I'm 34, and while it may seem unbelievable that I've been dating online since I was 14, it doesn't make it any less true. I was 14, and had just exploring the rather new world of the internet. These were the days when you were billed per minute of use, so my Mother had a money box next to the PC where I had to put 60p in for every hour I used. It dialled up through your phone line, and this led to many stressful arguments about the phone never being free. Eventually I was made to get my own phone line, which I had to use my Saturday job earnings to pay for.
Anyhow, I loved the internet more than any one I knew. I spent hours every day in chat rooms and forums, expanding my social circles outside of those in my school. I explored flirting and had many late phone calls with strangers. Such a different world back then!
I thought I'd share some of my more amusing internet dating ventures, from way back when, as a way to celebrate the 20th year I've used the internet to connect to new people.
1. I used to have a few penpals from chat rooms, from 14-16 years old. We'd often take it offline, and send real letters, and I met many of these people in real life too. Some even stayed at my home, but more of that later. There was one rather unusual 'friend' I had for quite a few months, who was definitely a grown man, perhaps late 20s or 30s. He was a milkman. He had a fetish for latex and bondage, and seemed to enjoy sending me pictures of the equipment he'd like. We never talked dirty, and he was struggling to look after an elderly parent I believe, but he definitely got off in some way to sharing catalogue images of fetish wear with me. I remember not being too fussed by it, and I still liked chatting to him. He was the only one I didn't give my home address to though, I gave him my family's business address instead. I look back at this 'relationship' in a different way now, but I really just felt sorry for him, and he listened to me. Blimey.
2. I've only had one boyfriend that wasn't from 'the internet', and I got my first proper kiss from the very first time I connected to the internet. I'd had to accompany my Dad to a house where he was working, and he showed me how to connect to a chat room for the first time. I got chatting to two men, Colin and Nik. They were both older than me, I think Colin was 19, and Nik perhaps 20. I was 14. The world was so innocent back then that my Dad said I should give them my home address so they could write to me. I met both of these men, which is why I remember my first internet experience so vividly.
Colin was my first boyfriend, and my first kiss. We met in a local park after being penpals for a short while. He snogged me, and I remember feeling such a mixture of relief at finally being kissed, and disgusted at how gross the whole thing was. Ha.
Nik felt like my first true teenage love, although maturity makes me know this wasn't true. But I was infatuated with him. We'd talk for hours, I even think he had a girlfriend, and we spoke as if we were siblings. He was a big part of my life for a long time, and when I finally met him it was pretty surreal. I'm not even sure I completely remember exactly how it happened. I'd gone to Wales to scatter my Father's ashes, and I returned home, aged 15, and knocked the front door. Nik opened it. He'd somehow ended up travelling to London to see me, on a day I wasn't there. My Mother had let him stay in my room, and he stayed the night. All a rather bizaare time. I never kissed Nik, but he helped me through a really tough time. However I look back with new lenses....I was 15, he was 20/21. So weird.
I wonder if they remember me....
Over the 20 years I've been meeting people online, offline, I've made friends, lovers and everything inbetween. I hope you'll head back to share in some more of my online memories!