Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

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next week's column: Internet Nerds in Love: A Valentine Story

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


2007 was … an interesting year. Yeah, that’s one way to put it. I could fill an entire column with a list of things that went horribly wrong – I could fill a column just with things that went wrong with my car, let alone everything else. (But I’m not going to say 2008 couldn’t be worse, because that would be like saying the Federal deficit couldn’t get any bigger.) I put enough money into my car to buy a horse with, and it’s still in the air whether I’d have been better off investing in a pony and a scoop shovel.

The one good thing that happened to me was that I landed a girlfriend. You may collectively gasp now. Yes, I found a woman who has come to know me very well, and yet who has not given me the “just friends” speech. No, she’s not blind, nor has she received a recent head injury -- why do you ask?

After all these years I’ve come to realize that staying in your hometown has the drawback that everyone knew you as a punk kid, and also remembers every foolish thing you ever did. The trick is to find women who’ve never heard of the younger, more foolish, nerd me. Then all they have to deal with is the older, a little less foolish, nerd me.

Showing only the good side of my life worked so well that Emily wanted to come visit. For instance, I described Indiana in glowing terms of wondrous beauty. In other words, I described Indiana after winter, but before heat wave. That’s about a month’s worth.

I met her through a writer’s group on the internet, and we spent much time talking about writing before proceeding on to other things, such as the fact that I’m a male, and she’s a female. Part of the problem is that my internet name is Ozma, which is a fictional girl’s name.

Long story.

I wanted to stress how we met as writers, because for some reason finding a woman on the internet seems a bit less … questionable, when the meeting doesn’t take place on a web site with the words “cupid” or “match” in the title. There was no internet entry saying “Hi, I’m Mark: I’m 6’3, 190 pounds of muscle. I’m a 25 year old chief executive of a music company who enjoys romantic comedies, long walks on the beach, and taking it slow.” Nor was there an enclosed picture of some over muscled beach boy stolen from the self-same internet.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve signed up on those dating sites before. However, I never did see the point of portraying yourself dishonestly on places like that. Suppose you do hit it off, and eventually your dream girl wants to meet you? What do you say when she finds out your weight, hair color, height, face, and entire personality are the opposite of what you said? “Um … I’ve been sick.”

My profile says: “I’m a rural Midwestern nerd raised on Star Trek and comic books, working an underpaid civil servant job while I’ve spent the last 30 years failing to get a toehold in my dream job. I’m perpetually broke, my car’s falling apart, and I have two more or less adult children, which makes me old, poor, broken down and dull. I’m kind of plain looking, with thinning, limp hair, a big nose, glasses, and too much chocolate around the waist. Take a chance on me.”

I never did get a lot of hits. Don’t know why.

Anyway, Emily never saw that – she first knew me as a fanfiction writer, someone who wrote a few tales about Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters (instead of inventing my own stories, like I’m supposed to be doing). I know what you’re thinking, but let me point out that I was failing as a fiction writer decades before I got involved in fanfiction.

So she already knew I was a nerd and a writer – and dull, because most writers are dull no matter how exciting their stories are. Yet she accepted me anyway. As a result, I literally had her head examined, but the CAT scans came out normal.

When you meet someone, and communicate for half a year before moving on to romantic interests, it can make for odd connections; for instance, she’s substantially younger than I am, something that just doesn’t seem to matter if the emotional connection comes before the physical attraction. There’s also a maturity difference: she’s a bit more mature than I am. Okay, a lot. And a lot smarter, although her taste in men is questionable.

Now, the car thing and the girlfriend thing are connected, because she lived in Missouri, not far from the famous New Madrid fault line. I drove down to see her in October and, much to my surprise, there was no earthquake. I was surprised; it’s been that kind of a year.

On that trip I took my daughter’s car, but when I went down again in December I brought my own car. Actually, it brought me. But just barely. The details were covered in another column, because there are a lot of details.

Anyway, I drove 9 ½ hours in a clunker of a car, then came back the very next day, cruising around Indianapolis in a snow squall. Almost 20 hours of driving in a two day period.

I’m crazy, or I’m in love.

It’s hard to tell the difference, of course; both lead to odd behavior, elevated vital signs, altered mental status, and general silliness. Either of those conditions could lead a guy to drop what he’s doing, clear his schedule, and drive across three states in the dead of winter in a car that was built during the first Clinton administration. So … was it worth it?

Well, I brought her back with me. What does that tell you?
Tags: column, emily, new era, slightly off the mark
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