“Pull up a chair, and buckle up for a wild, bizarre, hilarious story,” journalist Guy Benson wrote on Twitter. Over the previous few days, Benson had uncovered a shocking story of a catfish profile. And unknown to him, he was at the center of it. And all parties involved were about to become far closer than they ever could have imagined.
A Man Gets A Message
Guy Benson was used to getting messages to his Instagram and Twitter. After working for years as a journalist and political commentator, viewer outreach was a normal, everyday occurrence. So when he first saw a message pop up in his inbox, he thought nothing of it, just another viewer sending their thoughts for him to glance over. Or so he thought.
But once he opened it, he realized quickly that this message was not like anything he had ever received. As the message unfolded, Benson found himself in a situation he would have never imagined himself being a part of. “I’m not typically inclined to entertain such requests from strangers,” Benson wrote, “But the backstory was irresistible.”
The Girl At The Center Of It All
Miles away, a woman who Benson had never met was watching her unlikely love story unfold. In 2010, Alyson was working at a retreat when she met Dylan, and over the years the two had become close friends. Soon enough, the two began to form a bond outside of these retreats.
Over time, Dylan began to meet Alyson’s family and was a regular at family events. But while the two maintained that their friendship was just that, a friendship, her family and friends could not help but speculate that it could turn into something more. But some thought that it would take something more drastic.
The Waiting Game
Before long, there was no denying that Alyson had feelings for Dylan that stretched well beyond a platonic friendship. “Dylan and I have always been friends, and he wasn’t making a move,” Alyson explained in a radio interview. But she couldn’t keep waiting.
“I liked Dylan, and everybody knew I liked Dylan,” she said. “Dylan knew I liked Dylan.” But as time continued to pass without a move from her crush, Alyson feared that she was locked firmly in the friend zone. That was all until her cousin came up with a plan that would impact her life — as well as the life of a perfect stranger.
“I Was Dead Against This”
Alyson was growing frustrated and disheartened, and she turned to her cousins to vent those frustrations. Since she had grown up an only child, her cousins were like brothers to her, and they all wanted to help. But what could they do? Dylan didn’t seem to share her feelings beyond their friendship.
But her cousin Michael came up with a plan. While it was a little risky, he thought it just might be crazy enough to work. Michael decided to tell Alyson about his idea, but he was immediately shot down. “I was dead against this,” Alyson said. “I told Michael I was not going along with this, we are not going to do this.”
Inventing A New Life
Michael had told Alyson about his master plan. He and Alyson would make a fake profile of a fake person that she would say was her boyfriend. If they told the right people, word would quickly get back to Dylan, and he would just have to be jealous.
Alyson thought the idea was crazy. Making up a fake boyfriend? Hoping that this fake man would make her friend jealous? “Dylan was my best friend,” she said. “He would think I’m crazy if he knew I went along with this.” But she couldn’t help but think about the idea over and over. If it all worked, would it be worth the potential embarrassment?
The Birth Of Ryan Stevens
Weeks later, Alyson and Michael were sitting in the bleachers watching her cousin Daniel’s graduation. “We were just so bored,” Alyson explained, so they let their minds wander. And quickly, their minds wandered, once again, to the idea of a fake profile.
Alyson finally relented. “I just went along with it and we just kind of ran with it,” Alyson said. Together, they found the perfect profile picture (they Googled the search term “generic white man”), and came up with a back story — how they met (at his college), his age (he was a few years older than Alyson, they decided), and a name: Ryan Stevens.
Spreading The Word On Ryan Stevens
From there, the story of Ryan Stevens took off. “We came up with the whole story and it spread around to my family,” Alyson said. But no one in her family knew that Ryan was just a fake profile, a so-called catfish. Only Alyson and Michael knew the truth.
And then they waited. They both knew that it would only be a matter of time before Dylan would hear the news, and Alyson could not predict what he would do with that information. But one day when her cousin Mark was hanging out with Dylan, he let the news slip.
A Not-So-Welcome Update
Mark was catching up Dylan on how everyone was doing when he delivered the news: Alyson had a new boyfriend who, Mark thought, was totally real. “So when I was talking to Mark at the gym, I didn’t really know much,” Dylan said on a radio interview.
“I mean, I knew my friendship with Alyson inevitably would end in either one way — she was going to find someone and we weren’t going to be able to be this close of friends forever, or we were going to end up together,” he said. And Dylan couldn’t help but think that his friendship with Alyson would soon end. But then something strange happened.
