Technology is dated the moment it comes out. By the time it’s been mass produced, packaged and shipped it’s been outdated by newer and better technology. It’s just kind of how the digital age works. Things appear from nowhere and disappear just as fast. For those that enjoyed the item while it was there, it will hold a special place in their heart that can never be outdone, no matter how well the thing that replaced it performs. For me the item from the digital age that deeply affected my life was AIM.
Now, I never actually used just AOL instant messenger. I had the full aol shebang all because of the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” Like a lot of preteens I was chasing that silver screen fantasy of finding someone special. Funny now that I think of it, that it did in fact do just that. Just not right away.
Being a fat, pale, shut-in with no friends the internet opened up a whole new world for me. I got to meet people from all over the world and talk with them. The conversations were vacuous and silly but it was a way to connect when I felt so alone.
AIM gave me that opportunity.
I still have one friend from that time, Heather. She was my “shopgirl” before I realized I really just wanted a “shopboy.” Well, I knew I wanted boys I just hadn’t accepted it because of my religious background. AIM let me “have a girlfriend” without having to actually touch or kiss another girl. It was all about words and creating an illusion. Honestly I did love her. She was sweet and I enjoyed talking to her. She lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
When my husband and I went back to New York last years, I had wanted to meet with her (since she has moved) but it wasn’t possible. One day I hope to see her face to face and give her a friendly hug.
My real “shopboy” (btw this is a reference from “You’ve Got Mail” you must get to understand) came in the form of a dude named chuck77393. That was my husband’s old AIM name. And the first thing he ever said to me was “yeah, Diego and I are still together.” I of course being the troublesome 17 year old I was continued on the conversation like I knew who he was and what he was talking about. I added his sign name to my “buddy list” and proceed to message him until he and Diego called it quits. That was 14 years ago. Crazy.
Though AIM also offered some not so good or nice things. It helped facilitate the meeting for my first sexual encounter.
I was 14 years old when I messaged Trucker93313. I’m not positive, but almost certain this man was in his forties. He and I arranged through IM that I would meet him at the end of my street and he would take me back to his place, which turned out to be the sleeper of his semitruck parked in a Rite-Aid parking lot. Gross.
I justified it at the time because I wanted to know whether or not I was really gay. I had been looking at pornographic websites and feeling so much shame. (Never once did I check out women by the way.) I needed and answer and this strange man agreed to meet with me. I lied and said I was 16, like that is somehow better than 14 when the dude is sitting near a half a century, but whatever. The logic of a pubescent brain.
I walked away from that event feeling disgusted and certain I was DEFINITELY not gay. As it turned out I am most certainly a homosexual it was just this dude that was disgusting.
When I think about it, this man could have murdered me. I knew nothing about him at all and if he had my parents would have had no idea what happened to me when they woke in the morning to find that I was gone.
With the announcement of AOL ending AIM after 20 years, it has made me reflect on all the hours I spent at the computer, conversing with strangers. It really and truly changed my life and had a profound affect on it. It helped me realize and understand my sexual identity and it got me the man I would spend with for the rest of my life. I will forever be in its debt.