March 5, 2003
I.M., I Said

It's been a while ... but I think I still remember how to do this.

  • Lock the doors.
  • Dim the lights.
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Pop a little Alice or Alanis or "Shellpile Beat" into the CD player.
  • Sit down in front of the computer ... preferably wearing something comfortable, preferably drinking something over ice.
  • Check to make sure The Husband is safely preoccupied in the next room. (Better yet: safely asleep.)
  • Sign onto AOL, using the latest top-secret/created-just-this-week/known-only-to-*him* stealth name.
  • Make sure you're invisible to everyone on your Buddy List except for *him.*
  • Make sure your computer speakers are turned off. (You don't want other members of the household to hear the twinkly little i.m. music and come running to see what's going on.)
  • Immediately check your Buddy List. Is he offline? Is he online? Is he Online but not in a chat area? If he is Online but not in a chat area, does that mean he's talking to somebody else? (And if he's talking to somebody else, is the 'somebody else' female? Is she more interesting than me? Does she type faster? Do I have to kick her ass?)
  • Take a couple of minutes to craft the perfect opening line: something not too sappy, not too obvious, not too overtly needy.
  • Delete sappy obvious overtly-needy opening line: take another several minutes to craft NEW opening line.
  • Double-check spelling.
  • Triple-check spelling.
  • Quadruple-check spelling.
  • Close eyes ... hold breath ...
  • ... and hit *Send.*

And then -- the inevitable endless interval of uncertainty, as you wait for a reply that may or may not come.

God. I'd forgotten how nerve-wracking instant messaging can be.

I.M.s  -- along with chat rooms, e-mail strings, flaming extramarital affairs with men three time zones away -- is one of those basic cyber skills I used to be really, really good at, a previous lifetime or two ago, but which has become a sort of lost art for me in recent years. Back in the glory days of the Baby Boomer Chat Room, SecraTerri used to juggle i.m. conversations like dinner plates: sometimes as many as three or four or eleven vaguely smutty conversations going on, all at once. What was truly amazing is that a lot of the time she was squinty-eyed/wobbly-kneed/falling-off-the-computer-chair drunk while all of this was going on ... and yet she almost never dangled a participle or dropped a connection. Not on purpose, anyway.

(And she still has the eight-year-old Session Logs to prove it, if anybody is interested.)

These days, however, I assiduously avoid i.m. conversations, pretty much the same way I avoid Monday morning chit-chat and grocery store peanut butter debates. I'm rarely signed onto AOL anymore, which helps. (I'm still paying $4.95 a month to maintain an AOL account I've had since August of 1995 -- an account which I still harbor ridiculously sentimental feelings towards, mainly because it's where I met my husband and a lot of my core *FootNotes* audience and some of my very best friends on the planet -- but which I basically never ever USE anymore.) Apart from the AOL account, I've got AIM and Yahoo Instant Messenger and ICQ and all of the other groovy big-name i.m. programs loaded onto the home computer, but I never bother firing them up. I think it just got to be too much work, after a while. It has generally been my experience, now that I'm sober, that an instant message exchange requires large amounts of actual thought and concentration and conversational give-and-take.

That can be pretty darn intrusive when all you're trying to do is order a pair of bike socks.

Still, I'll admit that I occasionally do still find myself in need of a little instant cyber gratification ... and this is one of those rare occasions. I haven't talked to him in five days, after all, and I'm hungry for him tonight. I'm hungry for his voice, and I'm hungry for his brain, and I'm hungry for a big steaming dollop of his undivided attention. In the past week I've sent him a couple of e-mails (unanswered), left him a voicemail message (unanswered), text-messaged a *hello* to his pager (unanswered). Short of smoke signals or skywriting or taking out a front page ad in his hometown newspaper, I don't know how else to get him to notice me. All I really want tonight is to know that he's OK, and to reaffirm our love for each other, and to tell him how much I'm looking forward to our rendezvous next month ...

... and to remind him that I've got a handful of nude photos that could go onto the website just like THAT if he continues to ignore me. 

As a matter of fact, that's my opening line. "Answer me RIGHT NOW," it says, "or the whole world will be looking at your naked butt before morning."

The answer twinkles back at me with astonishing speed.

"Hi Mom," reads the return instant message from FargenSmooth. "Hows it goin?"

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when i SEE the tattoo.