So in part 1 of my little mini-series here, I talked about my first online connection to a guy which gave me a quick start into a new realm of “romantic relationships”. Part two is based after him, but before online dating became a thing.
At this point in time, I was still not quite in high school. Wayne happened around grade 7 into grade 8. Once I had walked away from his influence, I had a new found confidence in myself and how I could talk to people, especially boys. I realized that this confidence did not translate into the real world, it was completely confined to online relationships.
Once in grade 8 I did have a boy interested in me. He was in the same home room as I was, and when I moved into Kitchener, he was one of the first people I met at my new school since he was sitting beside me in that class. I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, so when he shyly asked me if I wanted to “go out sometime”, my first instinct was to say “no sorry..” He was a little hurt, and asked if there was someone else. Really there wasn’t, but I had been involved with a few guys online at that point so I said there was. A year or so later, in high school, I was talking to a group of friends and said he had asked me out in grade 8. The one girl just starred at me in disbelief and said “Whoa – you should have said yes! You would have been so popular!” I really should have said yes – he was a really great person, and continued to be all through high school. I’m kind of sad I missed out on getting to know him better – we traveled in very different circles.
Like I said, at that point I was talking to a few different people online. None as prominent as Wayne in my life. I learned very quickly that not all guys online were like Wayne. Wayne was totally invested in me, and everything a self-conscious teenage girl needed. Other boys, once they saw a picture of me would “ghost” me, as they are saying now. Just disappear and stop communicating altogether. So, in a ill conceived plan to make this not happen, I would find a picture of a beautiful girl online and say it was me – the beginning of catfishing. I’m pretty sure that a few were doing the same to me. But I improved my flirting and deception game and rolled with it.
A few of the guys I was talking to at that time, lasted for a long while. Moving into high school, my brain had developed this fantasy that I was actually dating a few of them, even though we never met. I would put their pictures up in my locker, and spend my internet time at night talking to them.
I think I did this as a way to shield myself from disappointment and rejection in real life. A friend of mine from high school sent me her cousin’s MSN name to add and talk to. Since I had been playing the internet chat game for a few years already I was all set to win this guy’s attention. The best thing about him: he was a real teenager! He actually existed in real life, and someone I knew had talked to him face to face. We actually hit it off quickly and he took up all the time I was wasting on the others. He filled a place in my life that had been empty since Wayne and I was quite enjoying it. Then came the “let’s exchange pictures” conversation. I was in grade 10 and we had just got our school photos back, so I had my dad scan one and put it onto my computer (parenting tip – don’t let teenage girls have computers in their rooms that no one checks… we get into a lot of things we shouldn’t). I sent it and instantly I could tell there was a shift in his feelings. We had already planned him coming to town to meet me so that was in motion but plans seemed to change. Instead of “I’ll bring my camera and we can take some pictures so I can show you off”, the conversation turned forced. We changed our plans to involve a group of friends going to the movies and out after. I can still remember that day with almost perfect clarity. We were walking to our seats in the movie theatre in a line with him behind me, and then just as we were entering the row where we were going to sit, he ran into the row behind and jumped two people in front of me to sit beside my best friend at the time. They spent the whole movie holding hands….
It was a harsh wake up call for me. I realized at that moment that my personality wasn’t enough. I had really connected with this guy, and we had started to get into something real for the first time in my life, and one look at my outsides and he was gone. That’s a hard reality for a 15 year old to face. In my fantasy world of online boys and distant relationships I was safe. The real world hurt. I could control the online side of it. That safety was a hard wall to crash down, it was built in an instant and it took me many years to destroy it.