A Change Of Heart
“I was like, ‘OK, well, maybe Alyson’s time has come and [our friendship] was going to fade out,'” Dylan remembers thinking. But then something happened that not even Dylan was expecting. “I saw the picture [of Ryan Stevens] and all Hell broke lose,” Dylan said.
In that moment, Dylan could not help but think that the woman he loved was standing right in front of him the whole time. But he was too late. Alyson was now taken. Dylan was not going to let Alyson get away. “I made my move,” Dylan said. “I couldn’t control myself anymore.” But would Alyson accept his grand gesture?
Making His Move
Cousin Michael was right; Dylan immediately felt jealous. But those feelings morphed into something deeper. “The weekend where it did occur to me like ‘yeah, I do have strong feelings for Alyson,’ I didn’t even ask her out, I just kissed her,” Dylan said.
Everything was “great” from that moment onward, according to Dylan. Alyson apparently had broken things off with her mystery man named Ryan. The two were in a relationship, and they were moving quickly towards a future together. As a couple, they started talking about deeper subjects. And when the topic of past relationships came up, Alyson knew she finally had to tell the truth.
The Truth Comes Out
Alyson and Dylan were sitting on the couch together when the question came up. “I brought up like yeah, I don’t really know what it was or how many times you saw him, but Mark mentioned you were seeing someone in the spring,” Dylan recalled. “And then Alyson’s face just kinda contorted a little.”
Up until that point, Alyson had never discussed Ryan Stevens with Dylan. The two of them were in a strong, stable relationship, and this crazy catfish plan from the past threatened to upend all of that. “We had to face that really interesting conversation,” Dylan said. Alyson had no idea how he would react.
An Unlikely Love Story
Dylan claims that even when he heard the news, he was never upset or frustrated. When he heard that Michael had made up the catfish profile, he had to laugh. In the end, it was made to make Dylan jealous, and Dylan could not help but admit that it all worked exactly according to plan.
The story brought the couple closer together. And in July of 2019, at their church’s altar, Dylan got down on one knee and proposed to Alyson. Right then and there, they began their lives together. Ryan Stevens was in the rearview mirror — but not for long.
A Pandemic Changes Everything
Like many couples who got engaged in 2019, Alyson and Dylan were struggling to plan their wedding in such an uncertain world with an uncertain future. Their big wedding dreams had to be scaled down due to COVID-19. But through the stress of it all, Alyson and Dylan knew they needed a laugh.
So the couple turned to YouTube. Together, they made a mock newscast about the challenges of planning a wedding during the pandemic. The video quickly went viral, gaining the attention of even The Boston Globe. Alyson and Dylan were excited to share their story. But miles away, a stranger had no idea that he had played a part in it.
Not A Normal News Day
Alyson’s cousin, Michael, was watching the news when he got an update that would leave him speechless. As he looked at the television, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His jaw nearly hit the floor. On Fox News, Michael saw a familiar face sitting in the television studio discussing the news of the day.
Michael peered at the news chyron and quickly did a Google search, until he found himself at a profile he had seen before. He was looking at Guy Benson, a political journalist and news commentator. He began to scroll through his pictures until he found what he was looking for. And then there it was, right in front of him.
Finding (Private) Ryan
Clicking through Benson’s photos, Michael found an old headshot from 2011. In it, Benson wore a blue and white gingham shirt with a sports jacket, the very same photo that his cousin Alyson and him had found years earlier when searching in Google for “generic white man”.
This was the real Ryan Stevens. Michael could not help himself, he immediately typed out a direct message not only to Benson, but also to The Guy Benson Show, Benson’s very own radio show. Without trying to sound crazy, he explained the entire story about how he had used Benson’s photos for a catfish profile. And he signed off on the message asking for one final favor.
A Simple Favor
Michael didn’t want to bug this journalist whom he had unwittingly roped into his cousin’s love life, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. He told Benson about Alyson and Dylan’s recent engagement and asked for a simple favor: could he record a short video to congratulate them?
Surprisingly, Benson was so entertained by the catfish story that he immediately agreed to record a video. When Michael received Benson’s video, he invited the entire family over to watch. No one knew what was happening — until Benson slowly lowered the book and revealed his face. The entire room gasped.
Alyson Seeks Revenge
Benson found the entire ordeal pretty hysterical and, to be honest, more than a bit flattering. His retelling of Alyson, Dylan, and how he was wrapped into this love story on Twitter received thousands of likes and comments. After he sent the video, he thought his involvement in this story was finished. And then, just a few days later, came another twist.
