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“Those Bloggers”

I’m going to tell you something I don’t even tell my own family.  D and I first got to know each other by chatting online.  It was 14 years ago.  Holy cow.  Wife, is that even right?!  I thought she was clever (even if I didn’t like part of her screen name, “gtr”, which, she assures me was meant to refer to “guitar” but instead made me think of “gutter”.  You all, there’s a huge difference between guitar chick and gutter chick, if you know what I’m saying.) but I had no idea what she looked like.  14 years is pre-Facebook and still nestled deeply within small communities who didn’t readily share photos via email. We didn’t build up a powerful, emotional relationship before we met. In fact, I’d say we didn’t build up much of a relationship at all.  She played music, I wanted to hear music. Done. And, as you know, very, very done, even though it took us another five years to get here.

When my family asked me how we met, I lied.  “I went to hear her play.” Technically true. But what they were asking is: how did you come to occupy space together? You mean you spontaneously went to a show (yes, mom, that happens) and then you went up and just…talked to her?  Yes, that also happens. But I assure you that my mother and I both know that it doesn’t happen to me. At this point, the story is gospel. Gospel enough that it slides off my tongue every time someone asks me how we met even though meeting online isn’t such a thing now, 14 years later.

I lie about you guys all the time.  Did you know that? Oh, you’re “a friend” or “another mother I know.” Sometimes you’re “I read an article about” and just as often you’re “friends of ours in DC/New York/Portland/out of town.” I can’t bring myself to tell people how we know each other, even when I’m telling them how awesome you are. Ok, I’m not stalking you. But you do come up.  It’s never more apparent to me than it is when something monumental happens in our community, like Caemon’s passing.  And to be clear, in my community I include everyone – there’s no “claim your kid at the door” rule. As people, we want to grieve and celebrate openly, but I still notice a stigma around knowing someone virtually.  If a coworker notices I’m tearing up while thinking about the loss of a little boy, their response is different depending on our relationship.  Did I know him personally or did I just read about him? What difference does it make?

I’d like to think my friends are more enlightened. Unfortunately, I know they aren’t. One friend has made it clear that she doesn’t place my friendship with you on the same level as my friendship with her.  She has a tone when she refers to people who “blog” but by that she means “people you don’t know”. Funny though, in a way, I know you far better than I know her. Sure, some folks who write online do it in a way that chronicles their day.  Others write hysterical thought pieces about something they saw or did. Still others tweet in a way that builds a relationship, even if our bond is tenuous. Maybe it’s a string of comments. Or an email with a supportive thought. For some of you, I’ve been reading what you write since before you were married, before you were divorced, from before. For those that read, I promise you know me as well as some of my family. I’m far more open here than I am with them. No judgement.

Let’s not disparage the virtual. Let’s not devalue our community. Obviously I’m preaching to the choir. We may not hit it off in person or our politics may divide us. Frankly, both are perfectly okay with me. Is it really so important how we met? I said all that to say this: I value you and your families, even if we’ve never met. When you celebrate, I’m truly happy for you. When shit hits the fan, I hope everything will be okay. I stick up for us both when my friend takes that tone. I wish there were no such thing.

Also, I’ve used a lot of italics here and that is because I feel strongly.  Very strongly. So I’m making up for eloquence with italics. I know you won’t judge.

17 Responses

  1. Wait, back up. Why aren’t you stalking us?

  2. As usual, I don’t have much to add but yes.

    (J and I also met online, though in even a far sillier way.)

    But it’s been weird, this past week, explaining to people my grief, and then explaining that while, no, I’ve never met this beautiful boy, I was there when he was just a glimmer in his mothers’ minds.

  3. I place just as much importance in my “blog friends” as I do with friends in “real life”, if not more. I share more on my blog with you all than I do with ANYONE. And I celebrate and mourn with you all as I do with good friends and family. I’ve been blogging for three and a half years – you all ARE family to me by now. I may not comment all the time, I barely have time to blog anymore, but I always keep updated on the lives of my blog friends because I definitely care!

