Vernon in Michigan 2001. I’m such a Yooper!
Vernon and I met online. I was looking for young single parent support and he had made a post on a pen-pal site. I’m not sure how I found him because I was not familiar with this odd thing called “the internet” but he had everything I was looking for. He was a single parent, was my age, had a child same age as mine in addition to a younger child, and just wanted someone to write to, converse with, and interact with. Only negative was that he was a guy…. well, if he turned into a ‘perv’ I’d just stop writing him. We emailed each other for a while and discussed parenting, life, being single, working, and our pen-pal relationship turned into friendship which turned into something I don’t have a word for. Not a word that’s good enough anyway. We also wrote letters, you know, paper and pens and envelopes and stamps. Those kinds of letters. After several months, maybe close to a year, we finally exchanged pictures. Nope, no facebook yet, no picasa, we MAILED them to each other. I do believe that Vernon had a scanner and scanned a photo and emailed it to me. It took forever to download if I’m thinking of the right picture. We had already fallen for each other before exchanging photos. We got to know each other from the inside out. The photos were just a bonus.
As we got more familiar with the internet we became familiar with chat rooms. I don’t remember if it was yahoo or what, but we would have to log into the same chat room at the same time. I would create a private one so we didn’t have to be bothered by all the weirdo perverts out there looking for “cyber sex”. I remember the first time some dude sent me a photo of his ‘junk’, that was pretty scary. It’s always a good idea not to talk to strangers, in person or on the internet. I then discovered an instant messenger program called ICQ. That was much better than chatrooms. So we used that and Yahoo IM.
We wanted to hear each other’s voice. I found a vending machine at the little shopping strip in my town and it sold international phone cards. I could buy one for $20 and we could talk for over 4 hours as long as we didn’t make multiple calls. Every time a call was made it would deduct some sort of fee that would lessen our minutes, so to get the most of our money we used it up in one shot. We did that about once a month. Sometimes I would fall asleep on the phone, or so he says.
There were no laptops, no wireless internet, and dial up internet was very expensive and the computers were very large and cumbersome. For a while I didn’t have a computer at all at home, just the webtv which had limited use. So when we did instant messenger it was while I was at work. Shhhhh.
Now with cloud computing (which is 100% of what my job consists of), digital photographs, Facebook, Picasa, iGoogle, Yahoo IM, Skype, webcams, I can go on, but you get the picture; our relationship has grown with the help of these tools. We are constantly aware of the other’s schedule, mood, and even when traveling we can keep in touch. We Skype once a week, only because of the 6 hour time difference and we both work full time jobs. Otherwise, we’d probably Skype every day. I have an awesome phone plan through Vonage where I can call him in the UK as often as I like and only pay one flat rate. I take advantage of that when he has days off of work and I call him when I get up at 6am. It’s a great way to start my day. I have uploaded web cam photos of myself and sent them to him a few minutes later. I record videos on my Flip Camera and he can watch them whenever he wants. He doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on major events and I can look at his photo albums any time I want. It makes the long distance relationship so much easier. Waiting several weeks for a letter is terrible. Don’t get me wrong, even with this technology, long distance relationships take a lot of work, but it just seems easier now.
Me in England 2011. We still look HOT!
Our bond was really strong from the beginning. I think that without this technology we’d still be together but the times in between visits and letters would be even more difficult and stressful. I don’t wish an LDR on anyone, but if you happen to be in one, take advantage of the technology out there, appreciate the time you have online, and make the best of it. Have fun and be creative. I still manage to send Vernon postcards and the occasional letter or card. I guess I’m a bit old fashioned that way.