You have to feel a bit sorry for Ben Affleck. On the one hand, the actor appears to have everything – a $20m home in L.A, a glittering film career, a position on the Hollywood ‘A’ list, three children – he even got to marry Jennifer Garner (although she is now his ex-wife).
Affleck, 48, is a household name; has achieved the eyewatering level of celebrity that allows him access to the brightest parties, the hottest restaurants (when the pandemic allows), the adoration of thousands of fans. Yet he is, just like many of us, looking for love.
And while we’ve all made mistakes when dating (agreeing to a first date in a graveyard during lockdown with a man who talked only of the death metal scene in Milan, for two hours, was one of mine), we probably haven’t all experienced the fallout Affleck recently encountered after sending TikTok user nivinejay a video message to ask her why she’d “unmatched” him on the exclusive dating app Raya. “Nivine,” he said, in a post that has gone viral since Jay shared it. “Why did you unmatch me? It’s me.”
Now, he may well have been simply seeking to prove that it was, in fact, him – the real Ben Affleck, rather than someone posing as Ben Affleck – but I wonder if there was something deeper, here. The thing about Affleck’s wounded “it’s me” is that he seems unable to believe that the woman he had matched with didn’t want to take it any further; that she might not, heaven forbid, want to date him: Ben Affleck. He might as well have said, “don’t you know who I am?”
And while there’s an argument for the fact that private messages on a dating app shouldn’t be shared, as Chrissy Teigen pointed out, this whole exchange does prove one thing: it must be hell for celebrities like Ben Affleck on dating apps. Near on impossible, in fact, to do something perfectly “normal”, like dating, precisely because you’re Ben Affleck.
For one thing, people probably won’t believe you are who you say you are; and even if they do, they might already have formed an opinion about you from newspaper headlines and gossip magazines that means you’re fighting an uphill battle to win them over, right from the start.
I have a friend who is on TV who can’t join a dating app because he’s too recognisable. If his social media accounts are anything to go by, it would be too difficult – the moment he set up an Instagram account, his DMs were filled with nudes and lewd comments. It leaves him, and celebrities like him, stuck: impossible to meet anyone “in the wild” due to the pandemic; impossible to do it online. It can be lonely, having a “face”.
And I also need to confess something: because I’ve done what Jay did with Affleck ... of sorts. During lockdown, a well-known TV soap star swiped right on me on a dating app, and I’ll admit that it tickled me so much, given his identity, that I shared the fact with my friends – I even wrote a poem about it.
As I reflect now on why I did that, I admit that I do feel guilty. Because as amusing as it was to have someone “from the telly” ask me out, I forgot he is a human being – that acting is his job; that the fact he is “a celebrity” probably makes finding a partner more difficult for him than for the rest of us.
And there’s really nothing funny or shameful about wanting to find love.