Sex + Love

What Would LaceWednesday Do?

I could barely talk to boys in real life, but I was a femme fatale online.

One of the guys who never made it past Phase 1 was a dude named Stacy who always chatted in all caps and claimed that he was Satan. Like, actual Satan. I met him on a Cure BB, where he was insisting that Faith was the best Cure album of all time, and that he would “roast the innards” of anyone who felt otherwise. This was so over-the-top that it cracked me up. Stacy felt like a fun project—getting Satan to love you would be quite a feat—but after we’d been chatting for a few days off and on, he started threatening me for not paying him enough attention. He once chatted me something very close to this (I’m paraphrasing):

If you don’t chat with me tonight, I will take your grandfather’s corpse, hollow it out, and then cook you inside of him, basting you with the rendered fat of your entire slaughtered family.

My grandfather had just passed away. I decided to cut Stacy off rather than move him into Phase 2.

Phase 2: We’re totally dating.

Once you find yourself talking to someone every day, you start developing feelings for them, even if they’re invisible. The feelings are real, even if nothing else is.

In this phase of the relationship, you tell each other that you’re exclusive, you show up on public boards at the same time, you make ridiculous promises to each other, and you have disgustingly flowery exchanges. A big feature of this phase is talking about running away together (or at least meeting somewhere between your two cities).

One of my Phase 2 guys, MustardGas, chatted me once about how we would soon meet in a hotel, where we would “spend all night talking—whatever happens, happens—and when you wake up the next morning, there will just be a long-stemmed rose and an engagement ring on the pillow.” I DIED. I actually printed that chat out. I thought this was the height of romance. (Again, I was 16.)

Another guy I chatted with was (supposedly) an Israeli guy who was training to be an EMT. (If that was true, he had to have been at least 22, and had no idea I was 16. I told him I was 20ish.) His plan was for us to meet in London, where he had to go for a conference. I told him I’d booked flights and everything, because I thought we were both lying, but when he sent me the address of his flat, I panicked and stopped talking to him immediately.

Phase 3: Exchanging home addresses.

A quick note: Don’t do this. At all. Never do this.

This may seem like a terrifying idea, but again, this was the mid-’90s, and nothing on the internet felt very real. The town where I lived in North Carolina was so small that I felt like no one from the outside world could ever find me there. So it didn’t feel dangerous at all to give these Phase 3 guys (who had passed Phases 1 and 2) my home address. (Yes, I realize that it was in fact very dangerous, and that I was being very stupid.)

The biggest reason to give out your address was so that you could exchange photos and more band stuff. Finally, I’d get to see what these guys looked like! (The technology may have existed to upload photos back then, but I certainly didn’t have access to it, and neither did the people I was talking to on BBSes.) Most of my Phase 3 guys were pleasant to look at, but they didn’t seem like “my type” at first glance—their baseball hats, jean shorts, and crew cuts didn’t scream “I’m really into industrial music.” They looked like guys I would have ignored in my own high school. (My silent and ignored IRL boyfriend had dreadlocks and dressed like a pirate. This was a good lesson in not judging a book by its cover.) I exchanged photos with probably six or so guys (none of them dirty).

Packages would often include mixtapes filled with shoegazer music, rare Helmet B-sides, band stickers, fliers from shows in DC, comic books, or Magic the Gathering cards. I still have some of this stuff, and I hold it all close to my heart.

Phase Four: Meeting IRL.

I only ever met one of my Board Boyfriends in real life. It was Ryan,** aka MustardGas, the rose-and-engagement-ring-on-the-pillow guy. He was a comic book artist and musician, only a few years older than me. He was brooding and cute and had long hair and wore big boots, and I stared into his eyes in his pictures for hours on end. Despite the fact that in my mind we were practically engaged, I never told anyone about him—mainly because of the existence of my actual boyfriend, but also because I kept my BBS life very separate from the rest of my life.

Ryan provided evidence that his real life matched the one he’d told me about on the boards—he actually sent me the indie comic book he’d told me he was been working on—and that impressed me. He knew real stuff about me too—I had told him that I was in high school and in drama club, neither of which I’d told anyone else online. We genuinely clicked. We talked about how we were definitely meant for each other. It felt mature. It felt real.

Ryan lived in Ohio, and one day he mentioned that he was going to be driving down to Florida in a few weeks, and could he stop in my town so we could actually meet? My heart took off in a permanent gallop.

I had so much work to do in the weeks leading up to our star-crossed tryst. I had to get an outfit that wouldn’t show how much I would be nervously sweating, I had to touch up my purple dye job and figure out what to do with my pubic hair (even though I was a virgin)—you know, work. As the depilatory fizzled between my legs, I called my boyfriend and told him that I needed some space.


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  • healthyobsessions August 8th, 2013 7:50 PM

    Catfish: 1996 edition

  • KatGirl August 8th, 2013 8:12 PM

    When I was younger, I was on a site called New Moon Girls which had message board-y things and I remember wanting so much to be like the older girls on it (I really liked these girls Kado, Kara/Isis, Alyssa, and Maddie) and I did almost anything to be like them XD

  • Sophie ❤ August 8th, 2013 8:18 PM

    This is really good writing! Love it!

  • Ponyroux August 8th, 2013 8:27 PM

    This reminds me so much of a guy I met on Gaia (remember that) that turned out to be like a 30 year old cage fighter or something. I was fine talking to him until he sent me a picture of his face and then I just got freaked out and blocked him. I wasn’t even confident online hahaha You’re a brave/careless girl!

