Love. It’s gross and I don’t recommend it honestly. It’s one of the few acceptable diseases in this world. That being said, I’ve stumbled my way back into the dating world… in a very limited capacity. It’s more akin to window shopping, internet people watching, and experimentation this time around. I’m just not in a position to harbor such a headache right now. I hate dating and will always hate it, there’s no “accepting” it. I’ve adopted the method of biting down on whatever I’ve scrounged up for a meal and washing it back with a non-descript cup of liquor. Makes it more fun this way.
Anyway, a friend and I were discussing our friendship of nearly eleven years. A friendship that started from playing video games on the internet. It doesn’t seem so crazy now, but in the early 2000’s, it was lowkey frowned upon. Only two of my family members grasped the concept back in my middle school years. Naturally, I made a handful of friends who I still interact with on a weekly basis to this day. They were there during the tumultuous times of my teenage years, angst and all. It’s wild how real connections can be made across hundreds or even thousands of miles. The wildest fact of this ability being that I did indeed have an “internet girlfriend” during those days that nobody IRL (in real life) knew about.
It’s pretty cringe to thing about now, but at that time it was real to me. We met through City of Heroes, the first and only MMO I deeply invested myself into. I can’t remember if we were in the same Superhero Guild, but I knew we teamed up a lot. Anyway, for sake anonymity (I’m so good at this), we’ll call her Christie. Anyway, if you know anything about gaming in general, you know that you can’t trust female characters in a game to be actually female IRL. 70% of the time it’s some dude that just wants to see what’s the least amount of fabric he can put on a big boobed avatar. So, when Christie was getting super chummy and borderline flirty with me I was very suspicious. Mainly in part because I had previously entered into a “cybering” scenario for the first time and had no idea what was going on (just Google it). It was awkward and creepy and I was kind of scarred. I had it ingrained in my skull that pedophiles, weirdos, and shitty kids my age looking for a laugh were all in on this female character thing. Needless to say, I wasn’t very nice to her, who I believed was a him.
But we still teamed up, did countless missions together, greeted each other every time we saw the other on and slowly, but surely, I started to come around to the idea that this person may indeed be a girl. I doubt many would be able to stay in character as a pre-pubescent girl for this long. After a whole summer of hanging out online she asked me if I had a MySpace (the biggest and only social media anything at that time). It took me a few minutes to respond because I knew the next series of events would affect a lot of things, not just in-game. Did I want to know the truth about my confidant? What if she really was a girl? What if she turned out to be ugly and how would I let her down easy? What she was in fact a middle-aged creep of legend that had an elaborate plan to get me emotionally invested them kidnap me as his sex slave?
I was an interesting child and thoughts like those probably shouldn’t have manifested in a 13-year-old body, but they did. Well I couldn’t live with the suspense so I caved. She seemed fairly excited and told me to add her. I go to type in her MySpace handle and I’m met with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I was relieved that she was indeed a girl and on the other I was shocked that she was bald as the day she was born. But she had piercing green eyes, full lips, and a fair complexion akin to young white girls. She was beautiful and the second white girl I was extremely attracted to as one of my (many) middle school crushes was one. A crush that would confess at our 8th grade graduation that she liked me as well and had liked me since 6th grade. Boy was I pissed. Mainly because we weren’t going to the same high school. And the ending to this white-woman aside is that I ended up seeing her again during my 2nd year in college at the park in my old neighborhood. But I was in a relationship at the time so when she rang the bell on her bike and made her way over, I had to play it off. Somehow, she got more attractive and had I been single, it would have been all over that. At least in my head. But I digress.
So back to Christie being the bald white girl of my teenage dreams. We accepted each other on MySpace and she was fairly surprised that I was black. Fortunately, this surprise was positive as she couldn’t stop gushing about how cute I was and how she wished we could meet up in person. What a relief. After being called everything under the sun on the internet, to be praised for not being white was refreshing. Now that this barrier was broken, we really started hitting it off. I never did ask why she was bald, but she offered up the information herself. Apparently, she had been battling depression for a few years and engaged in cutting on occasion to drain some of that pain of existence. She then woke up one day and wanted to cut all her hair off. So, she did. After that cathartic experience, she realized that her life was worth living and it was up to her to make it so. She then assured me that it would grow back fairly quickly. I honestly didn’t care, she was beautiful inside and out to me at this point. So, we continued to bond and hang out and eventually started talking on the phone, you know, young love shit.
