only help my unbelief

The difference between an online boyfriend and meeting your boyfriend online
June 2, 2008, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Posts

It was a dark and stormy night.

Just kidding. It was dark, but I don’t remember it being stormy. That’s probably because I was drugged at the time.

Whoa. Let me back up.

After somebody walked by last night at church and said “You met your boyfriend online!?!?” jokingly, I knew that I better get a move on and write this story up for posterity.

It really was a dark night, but only because it was really late. It was spring break of my sophomore year of college. Unlike my peers, I wasn’t in Cancun, or at the beach, or even spending time at the pool. Instead, I had just had my wisdom teeth out a few days earlier, and at the time of our first encounter, I was up late, unable to sleep because of the pain medication I was taking.

When I tell the story in person, I normally start out a few months prior to this, because it makes the story less embarassing. But the story really did begin that March night, at least as much as I knew at the time.

I had a blog. I’d started it at the prodding of my friend Emily, so over Christmas break I began writing about whatever came to mind. It was a Xanga blog, so we were members of lots of groups that united people of similar interests. I don’t remember all the ones I was a part of, but most were something like “Xanga Calvinists,” “Reformed Xangans,” “I Love John Piper,” “Charles Spurgeon is My Homeboy,” or “TULIP is my favorite flower.” Oh, and “Grammar is sexy.” But no one is surprised by that.

Anyway, somehow this guy with the mysterious username “christianhcrouch” stumbled upon Emily’s blog (We later found out he read her blog because he thought she was ‘cute.’ He will never live it down). He commented on several of her posts, even to the point of jokingly inviting her on a date to Tennessee, where he lived and went to school. I commented on many of Emily’s posts as well, so I had seen many of his comments.

My blog had a pink and brown theme, with a very meaningful title: “In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue the theme of God’s salvation and find it ever new; Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say: ‘Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may!'” OK, so it wasn’t much of a title. It was actually a verse from a poem by a relatively unknown-to-most British poet. I liked it mostly for the content, but there were three other criteria that made this special to me: 1) It was written by William Cowper, who was a friend of John Newton, and who I admired for his perseverance throughout a life of disease and depression; 2) I first heard it on an Indelible Grace CD, one of my all-time favorite musical groups; and 3) The version on the IG CD is done by Derek Webb, one of my all-time favorite musicians.

So when, on March 9, 2007, at 1:57 a.m., I got this comment on my blog, you can imagine how I felt:

So, I don’t know you or anything, but your header is only quoting one of William Cowper’s greatest hymns. And it’s so good, only Derek Webb could be able to perform it on an Indelible Grace CD. And you’re reformed.

Good ’nuff. Friends?

I was pretty amazed. That comment led to much commenting back and forth between our blogs, and also resulted in me reading several months of his writing on his own blog. After at least one post with 15+ comments by me or him, we decided to take it to the next level: instant messenger.

I know, I know, we were moving quickly. But we were ready for real-time communication. And we certainly made the best of it. We talked on AIM for almost five hours. Good thing both of us are night owls.

That was on a Friday night. We talked over AIM for the next several days, but it was about to be his spring break, and he was headed to Florida. There were no expectations, and really, I didn’t know what to think yet. The only thing we mentioned before he left was that I would write him a letter while he was gone, so he could read it when he got back.

Note: This was not a love letter, or anything of the sort. It was an horrific amalgam of my activities over the course of a few days, and nothing more. However, it did extend the length of the front and back of 10 pages of notebook paper.

I mailed it. And then I shook until he read it.

Just kidding. I was scared, though. It was somewhat exciting to send it, but once it left my hands I got really nervous. He was going to think I was a freak. He wouldn’t care about me finding a new book at Barnes & Noble. Or about my wisdom teeth follow-up appointment.

Emily comforted me the day he was supposed to be back home, saying that maybe he would even write back. I agreed. He would write back, and it would be about a paragraph long, him nicely saying that he enjoyed my letter but would I please leave him alone, and oh yeah, he was going to have to block me on Xanga and Facebook and AIM. Sincerely, Christian Crouch.

I don’t really remember what happened the first time we talked after he got my letter. I think I was so surprised that he wasn’t disgusted that it all went by in a kind of hazy wonderfulness.

The next few weeks were good for my soul, but not so much for my academic achievement. It turned into the semester of sleep-when-you-can-because-you’ll-probably-be-up-til-3-am. My grades didn’t suffer too much, but my schedule was wacko.