  • Mollylou August 8th, 2013 9:05 PM

    Other people on message boards were always the coolest. I always wanted to be cool like them.

  • Roz G. August 8th, 2013 9:37 PM

    I loved this :)

  • ScarlettRed August 9th, 2013 12:27 AM

    In high school, I had a similar experience with MSN chat. Even though I knew and spoke to the guy around school (he was 2 years older), 90% of our relationship was conducted online chatting, where I was always more witty, flirtatious and emotionally upfront than in person. It wasn’t healthy because while we saw each other around and hugged in real life, we were closer online. I was completely nervous around him, and how we outwardly were did not match how we were in text. He also had a girlfriend, so it was like an emotional affair in a way, but I don’t think he saw it that way. My mistake was that while I had a crush on him in reality I made the move to get to know him online, and as scary as talking to crushes is, if you don’t get over the initial nerves and let things grow in person, that nervous feeling doesn’t really go away like it should. Bottom line- you have to let relationships grow naturally, in person, for them to be authentic. I personally feel from my experience that real human connections need to be lived in real life (not on Facebook or the internet) to be healthy.

  • jjjjj August 9th, 2013 1:15 AM

    great content but don’t forget to proofread!!! there’s a lot of unfinished words and sentences in here

    • Anaheed August 9th, 2013 2:04 AM

      I did proofread! I caught one incomplete sentence I had missed—thank you!—but I don’t see the unfinished words. Can you help me out—where are they?

  • Ayabagels August 9th, 2013 2:13 AM

    ‘Wy would Trent Reznor have a golden retriever?’ — Misspelled ‘why’. :)

  • Nimsi August 9th, 2013 3:37 AM

    First of all, I love the way it was written! It reminds me of how I think lol as a writter you are definately an insporation to me :)
    Second… I, shamefully, had the same problem throughout my first few years in High School. I was (still am) socially awkward. Specialy when it comes to guys! Once I remember being hit on by some guy as I was drawing and he said I should be an artist.. I responded by saying, “No because I’d have to die to become successful.” He walked away. Silently. And I just avoided him ever since then lol anyways I was on this one online website where you build avatars and talk with people and such. I was such a flirt with guys then! it just came so naturaly. It was easy and I was pretty damn good at it (not bragging or anything xD). I even had a couple boyfriends. And as I was reading this it so reminded me of those times! It was quite nostalgic but also emberrassing to think about(x
    The point is, great article. I simply loved it! Aaand please excuse my rant/ADD xP

  • decemberflower August 9th, 2013 3:51 AM

    This is so funny and poignant. I think most girls of our generation can relate to the notion of being more comfortable over text or IM than in real life. Sometimes I text with a guy so much that I start to wonder if I will be able to talk to him in real life anymore. Also, the thing about “figuring out what to do with your pubic hair” is SO accurate. A+ for you!

  • GallantRug August 9th, 2013 5:52 AM

    Oh, dude, that “pre-meeting an internet person” phase is so accurate.

    I met a guy after having him as my internet boyfran for two and a half years, and oh, the outfit planning.

    It went better for me than it did for you, though, Emily.

  • thenoisythinker August 9th, 2013 7:36 AM

    The writer’s style is outstanding. I loved reading this.

  • maxrey August 9th, 2013 2:34 PM

    It’s always nice to know others have made stupid life mistakes and been scorned by online lovers. Seriously. After a year and a half of OkCupid romances this is exactly what I needed to read!

  • billemiche August 10th, 2013 12:32 AM

    i met my best friend on a forum for south park fans when I was 11. we met IRL when we were twelve, five years went by and we kept in constant contact, calling each other every other day and what not. last week i met her for the second time ever and it was so much fun. having close internet friends is great but it really bums me out that we can’t see other more often. i hope someday we’ll live closer. great article :)

  • chawi August 10th, 2013 4:59 PM

    This is so so interesting, when I was about 11 or 12 I ended up talking to strangers online, how you managed to agree to meet them is beyond me!! (and really quite dumb haha)…So funny though!

  • wongstea August 15th, 2013 3:41 PM

    It is so great to read a story and all the comments about this shared experience. I’ve been on online forums since I was 11/12 ish and I’ve met a handful of wonderful people who are still my friends to this day, despite those boards being shut down (thanks facebook!) I can totally relate to the weird feelings that you develop towards people you don’t really know, and how awkward it is to go about dealing with those emotions.

    Also, I don’t think meeting online friends is a terrible idea, especially if you do it in a public place, and even better with a third person.

    Great read, thanks for sharing :)

  • personne79 September 13th, 2013 10:14 PM

    Ok, where the heck do I begin??

    Fantastic fantastic article!! I totally feel you about your IRL bf. My ex (my first and only bf so far) and I were the most awkward pair in the whole school. We walked like a mile away from each other in the hallway, whenever we tried to kiss we almost fell over from losing our balance (not even the sexy “falling while kissing.” This is the “standing in the vacant section of the hallway trying to have a make out session and epically failing, almost falling over onto the cold hard floor” type of “falling while kissing.”), and we just could never make conversation in person. We could talk really well over text, but in person I never knew what to says I kept quiet and he never knew what to say so he would ramble on about random stuff and all in all it was just a pathetic excuse for a relationship. So I feel your pain.