Back when the internet was in its toddlerhood and just starting to creep into every guest room and home office, I was courted by a man in Georgia.
We found one another in an AOL chatroom, I using the moniker “Glitter Mama”, he hiding behind the veil of “Trojan Hoss”. Please feel free to laugh. It was early 1998. I was living back with my parents after fleeing the smug college campus that almost yanked my soul and succeeded in stealing my sobriety away. Some friends and I liked to wear pounds of glitter all over our faces and bodies when we went out and I was given the name “Glitter Mama”, since I was the one who shook the most over the shining bright heads that surrounded me. I was a young hot mess. Annoying and crude. Pensive and full of shit. When it the glittery glue got to be too thick I went home to mama and never looked back.
My parents had just purchased their very first Dell computer and had installed the complimentary, obligatory AOL disc so that we could all marvel and wonder a the beeeeeeeeeeyonnnnnnnnnnngtickgonnnnnnnnnng of the modem connecting to other lucky folks across the world who had computers and dial up internet and guest rooms. My roommate had a beige box at college, and I occasionally was able to log on when she wasn’t in the dorm room, given I “kept all coffee, vodka, and cigarettes away from the computer at all times.” My roommate and I had been friends since sixth grade, when I was the new kid and she was the quiet and smart girl who had sketched in hidden notebooks since Kindergarten. She knew too well my ability to souse and muddy what had formerly been perfect and clean and pristine. Oh me, oh life.
But I had fled her, the dorm we shared, the college we both abhorred. I got a job selling season subscriptions on the phone at a theatre whose stage I used to grace. My singing was mediocre, my dancing questionable, my acting so-so, but I used to be filled with the love and magic of the theatre and it showed on stage. I figured by being strapped to a phone in the theatre’s basement, I could be close to that world again, to breathe the same smells and hear the orchestra tuning up. One night, while talking to a regular subscriber about the upcoming season (I recall Miss Saigon was on the roster), I leaned back too far in my chair and took a backwards spill onto the cold linoleum. I had a pair of burgundy Mary Janes with huge buckles, paired with some purple and grey argyle socks (it was 1998, remember?) and the fellow who sat next to me leaned over and said, “I appreciate your shoes.” I gathered myself up, apologized to the lady on the phone, looked at the guy next to me with a mixture of wonder and snarl, and plopped back in my seat. I was sick of pretending to be a happy go lucky college dropout. I wanted something more. I wanted to fall in love.
When I got home that night (my mother picked me up – I didn’t have a car), I made a pot of coffee and went head first into my parents’ guest room and dived into some movie chatrooms, hoping to find someone to talk to about David Lynch or Wim Wenders or something. I felt I had exhausted any opportunities to meet someone in person, every one at the coffee shop knew me, knew how spazzy I was, knew my history as a hardcore unattractive nerd, so I hoped that someone online would see an ounce of glitter in me and want to love me. I was nineteen. So of course someone did.
We started typing responses to only each other, allowing the rest of the room to fall off and out. We instant messaged. I used new emoticons that I had learned. I added a year to my age and he most likely dropped a few years from his own age. He said he was 34, lived in Georgia, did something with computers and played tennis. I stole song lyrics from local bands and used them on him. Poor guy didn’t know what hit him. He wanted pictures. I honestly replied that I didn’t know how to do that (it was 1998, remember?). We started emailing one another all day, it turned the corner towards sex talk and I allowed it, invited it in. It was what I wanted. To be wanted, even if he didn’t know my face.
A few months march on. He wants to meet me. I don’t want to meet him. I like the illusion, I like being Cyrano’d and serenaded through the mystery of a motherboard. I get a real life boyfriend. He writes long emails about the pretty women who are around his age in his condo complex, professionals who also play tennis. I ask what they do, requesting great detail about what goes on in dark bedrooms when no parents or RA’s or roommates are around to whisper and wonder. It all feels very adult and homelike to me. A few more months march on and I have had two more casual boyfriends, it’s summer and they also live with their parents when they’re home from college. My boyfriends and I revert back to locations used when you don’t live alone: woods, backseats of cars… Trojan Hoss starts emailing less. He’s getting married. Once he’s taken I feel desperate again for his attention. I write long emails that are puffy with pot smoke. The real life boyfriends return to college and I’m alone again, in real life.
Sometime around Thanksgiving I started talking to a thoughtful, handsome man who wears vneck sweaters and drinks a lot of coffee. He likes David Lynch and Wim Wenders and a whole slew of filmmakers I’d never heard of but was glad to be introduced to. I start to look for him everywhere, the music hall, the coffee shop, right next to me and on top of me. He’s ten years older than me. He’ll become the father of my child. He and I begin to sleep in the same bed and occupy a strange, lovely sort of twin soul almost from the start. I received just one more email from Trojan Hoss and it was along the lines of have fun, be careful, remember that you’re loved. I hope he’s still being loved by someone, just as I am.