff, to message a couple of different guys at the same time so she didn’t get too hung up on the dark-eyed jazz singer from Silverlake, but, hey, it was hard. There were so many disappointments. It was impossible to temper expectations when someone appeared to be perfect- a person she could imagine going to the Poconos with to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, or, at least, check the dwindling boxes of attributes that she still kept in a mental list.

So when charming, witty, and handsome Bret slid himself right into her DMs, she tried to keep herself grounded. They had shared interests, he was close with his family, and, further internet sleuthing after midnight revealed that they even shared some friends in the valley. This connection had the potential to be  a score on so many levels.  But Phoebe refused to get excited. She didn’t even know if he liked the Poconos. And, she had a few rules. One, she wasn’t going to meet up with him until they’d had at least one serious conversation about, well, something serious. She’d discovered that an early-on discussion about any topic of real consequence was a pretty darn reliable barometer of someone’s sanity. But, in LA, even that test could be off.

Two, that first meet-up wasn’t going to be at a bar. Bars were places where a person could hide any part of themselves behind either low lights or vodka.

Three, no fancy dinners. Mostly because Phoebe had a sensitive stomach and you never knew what a peppercorn sauce contained.  Phoebe had her strategy down. 

She and Bret were going to go for a hike. She purposely didn’t wear makeup to meet him in Toluca Lake but was secretly pleased with how her butt looked in her yoga pants. Why shouldn’t she be? Phoebe was a catch. She actually enjoyed her job as a graphic designer, spent as much time hiking and rock climbing around Southern California as she could, had a great sense of humor, and  was a generally positive person. For the most part. The one place where she felt the negativity creep up like a great aunt trying to kiss you with metallic orange lipstick was, well, her dating life. 

Because she was human woman trying to meet a decent guy in 2020 and had been dicked-around, ghosted, and cat-fished more times than her heart could justifiably handle. It was sincerely impressive that she still carried a small flicker of hope like a plastic Bic lighter at a Blink-182 concert.

But, let’s believe for a moment that sometimes in this life, even in the  Greater Los Angeles Area dating life, a girl could get lucky. Because the hike was great. They decided to take the longer route and spent almost four hours together, talking, laughing, and sweating. Bret suggested that they go grab a bite when they got back to the car. Phoebe declined. Not because she wasn’t absolutely starving, but because she felt like they were having one of those perfect afternoons where one thing could lead to another and she was adamant that today was not the day that she was going to sleep with her Tinder date. She knew the drill. 

Date two took place almost a week later at LACMA where there were enough modern exhibits to tell if your Tinder date had any appreciation of  art. Bret did. After two hours at the museum - which was enough- they went for coffee and then to run an absolutely random errand because Bret needed some kind of hose for his kitchen sink. Going to the local hardware store on Melrose was such an obscure activity that Phobe was thrown. It was so… normal, so…. Domestic. She couldn’t tell whether she was turned off or insanely attracted to him. It was that fine a line.

They went out again to see the big Tom Cruise tentpole movie that littered every billboard in town  and then again to a pop-up restaurant in a little furniture store. They’d been seeing each other for well over a month and Phoebe, against her better judgement, was smitten. 

After lunch with her co-workers on a Wednesday, right at the part of her workday where Phoebe had to force herself to get up from her monitors and do a few jumping jacks to stay awake, her phone dinged. Bret had an invitation to some fundraiser at a hotel downtown. Would she like to go and spend the night? Phoebe’s stomach did a Simone Biles- level cartwheel. Yes, yes she did want to go.

After that, she felt wildly alert for the rest of the day, flying through two projects before the afternoon was over.

That night, in her brightly-decorated one-bedroom apartment, Phoebe daydreamed about what a future could be like with this new man. She imagined them possibly leaving California for someplace a with a little more chill, maybe Oregon or Washingston State. She daydreamed all through making herself dinner, cleaning up, and plopping down on the couch to organize her climbing gear with The Office reruns in the background. There was something about imagining this future that was holding her back. And she knew what it was.

