While talking to my friend about her escapades in Internet dating, it dawned on me: I am a 10-year Online Dating Veteran. My first Internet date was in August 1996; my last was in May 2007. I suppose I should be ashamed or embarrassed because of this. Truth be known, it has provided me fabulous fodder for story telling. And so, I begin the Online Dating Chronicles (ODT). These will come in no particular order, except for this one.
The Beginning: August 1996
I don't remember his name. All I can remember for sure is that in August 1996, the day before my senior year of high school, I was an American Online chat room junkie. Back then, there were no unlimited plans, and so my parents were smart to attempt to limit my use to something like ten hours per month. Many of these hours were spent alongside my best friend, Jane Smith (her real name, folks), as we chatted to horny teenage boys far and wide.
I don't remember his name, but I do remember what I was wearing. I was halfway through my middle-class-guilt, I-only-shop-at-thrift-stores-and-dress-ridiculously phase. This means I hadn't quite started wearing the polyester brown leisure suits with the fly-collar pink gingham shirts. Not yet. I was only starting to look freakish. That night I was clad in men's jeans, size 29, pressed with creases down the front, and a white, blue, red, and pink short-sleeved knit number with a belt at the waist and a Peter Pan collar. This, I believed, was high fashion.
So in that, I headed to the Waffle House parking lot, 45 minutes away from me, with Best Friend Jane in tow. I knew nothing of this 18-year-old boy we were about to meet, except that he was a huge Insane Clown Posse fan, and that he drove a black, 1995 Honda Accord (I had told him my vehicle make and model as means of identification: a 1983 Nissan Maxima).
You must understand, of course, that I was even more culturally retarded at 17 than I am now. My taste in music included Cat Stevens, Billy Joel, Elton John, Sting, Paul Simon, and Joni Mitchell. I had no idea who ICP were, or that they did, indeed, dress like insane clowns. If I had known anything about their music or fashion sense, I may have run the other way.
We arrived at the Waffle House parking lot at about five to midnight. Jane and I got out of my car, cranked up our Simon and Garfunkel, and sat on the trunk, waiting for my gentleman caller. At 12:15, a black Honda Accord with tinted windows, and huge speakers sticking out of the back came rolling in, two inches from the ground, hubcaps spinning. Not only did this boy look as if he had a good three thousand dollars worth of stolen stereo equipment in his car, but he had totally pimped his.... Honda.
I don't recall the content of the conversation. Only that this boy looked like a troglodyte. Based upon his conversation, his only passions were ICP and his speakers. He went on and on about his stereo set-up and sound quality, while looking disapprovingly at my AM/FM stereo and tape deck. He asked Jane and I inside for waffles. We declined, explaining that the next day was the first day of our senior year of high school. After about ten minutes of discussion, we were on our way home.
Jane was spending the night, so we changed into our pajamas before giving my e-mail address one last check. Right as I signed on, up popped an Instant Message from ICP Boy.
"I'd really love to take your virginity," he said. Wow. What an opening.
"I'm not interested," I typed back.
For the next half hour, he kept insisting that he was "only being candid." I kept insisting that he had no clue what the definition of "candor" was, as I was giving it right back to him. Why Jane and I continued to talk to him for so long, I do not know. Perhaps it was the novelty of the situation, or the inherent addicting qualities of the medium.
He wrote me about two emails a day for the next month before finally giving up. The numerous Instant Messages he sent during that time period went unanswered.
And I learned my first valuable lesson when it comes to Internet dating: Never, ever, under any circumstances, use your primary e-mail account (especially one with your full name in it) or Instant Messenger user name to correspond with potential suitors. This one lesson served me well in the years that followed.