Have you ever missed someone you never actually met?
I had an interesting conversation with a friend at work today, and she told me a story about a guy she met online who kind of blew her mind. The two complete strangers carried on a great conversation for months. She said she would constantly be checking her email, waiting for their next exchange. He apparently said all the things she waited years to hear. My friend, a normally outgoing, confident woman, admitted that it grew to be quite a torrid exchange, and she found herself glued to her email. Its funny, because I had noticed that my friend, a 40-something mother, seemed happier than she had been in years. You could see it in her smile, her eyes.
Of course, as all great things do, it ended faster than it began. Over the course of the last couple of weeks she found the exchanges slowing down, and couldn’t figure out why. She thought perhaps it was her rather strong personality (she can be quite sharp with her words) that may have driven him away. But a few weeks ago, she found out that there was more to the story. She found out that the guy actually had a “very serious girl friend,” and was floored by this admission. She said she liked him so much, that she told him it was OK, especially since they didn’t live near each other, and frankly she was too lonely and confused by her her own problems that she found herself almost relieved to know he wasn’t asking for more. She just wanted the company and the effects his written word gave to her.
I asked my friend why she would settle for so little. She had no answer other than to say “loneliness.”
I found myself scared by that ugly little word… “loneliness.” That feeling of despair, that makes you believe that something otherwise not worth your time, is suddenly “good enough.” I wondered why this man was not forthcoming earlier on, why he waited until she was into him, so much that his leaving (not the admission of infidelity to his actual girlfriend) literally broke my friend’s heart. She was overwhelmed by how much she missed a guy that “never even held (her) hand.” She was taken aback by how much this strange online relationship hit her. She kept saying over and over, “I never even actually met him,” as if saying it would somehow eventually sink in and help her through this difficult period.
I’ve been thinking a lot about her. As a fellow 40-something, I can understand a lot of the needs she spoke about. I know how you can surround yourself with friends and family, but sometimes, when a woman our age looks in the mirror, you just want to see something else. In a way, its about a need that you can’t fix yourself. I think its about recognition, wanting to be something worth looking at. You know, before you are of an age that no man even bothers to lift his head to look you in the eyes until maybe halfway into a conversation.
I also have been thinking that she might have been hard on the guy too. Maybe he’s feeling that loneliness too — but, I’m just guessing since I never met the guy either. What drove him to convince her to stay, when he knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere? She’ll never know for sure. I think that’s a shame. Maybe they could have been friends, or maybe it would have made it easier to say goodbye.
This all in the wake of the Representative Weiner sexting scandal has me wondering what drives people our age to do stupid shit like have intimate conversations with strangers online? Why do we live lives that cloak our true selves? Why don’t we live more openly, and really work to be the people we portray ourselves as in the silence and darkness that computer anonymity gives us? Why would she trust the word of a complete stranger to bring her that much happiness, when she didn’t even know his name?
I am sure she will eventually get over it. She has bigger fish to fry raising her kid, and maybe, fixing other relationships in her life – the ones worth fixing anyway. Until then, I guess I’ll just be a friend and listen/offer her company — which, I think, might be all she ever needed anyway.