Nearly a year passes and we’re pretty inseparable. Everyone in the Super Guild knows we’re a thing and it’s no secret to the online world. It was me and Christie against the world. Plus, her hair was getting long, which made her exponentially prettier to me. It got to the point where we exchanged “I love you’s” daily, not knowing what the fuck love even meant, but it sounded like the right thing to say with all that emotional chemistry flooding our teenage bodies. Then came the crowning, yet mortifying achievement of my young romantic career (at that time). It was Halloween during my freshmen year in high school and my mom had texted me in all caps HAPPY HALLOWEEN (T-9 texting days). I had assumed this was Christie as I was distracted talking to a friend so I said “Hi Christie! I love you! You should be my girlfriend for Halloween!” Send. Christie was a fast texter so I was expecting a reply promptly. After 15 minutes, I wondered what the hell was going on. I check my messages and see that I sent that cheesy text to my mom. Proceed to sweat profusely and hyperventilate. Not because I said what I said (pretty weird nonetheless), but because what I said brought my secret relationship to light.
My mom comes to pick me up from school and asks about the weirdo text I sent her, inquiring about who it was for. I try to deflect, but I can’t lie to her for long. I confess my internet romance with a white girl in Laguna Beach that started from the game my mom always saw me playing. To my surprise, she didn’t get mad or give me a lecture about creepy online stalkers. She asked, “Do you really love this girl or do you think it’s something you should say to someone you like a lot?” I had never been asked his question so honestly, I didn’t know. I said “I think so? I don’t know. She makes me feel good inside and I care about her a lot, but I feel like that’s not what love really is. She said it first so I said it back to not seem mean. I really really like her, but I don’t know if it’s love. When do you know you love somebody? Did you love dad?”
She stopped at a red light and a homeless guy in a 3-piece suit was crossing the street with random items trailing behind him from the wind outside. My mom said “I don’t think I can speak on that for you, but I did love your father and I believe he loved me… it’s a bit of what you described earlier, but more intense. As though you can’t imagine your life without them even if you tried. No matter the day you’re having, them just being around you makes everything better. Just promise me you’ll be careful with your feelings OK? I don’t want you getting hurt over nothing.”
I could imagine my life without Christie. I could do those missions without her and I really didn’t need her around in the capacity I thought I did. I still really cared for her and rather she not leave, but if she did, it would only suck for a little bit. After this conversation, things started taking an interesting turn. Christie and I spent less time on the phone, on the game, and just interacting in general. I thought it was us both realizing that our relationship wasn’t what it once was, which I was partially right about. Come to find out, she had entered a real-life relationship with some guy at her school and neglected to mention this fact until I happened upon a picture of her smooching on him. The funniest part was that I wasn’t even mad, I was just disappointed, but I understood the stakes of a relationship where there’s no physical prescence. I couldn’t compete with ol dude from over 100 miles away, no matter how many times I said “I love you.” I just wasn’t that real to her and neither was she to me. Then as the months went on, I started playing City of Heroes less and less, subsequently spending time with Christie less and less. We eventually reconciled and agreed to stay friends, even though she wished things were different. I agreed, but I only said it because it seemed like the right thing to say to someone crying on the phone about an online relationship while they had the real thing on tap. The whole ordeal felt scripted.
We stayed in contact for some years and I was the first one she told about her pregnancy due to this guy. A part of me felt like that should have been my kid in her then I realized that at 16, we were both kids. Relief cascaded over me and I supported her through the struggles of a teen mom. It was kind of surreal to be a surrogate boyfriend for Christie, but in way it made sense. The tragic story of the right guy stepping up for the emotional duties of the other guy who we both found out was cheating on her during the entire pregnancy. What a mess. After that debacle and nights of talking her to sleep while staring at my half-finished homework, we fell out of touch. After getting my driver’s license, I had a mind to call and visit her, but something in me said to leave it alone. My gut was the real MVP that day.
Looking back now, it seemed so dumb, but in the moment, she was everything and everything was right. This scenario probably contributed to my poor view of long distance relationships in general. At least I think so. And that was my first internet romance. The second one…hmm let’s just say if I had chosen differently I would have been married (and probably divorced) at 18. Yeah you read that right. That young matrimony fam.