Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A question

By now, it’s no secret that I’ve met lots of people through this site. I’m talking about legitimate, walk-into-a-bar, “so that’s what you really look like!” meetings here. Some have gone well. Others have gone poorly. Some people came exactly as advertised. One wanted to do nothing but argue with me about damned near everything, including my reasons for remaining anonymous. One sent someone else’s picture – the falsest of advertising - and I ran for the hills after excusing myself to take a leak. That was disturbing.

Thing is, I’m more than willing to go out there and do it. Some of the most innocuous email exchanges you could imagine have led to months-long dating relationships. It’s one of the pleasant things that happen when your site gets popular enough. People, some of whom are attractive women, decide they want to meet you. As a raging heterosexual, I’ve enjoyed this immensely. Who wouldn’t?

I’ve also made several male friends through this site, and these friendships have me wondering whether there’s a stigma attached to guys meeting each other on the internet – especially when they’re generally the ones approaching me.

It always works the same way. I’ll write something someone can identify with, so the guy emails me and tells me I did a nice job on my latest post. Then, maybe, he’ll relate some little story of his own that pertains to what I’ve written about. I’ll say, “Hey, that’s a pretty cool story,” and I’ll write back. Various tidbits of personal information will be exchanged in subsequent emails. We’ll discuss sports, or women, or places to which we’ve traveled, and it just sort of goes on from there. Eventually, when enough information is exchanged, you realize you’d probably be friends with this person – provided they’re “normal” in person - if the two of you worked together or had attended the same school.

The invite comes next. You’ll get something like this:

Hey, I’ll be out in the city tonight with some people. If you want to meet up for a drink, let me know. Call me on my cell if you’re floating around. Here’s my number…

So you meet up and things go well. You get shitfaced, and you talk about everything under the sun – maybe even give him a drunken golf lesson in front of a bar at three in the morning – and nothing bad or weird happens so you add him to your rotation of people you can hang out with. Maybe you even start dating one of his friends. This happens a few more times, with a few more guys, and now you’ve made a half-dozen new male friends. Good for you. More shit to do on weekends never hurt anyone, right?

Here’s the thing, though. Eventually, someone’s bound to ask you how you know this guy, and that’s when things get a little weird. You go out in a group, and you strike up a conversation with one of this person’s friends, and the question inevitably arises:

“So, how do you know Dave?”

“Umm…he…umm…wrote me a letter on the…um…internet?”

You don’t say this, of course, because you don’t want to embarrass the poor guy, but that’s what I’m wondering about. Is this really embarrassing? Is making male friends through the internet something to which people wouldn’t want to own up? I mean, I’m talking about seriously normal guys here – people with “real” lives just like mine, whose jobs have them online for a good portion of the day. Believe me, everyone I meet off this fucking thing gets vetted out the ass, so I’m not talking about any wackos here.

Maybe it’s because I’m part of the last generation to go to college without the internet, at least in its current overwhelmingly pervasive form, but something about this people-meeting process still strikes me as being a tad off. I have no real problem with it, but something in the back of my mind has me convinced that other people might, so I’ll put it to you people because I’d like to hear your thoughts. I’ll “publish” the best responses later in the week.

Stigma or no?