I.M., I Said
It's been a while ... but I
think I still remember how to do this.
- Lock the doors.
- Dim the lights.
- Turn off the TV.
- Pop a little Alice or Alanis or
"Shellpile Beat" into the CD player.
- Sit down in front of the
computer ... preferably wearing something comfortable, preferably
drinking something over ice.
- Check to make sure The Husband
is safely preoccupied in the next room. (Better yet: safely asleep.)
- Sign onto AOL, using the latest
top-secret/created-just-this-week/known-only-to-*him* stealth name.
- Make sure you're invisible to everyone on your Buddy List except for *him.*
- Make sure your computer
speakers are turned off. (You don't want other members of the household
to hear the twinkly little i.m. music and come running to see what's
- Immediately check your Buddy
List. Is he offline? Is he online? Is he Online but not in a
chat area? If he is Online but not in a chat area,
does that mean he's talking to somebody else? (And if he's talking to
somebody else, is the 'somebody else' female? Is she more
interesting than me? Does she type faster? Do I have to kick her ass?)
- Take a couple of minutes to
craft the perfect opening line: something not too sappy, not too
obvious, not too overtly needy.
- Delete sappy obvious
overtly-needy opening line: take another several minutes to craft NEW
- Double-check spelling.
- Triple-check spelling.
- Quadruple-check spelling.
- Close eyes ... hold breath ...
- ... and hit *Send.*
And then -- the inevitable
endless interval of uncertainty, as you wait for a reply that may or
may not come.
God. I'd forgotten how
nerve-wracking instant messaging can be.
I.M.s -- along with
chat rooms, e-mail strings, flaming extramarital affairs with men three
time zones away -- is one of those basic cyber skills I used to be
really, really good at, a previous lifetime or two ago, but which has
become a sort of lost art for me in recent years. Back in the glory
days of the Baby Boomer Chat Room, SecraTerri used to juggle i.m.
conversations like dinner plates: sometimes as many as three or four or
eleven vaguely smutty conversations going on, all at once. What was truly
amazing is that a lot of the time she was
squinty-eyed/wobbly-kneed/falling-off-the-computer-chair drunk while
all of this was going on ... and yet she almost never dangled a
participle or dropped a connection. Not on purpose, anyway.
still has the eight-year-old Session Logs to prove it, if anybody is
These days, however, I
assiduously avoid i.m. conversations, pretty much the same way I
avoid Monday morning chit-chat and grocery store peanut butter debates.
I'm rarely signed onto AOL anymore, which helps. (I'm still paying
$4.95 a month to maintain an AOL account I've had since August of 1995
-- an account which I still harbor ridiculously sentimental feelings
towards, mainly because it's where I met my husband and a lot of my
core *FootNotes* audience and some of my very best friends on the
planet -- but which I basically never ever USE
anymore.) Apart from the AOL account, I've got AIM and Yahoo Instant
Messenger and ICQ and all of the other groovy big-name i.m. programs
loaded onto the home computer, but I never bother firing them up. I
think it just got to be too much work, after a while. It has generally
been my experience, now that I'm sober, that an instant message
exchange requires large amounts of actual thought and concentration and
That can be pretty darn
intrusive when all you're trying to do is order a pair of bike socks.
Still, I'll admit that I
occasionally do still find myself in need of a little instant cyber
gratification ... and this is one of those rare occasions. I haven't
talked to him in five days, after all, and I'm hungry for him tonight.
I'm hungry for his voice, and I'm hungry for his brain, and I'm hungry
for a big steaming dollop of his undivided attention. In the past week
I've sent him a couple of e-mails (unanswered), left him a voicemail
message (unanswered), text-messaged a *hello* to his pager (unanswered). Short of smoke signals or skywriting or taking out a
front page ad in his hometown newspaper, I don't know how else to get
him to notice me. All I really want tonight is to know that he's OK,
and to reaffirm our love for each other, and to tell him how much I'm
looking forward to our rendezvous next month ...
... and to remind him that
I've got a handful of nude photos that could go onto the website just
like THAT if he continues to ignore me.
As a matter
of fact, that's my opening line. "Answer me RIGHT NOW,"
it says, "or the whole world will be looking at your naked
butt before morning."
The answer twinkles back at me
with astonishing speed.
reads the return instant message from FargenSmooth. "Hows it