features love and relationships
Finding Romance and Love Online8/18/2010
In an article on Essence.com , their readers debated at the chances of black women in America find...
In an article on Essence.com, their readers debated at the chances of black women in America finding love online especially through internet dating agencies. The chances weren't good compared to other races, but the writer encouraged them to work it out saying, "We're smart, beautiful, fun-loving, resourceful women." I agree. I have written of my own experience of online romance below.
I walked into the large hall quietly. It was a party and there were several rooms. I had been watching the people in the front hall through the glass doors for a while before making up my mind to join them. Some people glanced my way when I called out a greeting. Two older women walked over and said hi; they were smiling and I quickly warmed up to them. Soon a few more, including a couple of men, wandered over and we sat together, laughing and talking. Most of the people in the hall were glad to see a young cheerful person join the party. Somehow, I was able to shed my shyness with this group more quickly than I usually did.
There were halls to discuss politics, one to attend literary events and another to participate in debates. There was even a lounge especially for women and a place to talk about relationships and their palavas. I began to make friends, calling out to people across the hall, putting at ease the ones who had just joined and just generally having a good time. Sometimes, while the party went on, I went to one corner with a few friends and we chatted about our lives and things outside of the group. At other times, I left the party with some friends and we continued the discussion elsewhere. I gave some my number or email and told them to call me anytime.
As the months rolled past, it became clear that the party was a lot different from my usual life; I could talk on any range of issues I wanted at any time with any number of people. It was such a relief not to have to pretend, to conform to prejudged notions of how to be a woman. My writing was appreciated and my intellect respected. I could kick back and talk fluff today, yet when I quoted Rand the next day, no one raised an eyebrow. I relaxed and let the real me begin to enjoy herself. I learnt so much from so many different people. A lot of the ladies became good friends and soon, I also began to attract some attention from the guys.
One day, about a year after I joined the group, I got a message from an acquaintance. We had chatted a few times before, spent time together with other people, but never anything personal. I thought he was joking with his, “Hello, I know you’re so hot, can I join the queue?” I sent my own reply tongue in cheek as well. “Well, the line is long but you can take a ticket.” My heart beat fast as I did this because the sender of this mail was someone I had admired for some time. But a few months before, I had sent him Christmas greetings and it turned out he had moved away. Now he sent another mail. “I understand, let me know when it is my turn.”
You may say, “What is this party? No party goes on for a year.” And you’d be right. I’m talking about an online message board. It took me two weeks after that first message to decide to give my witty admirer a chance but the rest as they say is history. I soon called him to the top of the line and we began to exchange personal information. Today he is my husband.
I’m not saying every online romance becomes lasting love because mine worked out for me. I also know of a lot that never matured. However, neither does meeting in real life guarantee a serious relationship or marriage. What I am saying is that online romance is a valid means, another ONE way through which you can meet someone, just like meeting them at work, in the club, at church, etc. Some argue that you cannot love someone you have not seen. I do not agree. We are more than our bodies. Our writings or how we talk about life can give a window into our mind and soul. These are also great for getting to know another human being.
The major advantage of online romance is the privacy, and safety it provides. You don’t need to expose everything about you immediately. Stuff like your telephone number, address, where you work and family details can and should be kept under wraps for a while. It is only when you trust the other person more that you can decide how open to be. Online romance gives you the control, you can decide when and how to reveal any type of information. You can also completely back off at any time, if you feel like something is going wrong or the other person is not who they say they are. Changing your email addresses, or blocking a chat buddy or access to your FB or twitter profile, is much easier than keeping someone out of your physical space.
That said; there are some things to be aware of with online romance. The advantage of privacy in meeting someone online first could become a double-edged sword. This is because it makes it easier to be dishonest online. The person you are chatting with could be 12 years old, or married, or 42 instead of 22, or a man instead of a woman and vice versa. It is so easy to develop a different persona online, be whoever you want, say whatever and become an overnight superstar. The anonymity and privacy of the internet thereby becomes a tool for deception. A waiter becomes a doctor, 5’1 becomes six feet and CUNY becomes Harvard or Yale. Remember that this cuts both ways. Are you being your real honest self while looking for love online?
So of the several avenues online to meet someone - chat-rooms, dating agencies, social networking and message boards/forums - I favor the last because it removes the greatest disadvantages of meeting online. On message boards there are several other people involved so you get to see a more rounded character of the person you admire just like in real life. If you have the time and you’re interested, you can actually go through the person’s previous posts in the archives to check for character and consistency. It is no more just what he or she is telling you at that point in time but also what they said to other people, some months ago, a year ago and so on. I tell you, this is better than a credit card background check.
The next important part of online romance is communication. What do you guys discuss? Don’t burn phone cards talking about Kim Kardashian or the World Cup. OK, you can do that too. But more important, give each other time to talk about your lives. Ask questions and be as honest as you can. I’m not saying you should interview each other, but a relationship requires true and deep communication. You can talk about your dreams, your achievements and goals, talk about your families, people you admire in your life, your most prized possessions, your strengths and weaknesses, and maybe most importantly, talk about the kind of relationship both of you are looking for. This last will determine what direction your romance goes.
Finally, it boils down to the nitty-gritty. After starting a romance online, there is the temptation to just let it roll along on sweet talk via the phone, chat or email. You cannot live life online and in the same way, any romance that starts and remains solely online for say, one year, is a bit suspicious. The next thing a couple that met online should discuss when they realize that the admiration is mutual is how to meet up. Some say love is spiritual, that is true, but it is also physical. People in an online romance must find ways to balance both sides of the attraction. Apart from the physicality of attraction, meeting face to face also helps determine honesty. Is that really him? Is he really interested in me enough to make the effort?
Once you have met for the first time, you are no different from the next couple who first met in real life. Keep your head up and enjoy your love. I am proud to look at my sweetie and say, thank God for the internet!
Myne Whitman is the pen name of Nigerian blogger, poet and author of A Heart to Mend. She is quiet and laid-back but does like a good loud debate sometimes. Three words for Myne, friendly, caring and fun-loving. She has been a teacher, NGO consultant, banker, skate-hire attendant, researcher and government worker. After a postgrad degree and a few years in Edinburgh, she now lives in Seattle with her husband.