“Attention, Twitter: please strap in for an update…” he wrote online. It seemed that another chapter was unfolding. After Michael had played his Ryan Stevens prank video to his family, Alyson wanted revenge — in the form of a prank of her own. And she knew exactly how she could pull this prank off. But she would need Ryan’s help.
One More Favor
When Alyson first saw the video that Benson had sent, she didn’t recognize him immediately. But when he said “I’m Ryan Stevens”, Alyson rose to her feet. She couldn’t believe it. How on Earth had Michael found him? Once Michael showed Alyson his profile, she knew she needed to reach out herself.
So Alyson wrote to Benson with her own request. “She had good-natured revenge in mind, wanting to pay Michael back,” Benson wrote on Twitter in his follow-up. “She invited me to the wedding as a surprise guest. I made 100 percent sure that the bride actually wanted this before trying to make it work.” And once she confirmed, the plan was on.
Benson, the face behind the catfish profile, flew himself up to Boston for Alyson and Dylan’s wedding. “There were a few logistical obstacles to overcome in order to fulfill my various work duties, to make this happen in a safe way, and to maintain the element of surprise,” Benson wrote.
When he appeared on television that day, he convinced the technicians to use a backdrop that did not include the standard Boston skyline. He didn’t know if Michael would be watching the news that day, and if Benson and Alyson were going to pull this off, absolutely no one could know.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Finally, it was time for the wedding. And while the bride and groom were getting ready, only one of them knew that the man whose face had been their catfish was just down the street preparing himself as well. While Benson was doing his final touches, he received a surprising text from one of the groomsmen.
“On the wedding day, I was already in Boston when Michael messaged me a photo of the groomsman gift,” Benson wrote, along with a picture of a mug with the infamous Ryan Stevens catfish headshot. “I played it off as if I’d forgotten the wedding was happening that day. I thanked him for the reminder to wish the couple well on my show,” Benson wrote.
The Big Day
When Benson finally arrived at the wedding venue, he was rushed into a room to hide. He was not sure of the plan from there, so he waited patiently to receive instructions. And once the couple and their families joined together to take pictures, the plan went into full swing.
“When the big moment arrived…a bridesmaid brought me down to the lake where the photos were being taken,” Benson wrote. “They had assembled the whole group that had been present for the ‘Ryan Stevens’ video reveal.” The entire family was lined up with their backs to the lake as Benson slowly and nervously approached.
“We’re Missing Someone!”
As the families were put in their places for photos, Alyson looked around, seemingly confused and bewildered. “She said, ‘wait, we’re missing someone!'” Benson documented the moment. “The family looked around, confused. Wasn’t everyone accounted for?” And that is when the real-life human behind the catfish profile turned the corner and walked up to the group.
Everyone gasped. Michael covered his mouth as his jaw dropped. There, at their wedding day, was the real Ryan Stevens. And just for good measure, “I was, in fact, wearing the exact same shirt from the 9-year-old headshot that triggered the series of events leading to [that] day,” Benson wrote. But the surprises were not over.
A Special Shout Out
On Benson’s Twitter, the journalist posted the video showing the family’s shock as he walked up to them, asking where he should stand in the pictures. It only seemed fitting that since his picture brought them together, he should be involved in some photos on their wedding day.
After the pictures and the ceremony wrapped up, Benson even joined the couple and the entire family at the wedding reception. “The wedding was lovely,” Benson wrote on Twitter. “Everyone was so welcoming and kind.” Alyson’s prank turned out to be a huge success. And there were even more tricks up her sleeve.
I Now Pronounce You…
Word quickly spread as wedding guests learned the background story to this random special guest. And Benson was even surprised to learn that he himself had been incorporated into the wedding celebrations. His place card was even made out to a Mr. Ryan Stevens.
And despite having his wife’s “ex” at the reception, “Dylan was a great sport about everything,” Benson said. “I even got a shout-out in the matron of honor’s speech (I pretended to wipe away tears and jokingly shook my fist at Dylan).” And after all of this, it was finally time for Benson to tell Alyson and Dylan his one request.
One Last Favor
Alyson and Dylan had already appeared on Benson’s podcast and radio show when he first learned their story. And at the time, he teased the idea of showing up at their wedding unannounced. But while Alyson knew that this was the plan, Dylan had no idea about the favor Alyson had asked from Benson.
And now it was time for Benson to have his own request. Guy, he said, would be the perfect name for their first child. And if not Guy, he would settle for Ryan. But until then, Benson was just happy to be a part of their story. “Epic and unforgettable,” Benson wrote.
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