At the time, I was doing behavioral therapy with a little boy who had autism. I worked on Saturdays, so my weekends were rarely free. But about two weeks after Christian got back from his spring break, I found out I was going to have the next weekend off.

There wasn’t much time to lose. We’d been talking for about three weeks, and neither of us were about to say we had a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” whom we’d never met in person. We needed to meet in person.

I remember the night I brought it up. I was scared. I wondered if he’d be up for it. I nervously proposed it, and he seemed surprised. I wanted to meet him? Yeah, I did. Did he want to meet me? Yeah, he did. It was a six-hour drive. Were he to come visit me, he couldn’t leave until Friday afternoon, meaning he wouldn’t get to Columbia until late Friday night. That was pushing it. I, on the other hand, only had to work until noon Thursday, and could skip my Friday classes. It was settled.

I know what some of you are thinking: He’s the guy, he should have come and visited you first. In retrospect, we both wish it could have been that way. But the circumstances were unique, and in order to meet when we did, I would have had to drive to Tennessee. Had we waited longer to meet in person, the relationship would have been stagnant, because we couldn’t really talk of commitment when I’d never heard the sound of his voice.

We made arrangements. I would stay with his friend Maddie in her dorm, and over the weekend we could go to BCM together, watch his friend’s track meet and go to church.

The Tuesday before I drove up there, I got an overnighted package. Inside was a 14-page letter and two mix CDs. I devoured the letter, but saved the CDs for the drive. I’m glad I did. Now, whenever I hear any of those songs, I think of that weekend.

So Thursday came. I was nervous and excited and confused all at the same time. At this point, we knew a lot about each other, but didn’t really know each other. And we’d never heard each other’s voices.

That changed soon enough. I had to call him when I got through Atlanta to let him know when I would be there. Thankfully, his voice sounded normal. He certainly wasn’t a 40-year-old man.

I remember when I was driving down I-24 and first saw the sign for exit 134: Sewanee, University of the South. I got butterflies in my stomach.

His directions weren’t great, so I drove right by his dorm. He saw me, but I didn’t see him standing out in the front yard. I had to call him, and he talked me through turning around.

I parked my car, and then realized I was still wearing my flip flops. They didn’t go with the outfit I had carefully picked out, so I spent a few moments putting on another pair of shoes.

For Christian, those moments were agonizing. He thought I was going to turn my car on and leave.

But I didn’t. I got out of the car, said hello, and he said hello back. Then he said, “How about an awkward Christian side hug?” And so it began: a relationship characterized by awkwardness.

The rest of that weekend was a blur, though visions of it pass through my mind sometimes. A walk down a trail in the mountains, a freezing track meet, Sonic cherry limeade slushes, waiting outside for him while he took a test.

It was Friday night that it became official. He had taken me out to eat at the fancy restaurant where he worked, and we had watched the movie “Crash” afterward. As the credits rolled, he said, “Let’s play the I-have-a-secret-game.” That sounded pretty dumb to me, but I agreed. The game consisted of him saying immediately after that, “I like you.” I told him he hadn’t kept that secret very long.

It was a hard conversation, because both of us were very aware that committing to anything would mean committing to something long-distance. And I told him I wasn’t committing to anything that he couldn’t see possibly ending in marriage. He said he wanted that, and that he would come to see me as often as he could.

That’s pretty much it, the nuts and bolts, and not much drama. And that’s why I say there’s a difference between having an online boyfriend and meeting your boyfriend online.

The short version of the story, the one I tell most people over the age of 30? “We met through a friend.”  


2 Comments so far
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When I read about it now, it all seems so weird. I also realize how incredibly awkward I was/am. I love you so much more now than then, and I don’t care how “untraditional” the story is.

I also really regret the “awkward Christian side hug” thing. That was dumb.

Comment by Christian

Matt and I get to tell people either that we met online or through a high school robotics problem (but that he wasn’t in high school at the time). Whenever someone asks, we look at each other and usually I’m stuck explaining.

Most who know us find it really fitting as robotics is still a huge part of our lives; strangers would must rather hear we met at a bar than through robotics.

I still find it a little embarrassing though, really, I wasn’t going to go be the girl who met the l’ve of her life in a college Chemsitry class now, was I? (Yes, that’s a grammatical disaster of a sentence. There are reasons I write only technical documents here at work.)

Comment by Angela

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