Our contributor Ryan, who blogs at Student Loans for Beer Money, has a confession to make:
Most summers I look forward to an endless string of parties at which I usually get hammered and hook up with some stranger. Iâ€™m a 19-year-old guy — how else am I supposed to pass the idle nights of this school-free season? What I didnâ€™t plan for this year was 1) meeting a girl I genuinely liked the last month of school, 2) actually asking her out, officially, and 3) spending my summer nights hunched over a laptop talking to her (she’s home in New York, I’m back in Massachusetts).
So now I’m in an “e-relationship.” It’s as if cruel Cupid decided that two years of in-the-flesh college debauchery deserved a summer-long fate of long-distance dating. While it’s something thatâ€™s becoming more and more common thanks to the Internet, and it’s something I’ve gotten better at over recent weeks, it’s not something Iâ€™d recommend. Virtual dating definitely has its drawbacks:
- WiFi Blue Balls – Imagine waiting all day to see your girlfriend, the anticipation of talking to her and just being able to unwind at the end of the day. Now compact that with three months of zero physical contact. Now imagine sitting down for your long-awaited moment of reprise and having no signal. The miserable nights Iâ€™ve spent carrying my laptop around my house hoping to find a signal (my dad doesnâ€™t believe in paying for Internet when Iâ€™m gone all year), just to end in a huddle in some corner of my house attempting to say hello.
- Phone Phobia — I dislike the phone. Iâ€™m not good at talking on it. Itâ€™s really uncomfortable for me. I never know what or how to say what I want without any context. In real life, there are all kinds of vocal and physical cues to go on; online thereâ€™s text, which Iâ€™m pretty comfortable reading into. On the phone, here’s what happens: she says something, I say something too fast, she says “What?” then I start again too soon, I cut her off, and then she says “What?” again, and then silence. This happens over and over again. Iâ€™ve dated all through high school and in college, and Iâ€™m still a vicious opponent to the phone. Also, whatâ€™s with that thing where you call a girl and then sheâ€™s talking to a bunch of her friends? Are you supposed to sit and listen to them giggle? Do I say sorry and call back later? Like I said, I hate the phone, its etiquette eludes me, but either way I now have to rely on it for some kind of intimacy.
- Digital Desperation — Maybe it’s just my over-analytical mind having nothing to do but worry, but I’m concerned at how often Iâ€™m online waiting to talk to her. It’s like the minutes next to my “online time” are some kind of stamp on my forehead that reads “He has nothing better to do but wait for you all day long.” We werenâ€™t dating in real life long before summer interrupted things, so I suppose Iâ€™m still in that stage where I want her to like me but not think Iâ€™m desperate. I blame the testosterone in my bloodstream. I doubt its evolutionary design ever even considered the appropriate masculine response for playing it cool on the Internet.
- Distant Memories – If you’re a new couple dating over the Internet, then you run the risk of having all of those “big, meaningful conversations” that new couples have not face-to-face. When you look back, you’d be remembering a glowing computer screen instead of the true object of your affection. Not very romantic.
Somehow, despite all this, we’ve made it work. Whether it be making do with the crappy internet connection late at night, sucking it up and talking on the phone, or staying in every couple nights and not feeling too bad I’m perched over a computer screen chatting away. And we agreed not to have those any of those “big, meaningful conversations,” for now. Instead of diving into our relationship, weâ€™ve pulled it back almost to the nervous, playful days before I asked her out. We flirt, we gossip, trade jokes over Facebook, watch trashy television together and IM each other with snarky comments about it. The other day we watched a marathon of ABC Familyâ€™s “The Secret Life Of An American Teenager” and crapped all over it together for hours.
The distance has forcibly done something positive, I think, which is to force us to appreciate the simple forms of affection. It’s allowed us to really get to know all the superficial aspects of one another. As if our first month was stretched over four months, giving us plenty of time to ease into something.
Positive or not, though, it’s been a grueling endurance test. Weâ€™re almost to the summerâ€™s end (thank god!) and most of our conversations now are just lists of really sexy things we plan to do to each other back at school, which helps pass the time. Until then I just have wait it outâ€¦ while I continue to try to convince her to have video chat sex with me.