October 24, 2000
Getting To Know You


David's mother wants to know how long the two of us have "known" each other.

So he begins to tell her the story again: all about how we met five years ago in the Baby Boomer Chat Room, and how we were just friends for a bunch of years, and how he helped me get sober and then invited me to fly down and visit, blah blah blah  ...

... but she interrupts and says No, no, nohow long have you KNOWN each other? Meaning, How long has it been since the two of you first met face-to-face? 

How long have you shared the same Zip Code/same toothbrush holder/same Noisy Upstairs Neighbor Guy? 

How long have you been together in *real* life?

Translation: What do you really know about this woman?

He has called his parents to tell them he is planning to ask me to marry him soon. "Not today or tomorrow," he hastens to assure them, "but soon." He figures that the more time he gives them to digest the news,  the more time they'll have to digest the news. I doubt that it's coming as much of a surprise, anyway. Dave and Terri have been pretty much joined at the hip and the heart and the brain (among other interesting places) for two solid, blissful years now.

His father's reaction is typically Ю僱êrvØ¡an. "Do whatever you want to do!" he booms cheerfully. But his mother zeroes right in on the heart of the matter.

How long have you known each other? she asks carefully  ...  the unspoken question, of course, being How well do you really know this person you met on the Internet?

Back in the Boom Room days, I must confess, I didn't know David very well at all.

He was the elusive, mysterious Ю僱êrvØ¡. (In those days I thought his screen name was French -- pronounced "dee-RAFTER-vwah" -- which I found sort of rakish and alluring and stuff. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I learned the somewhat mundane origin -- and pronunciation -- of his online screen name. But that's another story for another day.)

Back in those early days he would swoop into the Boom Room and sit in the cyber corner, making dark, acerbic comments about everything. Once in a while he would pick a fight with someone, just for fun.

Frankly, he scared the shidt out of me.

I was SecraTerri ... always loopy, always *on,* always buzzed ... juggling behind-the-scenes romances like a circus midget juggling M&Ms ... so full of myselves I needed separate Zip Codes, just for my egos.

Our very first online conversation was about music. Somebody mentioned Golden Earring, and while everyone else in the chat room expounded on the virtues of "Radar Love" for the next fifteen or forty-seven or one-hundred-and-sixty-three minutes, I said that MY favorite G.E. song was "Twilight Zone." Ю僱êrvØ¡ immediately sent me an instant message -- That's my favorite, too.

And thus an online friendlationship was born.

He e-mailed me his picture not longer afterward, a grainy and indistinct .gif of himself and a friend, taken a couple of years previously. Unfortunately I was viewing graphics through the world's shittiest computer at the time -- an IBM PS1 Consultant with only slightly less memory than *I* had -- and to my eye he seemed sort of little and nerdy. In fact, he reminded me of a kid I went to high school with, Dan Somethingorother ... a younger classmate who always rode in the backseat of my boyfriend's Camaro when we were going to weekend beer parties.

So I dismissed Ю僱êrvØ¡ -- as far as possible cyber-romance material was concerned, at least -- on basic principle. But we remained friends for the next few years ... as our marriages fell apart, as our addictions unravelled our lives, as our cyber romances with other people evolved and dissolved ... our online and offline experiences running eerily parallel ... until the time we found each other again and developed our own Mutual Recovery Support System.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Here are some of the things I've learned about him, over the past couple of years of sharing the same Zip Code/toothbrush holder/Noisy Upstairs Neighbor Guy:
  • He is the smartest man I have ever been in love with.

    Want to know all about the evolution of cellulose digestion in termites? The care and feeding of flathead six-cylinder Studebaker engines? Gould Eldridge's theory of punctuated equilibrium?

    Ask Ю僱êrvØ¡.

    Want to know the secret messages scratched into the run-off bands of the first twenty Stiff records?

    Ю僱êrvØ¡'s your guy.

    Want to know why women cry during the part of "Dr. Zhivago" where Lara and Yuri are laying in bed together, after having made tender tragic extra-marital love, and Lara says Wouldn't it have been lovely if we'd met before?, and Zhivago sadly replies Yes, and Lara says We'd have got married, had a house and children. If we'd had children, Yuri, would you like a boy or girl?, and Zhivago says I think we may go mad if we think about all that, and Lara looks off into the distance and says I shall always think about it ... ?

    Don't bother asking Ю僱êrvØ¡ about that one, because ...

  • ... he is also the DUMBEST man I have ever been in love with.


    At least about women. And about movies. And about movies with women in them. (He thinks they're all Meredith Baxter Birney, anyway.)

    And about watching movies WITH women.

    But that's OK. I figure we're going to have forty or fifty years' worth of practice, watching chick flicks together. By the time I'm done with him he'll be sobbing into his hankie, begging me to rewind so he can watch that tearful goodbye scene again.

    "Last of the Mohicans," anyone?

  • He doesn't take himself too seriously.

    Ю僱êrvØ¡ is the only person I know who would willingly appear in cyberspace with a plate of bratwurst on his head.

  • He makes me want to be a better person.

    He doesn't like it when I give him credit for my sobriety. He always says, "You did the work" ... meaning, I'm the one who decided to get sober, and I'm the one who dumped that last bottle of Mountain Chablis down my kitchen sink, and I'm the one who vomited into the little metal wastebasket for the next couple of weeks. Which is true, of course, but which doesn't acknowledge the huge part he played in the process: namely, encouraging me to get sober in the first place. Namely, running up those $200 a month long distance bills, calling me every night to talk about recovery issues. Namely, reading my budding website every night, and giving me honest feedback, and reassuring me that I would be able to write as well sober as I had with a boxful of cheap chab in me. Better, even.

    Namely, providing me with a role model.

  • He is the best person I know.

    I'm sorry if it gets a little *old* sometimes, hearing about what a wonderful person David is, and what a fabulous relationship we have, and how deeply and foreverly in love we are, and blah blah blah blah blah blah. In terms of cutting-edge Internet journaling, this no doubt ranks right up there with listening to me talk about that wiry black hair sprouting from the middle of my neck some more.

    (Too bad I wasn't journaling during The Doc Years! We could all be rooting for those irritable bowels, right about now!)

    But what can I tell you? David is just the best person I know.

    Whether he's explaining the upcoming election to his children (talking to them in the patient, respectful tone usually reserved for adults), or making the grocery store check-out clerk giggle ("Plastic would be absolutely wonderful!") ... politely explaining to the telephone solicitor why he isn't interested in the new Office Max Visa card, or calmly asking the Bad Noisy Teenagers to bounce their goddamn basketball somewhere else ... gently chastising his message board friends to "learn to use your #*&%! web browsers," or calling his elderly parents to warn them that he's going to propose to his Internet girlfriend ... he treats people like they matter.

    And he treats ME the same way.

You know what?  I like the idea of David calling to tell his parents that we're thinking about thinking about getting married. It seems sort of sweet and old-fashioned and respectful.

I like the idea SOmuch, in fact, that I'm asking him to write to my children -- and to my mother -- and to any other family members I can think of between now and the time he gets down on one creaky bended knee -- and ask for their blessing, too.

(I told Jaymi about my plan already. She said, Tell David he can marry you as long as he sends me some Asiago cheese. If they're smart, the other two Tots will probably come up with a similarly groovy bribe of their own.)

And when he's all done clearing permission from assorted family members ... I think maybe I'll have him write to YOU, Dear Readers. What do you say? You're getting to know the two of us pretty well, after all.

Even if it's *only* on the Internet.

throw a rock