Bret had yet to invite her to his place. She told herself that it was because he was respecting her boundaries, that they lived almost two hours away from each other if you took traffic into consideration, or that there was a roommate who he’d sort of alluded to. She tried to brush the thought aside while tying her ropes in the perfect knots and clipping together all of her carabiners. 

The night of the fundraiser was a ball. Phoebe wore a fabulous red dress that she’d found in a vintage shop in Santa Monica and accepted glasses of bubbly champagne and tiny hors d’euvres passed around by people in tuxedos. Much to her surprise, Bret knew how to dance - like, to properly dance on a dance floor to music played by a seven-peice band. Now, full disclosure, Phoebe did not. But she was game for anything. Phoebe laughed from deep in her chest as Bret spun her around the room in one direction and then the other, dipping her back so her hair touched the floor. It was one of those nights where everything is a blur except for the person who’s stealing your heart. Except, that’s not exactly how Phoebe remembers this night.

They were having such a good time that they decided to head up to their hotel room just a bit before 11 pm. They danced their way through the hallways, Bret stopping to do something with a key at the lobby desk, then finding their way up to the seventeenth floor. Phoebe took off her heels and walked through the room, admiring the lights of the city from their incredible view. Bret came up behind her, placing his hands on her hips and kissing her neck.

This is exactly how it should be, Phoebe thought, waiting over a month to sleep with a guy and then having it be like this? Perfect, just perfect.

That perfection started by the window, eventually moving their way to the plum-colored velvet sofa, and then to the crisp King bed. How long were they rolling around in those taught hotel sheets? It felt like minutes, it felt like hours, it felt like-

Phoebe heard the DING of the key card opening the door. On her back, everything splayed everywhere, she locked eyes with a woman standing in the entrance with an overnight bag.

Oh my god, they gave her the wrong room, was Phoebe’s first thought, this is going to make for such a funny story.

She grabbed a pillow to cover her frontside when the woman screamed, “BRET YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE.”

Oh, this was not what Phoebe and her smeared red lipstick were expecting.

“WHAT IN THE FUCKING FUCK?” She whipped around to see what her future husband who actually did like the Poconos, was going to do with this crazy woman who had clearly… what? In what scenario did this make any sense? She stared in disbelief at the beautiful brunette who had accidentally barged into her room and somehow guessed her boyfriend’s name.

“What in the-” Phoebe was counting on the woman cutting her off since her brain hadn’t gotten far enough to complete that question. The woman did.


Phoebe instantly sobered up from her drunk in love romp. She grabbed the blankets to cover herself hell for leather. Bret has less concern for exposed genetalia. He just laid there as if this utterly horrific scenario was just par for the course of regular Saturday night. 

“Oh what, Bethenny-” 

Bethenny? Phobe’s mind raced,  what in the absolute fuck was going on here?

“You don’t like being cheated on?”

“I THOUGHT WE WORKED THROUGH THAT.” Bethenny slammed her duffel bag onto the floral carpeting. 

“Oh,” bleated Bret like a baby lamb on some kind of stimulant, “you get to do whatever you want and I’m stuck here just dealing with you? That’s how we solve this?”

Phoebe wasn’t sure which one of them to watch.

“YOU ARE SUCH AN ASSHOLE. You set me up.” 

This is when Phoebe knew exactly where to look and that was - under the pillow. Because Bethenny started throwing things. First it was her key card, then the faux-potted plant on the dresser, and then it was Bret’s tuxedo, Phoebe’s stilettos, and then champagne glasses. Phoebe knew that she had to escape this room before the cops showed up or someone murdered someone. She rolled out of bed like a trained Special OPS, snatching the bedsheet, her own overnight bag (thank goodness, still unpacked) and crawled past a shrieking and temporarily deranged Bethenny into the dimly lit hallway. 

She scanned the doors for the ice machine closet, dove in, changed her clothes, and booked it out of that downtown LA hotel faster than any accidental mistress ever had.

