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How Not to Be West Elm Caleb

It’s easy to look at Caleb in terms of the internet’s violent propensity for canceling and doxing everyday people, but it’s much more useful to learn from his mistakes

The internet is home to many villains. There’s Darth Vader. HAL 9000. The Joker. Pepe the Frog. Pharma Bro. And now, West Elm Caleb. 

West Elm Caleb is a 25-year-old furniture designer in Brooklyn who came to prominence earlier this week after a number of women in New York had the simultaneous realization that they’d had the same shitty dating experience with him. It all started when TikToker @kateglavan began talking about her dates with a certain tall, conventionally attractive man named “Caleb.” Soon, she started receiving messages from other women who recognized his place of work — West Elm — and strangely consistent behavior. Surprised by the response, Glavan detailed his actions to her audience of nearly 90,000 followers on TikTok, receiving over one million views in the process. Soon, Caleb’s other dates began to chime in and band together, and the story quickly took off. 

The hashtag #westelmcaleb now has over 31.5 million views on TikTok, and it’s gone viral well beyond the app. It’s trending on Twitter, and it’s been written up in Rolling Stone, VICE and seemingly everywhere else. Keepler, a dating app and Hinge competitor, even put up a billboard in NYC featuring his profile and calling parts of it “red flags.” 

Apparently, Caleb’s offenses were manifold. As Katie Notopoulos at BuzzFeed News very clearly laid out, these included ghosting women, reusing the same text messages and cutesy Spotify playlists, “love-bombing” dates by showing intense initial interest, lying about his dating app habits, dating several women at once and, most egregiously, sending an unsolicited dick pic. This latter point, while the ickiest of the crimes in my opinion, is really only discussed as a minor infraction. What seems to matter most to people is the quantity of women he dated and led to believe he had a genuine connection with. Though these are the exact same behaviors committed by many people on dating apps, he’s become the unfortunate poster child. He’s been labelled a fuckboy, and the women of TikTok are out for blood. 

I, however, am not here to judge. I’m not going to belabor whether or not Caleb is a bad person, because I don’t know him at all. Personally, I think this is all extremely overblown and I wish we lived in a world that didn’t incentivize the airing of minor grievances for clout. I will, though, point out where he faltered, and explain how you, a hypothetical young man on the dating scene, can avoid becoming the subject of a TikTok hashtag yourself. 

Beyond the obvious message to not send people dick pics without asking first, the primary takeaway from all of this is slow your goddamn roll. You do not need to make women think it’s love at first sight in order for them to be interested in you. If you want to keep things casual, then for god’s sake, act casual. 

Dating multiple people at a time is, in fact, perfectly fine when everyone is on the same page. When people meet on a dating app, it should be assumed that the other person is dating other people. Dating apps are essentially designed to give you the opportunity to date a wider pool of people within a single period of time, and it’s naive to immediately think someone will quit the app you both were just using. You don’t even need to lay that all out on the first date — the fact that you’re just testing the waters should be implied. But you also don’t need to pretend that you’re serious about developing a relationship, as Caleb seems to have done. There’s absolutely no reason to do this beyond wanting women to form attachments to you that you ultimately can’t handle. 

Perhaps Caleb thinks that feigning this level of intimacy is essential to getting laid, but he’s wrong. Women can like casual sex, too! What nobody likes, however, is feeling manipulated into forming an unnecessary, unreciprocated bond with someone. In all likelihood, Caleb could have just as easily enjoyed dating and sleeping with multiple women without leading them to believe they were well on their way to having a monogamous relationship (though perhaps not necessarily with the women he chose to date). The women involved in the drama are perfectly entitled to desiring a monogamous relationship, and if Caleb couldn’t make that work with them, he should have sought women whose desires aligned with his own. 

Ultimately, beyond the dick pic thing, Caleb’s problem was lying — both blatantly and by omission. And if you want to avoid having your own West Elm Caleb situation, you really need only not lie. It’s probably worth it to schedule your dates a bit further apart, too. Oh, and don’t reuse your romantic Spotify playlists — that’s just cornball behavior.