It feels like you can’t walk past a bench or television without seeing something about online dating and how accepted and common it has become. Everyone’s meeting their soul mate and spouse through email, pokes and “winks,” but there’s one online relationship that still isn’t entirely normal. My name is Gwen Baer and I met my completely platonic soul sister on the internet.
Not only that, but last weekend she flew from Austin, Texas to meet me in person. And yes, we’re both still alive.
Kylie and I “met” on Tumblr, a popular blogging site, about two and a half years ago. She found me through a Sex and the City quote about friendship and being pale. It wasn’t until a month after we began talking that I asked if she lived in my building that we realized that we didn’t know each other in real life. She attends Texas State at San Marcos, and I Auburn.
We eventually, drunkenly, decided to exchange phone numbers and became each other’s confidant. She’s an English secondary education major and I’m in the Public Relations program. Our friendship is entirely based on being nerdy, tea drinking dog lovers.
Last semester, Kylie asked if she could visit before she graduated in Fall 2013. It wasn’t until syllabus week this semester that we sat down, 15 hours apart and iMessaged possible dates. Neither of us had anything due the first week of April, it was meant to be.
Telling my parents that a girl I had never met was flying across four states to spend the weekend with me will forever be in the top five most awkward conversations of my life.
No, I’m not a lesbian. No, she’s not a lesbian. No, we’re not in love. No, I don’t know 100% that she is who she says she is, but it’s impossible to fake pictures on Snapchat, and we do that almost every day. Yes I’m picking her up in a public place so if she turns out to be a 50-year-old man who wants to sell my kidneys on the black market and steal my car and dog, I can choose to not take her home from the airport. Yes, I’m positive, neither of us are lesbians. No, I’m totally okay with you not telling Grandma about this. Yes, I still have friends and a social life outside of the internet.
Kylie and I really did take every possible precaution before meeting each other. We sent each other’s parents our contact information, our parents’ contact information and pictures of our driver’s licenses and student IDs. Although to be completely honest, we both agreed serial killers didn’t spend two and a half years getting to know someone online before meeting and then killing them.
Picking her up at the airport was the most exhilarating moment of my life. I’ve picked up boyfriends, brothers and parents from the Atlanta airport, but I had never been that excited and nervous about meeting anyone but my dog. I asked a total stranger to hold my phone and record us meeting, knowing that the woman would probably just steal my iPhone and I wouldn’t have any way to call for help when Kylie turned out to be Ted Bundy and sold my liver.
I don’t even remember seeing her for the first time. I just remember running to a little speeding ball of curly blond hair in a pink shirt, knocking over luggage as we squealed, hugged, bounced and cried just a little bit. Walking back to the woman with my phone, we noticed that half of the crowd was staring at us. A few older people joked that we must have been strangers, and I responded, honestly, that I had never met this girl before in my life.
The only weird thing about meeting my “internet best friend” was that it wasn’t weird at all. We didn’t have to speak or even look at each other to communicate. It felt less like I was spending a weekend with a stranger, and more like I was spending a typical weekend with my best friend. There was a moment, sitting on the couch watching HGTV, planning a trip to the Fitzgerald Museum and discussing homemade alfredo when we looked at each other and realized that we didn’t spend every day doing this, that this wasn’t normal.
I cried when I left her at the airport on Sunday. I’m flying to Texas for her graduation in December, and she’s returning to Auburn for mine next May. While we both agree that this trip didn’t have any impact on our sexuality, we will most likely visit each other every six months in the future. We’re more like Julia Child and Avis Devoto than most 21-year-old girls, but the internet just gave our friendship a modern twist on the classic pen pal story.
You can read more from Gwen Baer on her blog.
And you can watch the video of them meeting for the first time here.