When Phoebe got home, had taken a very, very long shower, and had the adrenaline drain from her exhausted body, she took stock of the situation. It was pretty obvious what had happened and what kind of pawn she’d been in the most fucked up game of matrimonial revenge that she could even imagine. It turns out, she and Bethenny agreed on one thing: Bret was a DICK. But that’s not what was making Phoebe boil with anger. 

It was that she’d been taken for a ride. Yet, again. Even with her careful strategizing, her holding back her heart (which is no easy feat, for fuck’s sake,) and the training she’d forced upon herself to notice any and all red flags that could ever exist in the modern, single man. She was furious. The rage bubbled with a heat she’d never felt before. She’d been used. So damn used.

Phoebe weighed her options. She was an adult. She had a skill set. And she deserved revenge. He hadn’t wasted a few hours or days of her life, this had been going on for a month and a half. And why did the guys on these dating apps consider her a toy to be played with instead of a human with emotions who, maybe, was merited respect? And what about all the other single women she knew who were constantly being screwed over by a combination of technology and male boredom? The Macbook in her side table beckoned. This is a moment where it did not behoove dear Bret to have messed with a graphic designer.

It didn’t take long for Phoebe to put together the exact document she needed to execute her plan. It was the waiting that was excruciating. She made her self save that file and not touch it until the following Wednesday. Those four days and nights felt like a month. She told no one of her carefully strategized subterfuge. She raced through work so she could get to the hiking trails, spending long afternoons, well into the evening stomping through the Santa Monica mountains, releasing as much anger and frustration as her body would allow. When her phone alarm chimed on the morning of her plan, she felt her heart race.

She got dressed slowly that morning, choosing an outfit that made her feel a tiny bit like Beyonce on a day off. She sipped her coffee, staring at her computer screen, making just a few final teaks to her document. Phoebe was a professional. Was what she was doing legal? The only real name she used was her own, so, why not?

The morning dragged on like a dentist appointment. At 2:00 in the afternoon, with her heart beating like she’d just climbed El Capitan in Yosemite, she unblocked his number and sent a text that no one with a conscience ever wants to receive: We need to talk. 

Returning to a project for one of her favorite clients, Phoebe left her phone’s volume turned up, right there on her desk. Nothing. She delved deep into the details of the new re-brand that she’d been working on for over a month. An hour passed by. Her phone revealed nothing. Then another hour, still nothing. She went out for happy hour with her co-workers. Still nothing. The emotional conconction whirling through her body felt like a smoothie with too many ingreidents to recognize.

That night, in bed, with a phone that she’d rebooted four times, she stared at the unresponsive screen. Then a thought settled on her jittery hands. He’d obviously blocked her as well. Huh. This wasn’t part of the plan. But, maybe….? Maybe it was better this way. Because, Phoebe had some other numbers, numbers of those not-super-close friends in common.

So she texted all five of them, separately, feigning humiliation.

I can’t get ahold of Bret. We spent a night together, And, I can’t believe I’m texting you this, please, please don’t show anyone… I got this from the doctor.

And, she attached the most professional-looking page of diagnostics, showing a patient with her name testing positive for Chlamydia. 

She sat back in her bed, closed her eyes, and forced herself to breathe as deep as she would while sumitting a rock face. This time, it didn’t take long for the buzzes and dings on her phone to go off at warp speed. She stayed up late, watching reruns of 30 Rock waiting for the inevitable text. It came right before midnight. It was Bret. He was freaking out. With more self control than most people have in their early thirties, Phoebe did not let herself respond. She was a smart girl. Strategy was her thing. And, so was execution.  She left him on read and snuggled in for a perfectly happy night’s sleep. 

After a few days, when, she assumed, Bret got a negative test, she implemented the final piece of her plan. She wrote a clear, succinct text of what had really happened: how Bret had used her to get back at his wife in the most ruthless and malicious way possible and how she had faked the document. Because the truth was the icing on the shit cake. 

Furious does not even begin to describe Bret’s reaction the following Saturday when the news inevitably got back to him. The last text Phoebe received before she blocked his number one final time, was that he was going to pursue legal action. Which never happened. There’s a lesson here. And a lot of women on dating apps cheering for you, Phoebe, wherever you are. 

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