  4. Ching and I “met” in an AOL chat room – yes, that long ago! Actually, we’re celebrating 14 years this April. I’ve been blogging one way or another over ten years. A lot of my friends on FB are bloggers I’ve known online for almost that long. So they’ve been with us for so, so much. I wouldn’t have made it through Ching’s deployment to Iraq without them. We’ve been fortunate to meet so many of them in real life over time, but even the ones we haven’t are more than “real” friends to us!

  5. I completely agree with the first commenter!!! Why the hell am I not good enough stalk??!!! What do I need to do to entice you?!

    This is a fantastic post!! We know one another on such a deeper level than some of our IRL friends know us. It’s so much easier to be honest and forthright when the person isn’t standing right there in front of you. No?

    Rebeca and I met online as well. 12 years ago when the inteweb was still a shady shady place. 🙂 We always told people that we met at the bookstore where I was working or at Rent. We lied for a few years at least. haha

    Glad your chick ended up being the guitar kind rather than the gutter type. Much better, I think.

  6. Awwwww. We love you too.

    And… shorty and I met online too! Through Craigslist of all places. I was the new lesbian in town, and unless you know where to look, we lesbians are really good at blending into the rest of the community (I swear every Pride I look around at all the gay people and wonder where the hell they came from and why I don’t see them the rest of the year)! So, Internet it was (I was just looking for friends though, ironically enough!).

    And also- I call you blog people my friends too, when I’m telling a story or talking about you etc. glad I’m not the only one!

  7. I’m so glad you wrote this! Only two of my (pre-blog) IRL friends know about my blog, and I plan to keep it that way. But I definitely talk about my blog buddies to my IRL friends and just neglect to mention that we’ve never “met.”

  8. I feel so out of place. I met my husband when I fell off the roof at the last great party I threw in college. (My parties were legend) Although that’s not the real story, but it is the one we tell because it’s the one you want to tell your mother. And your daughter. (Much better than the true “I’m drunk, you’re cute” reality. Which totally worked and 19 years later still does.) Then again, I’m slightly out of place because I have a husband. And I’m new to this party. But I still think I’m stalker worthy. And yes, thank you, I am totally enlightened. At least I think so.

  9. I have a hard time explaining my blog friends to people I know in “real life,” particularly my husband’s family, who think I am crazy.

  10. Thank you for this. Even my dear Roo is a little puzzled at why I would share so much with people who I “don’t really know”.But for me, the community that I’ve found here is important and has really helped me through hard moments, especially as our attempts to have another kid drag on and on.

  11. I mostly just say “friend” or occasionally “someone I know” (mostly if it’s a blogger that I’ve not really conversed with), when talking to off-line folks about my on-line life. But that’s more because I don’t want the off-line folks to know I have a blog, lest they want to read it. And the last thing I want is for, say, my co-workers to be reading about my emotional turmoil or, for that matter, my cervix. I try to not say things behind people’s backs that I wouldn’t say to their face (especially not in print, but also as a general rule), but I’m a lot more open here than I tend to be in person.

    In short, I share an office all day every (week) day with a couple of people, and you know me far better than they do. At least the important bits, you do.

    Oh, and PB and I didn’t meet on-line, but we met *because* of the internet. Craigslist, no less, because someone was advertising a queer knitting group. Like Amazon of Lezbemoms, I was new to the area and mostly looking for friends. I found those too, incidentally, but also PB. When asked, we mostly just say that we met at a knitting group, though.

  12. Yes to the importance and community of “internet friends” (which is what I tend to call folks.) Although if it’s just a passing mention, I usually just say friend or “someone I know” too.

    And Jami and I met at a bar, which I think is the story you didn’t want to tell people before “we met on the internet”, but which I get a huge kick out of!

  13. When I bring up blogger people I tend to be vague calling them friend or someone I know. And in a way I think they are friends to me because reading about your everyday lives, I do get to know you. I may not comment much, but I enjoy seeing families that look like mine. I have only met one blogger in real life and we have become very good fiiend.
    I met my wife through a mutual friend. I needed some plumbing done and she is a plumber’s daughter. She got the work done but it took weeks (so she could get to know me she says) 12 years later, we still call her dad when something needs fixed!

  14. Oh, thank you. My boss walked in and I was crying silently the day after BG died and I said he was a cousin’s child because there was no way I could explain why his passing hurt so much when I’ve never met him. But hurt it did. My wife and I cried together.

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