A few weeks ago, a reader (hi, Pat!) emailed and asked if I was going to put up the entire story of how Fred and I met, like I'd promised in my bio. I told her maybe I'd put it up as an entry on January 1st, then promptly forgot about it (oops!). When she emailed again Tuesday, I figured I'd better get my ass in gear.

The following account of our meeting and "courtship" was originally written about 3 1/2 years ago, when someone Fred met online asked me to email the whole story to her.

It's unbearably cheesy and gooey and full of young-love type crap, and for that I apologize. It wasn't until about a year later that I began the transition to the sarcastic bitchypoo y'all know and love today.

If "I love him! I love him! And where he goes I'll follow! I'll follow! I will follow hiiiiiiim..." type gush makes you nauseous, you have my full permission to skip today's entry.

So here it is...

how we met

In February of 1996, I got my very first computer. It was a piece of crap, but it served it's purpose. I'd never been online in any way, shape, or form, and I was DYING to try out the chat rooms I'd heard about. A few weeks after I got the computer (a dying 286, by the way), I managed to get signed onto a bbs provider, and shortly thereafter bumbled my way on to IRC's Undernet.

I'd been on IRC for three or four weeks, at about four to five hours a day, when I happened to wander into the channel !Fredsplace. The topic ("Bored? Lonely? Come on in and chat awhile. No pervs, please.") attracted me, as I'd run into WAY too many perverts in my short time on IRC. In #!Fredsplace, I ran across Fredster, who'd often announce to the channel as a whole that he was single and looking for a flirt volunteer. About the hundredth time Fred announced his search, I suggested that I might be interested in becoming his co-flirt.

We flirted in the channel for a while, before everyone else present became nauseated and suggested we "take it private". When we did take it to a private channel, I found out a secret… Fred was a perfect gentleman. As we talked, we discovered that we had a lot in common: the books we read, the kind of music we listened to, the same kind of sense of humor. When it was time for Fred to leave, since he had to get up early the next day for work, he asked if I'd meet him on IRC the next day at lunch. And I did. In fact, from the first day we met, I met Fred on IRC every single day.

After several days of talking on IRC, Fred began dropping realllllllly broad hints, suggesting that he might want to call me. Being the spaz I am, I put him off. Then one day, in a sneaky and underhanded move, Fred gave me his number and told me there was no pressure, but when I felt comfortable, I could call and listen to his voice. He coyly informed me that as he had to get a haircut, he wouldn't be home 'til late that day…

Well, honestly. Who was I to resist? Of course I called, and of course I liked his voice. And I even left a message, saying "You KNEW I wouldn't be able to resist." That night, I gave him my phone number and told him he could maybe call and leave a message on my voicemail. He did, and I REALLY liked the sound of his voice. So that night, almost two weeks after we'd met on IRC, I let him call me for real. As I waited for the phone to ring, my heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty. But as soon as I picked up the phone and heard his voice, I was perfectly calm… And I knew I was in love.

So was he, but naturally we danced around the "l" word for a few more days before we actually said it. The first time we said it (I said it first, thank you very much) was on IRC. Then I called him, and he said it first in person.

Well, we were in love. However, there was an obstacle or two that prevented us from really getting together in person. The first was the fact that I lived in Rhode Island, and he lived in Alabama. A distance of 1200 or so miles. The second was that I was still legally married. My husband (soon to be ex) was in the Navy, and before his ship left right after Christmas, I'd told him I wanted a divorce. We'd agreed that when he got back to Rhode Island, we'd file for divorce. He was scheduled to get back around the middle of June. So not only was I still legally married, but I hadn't even filed for divorce yet.

And the third obstacle was that I wasn't quite ready to meet Fred. I hadn't planned on falling in love, and the fact that I was so crazy about him scared me to death. Topping that, I'd recently read an article in Playboy suggesting that if you were going to meet someone in person that you'd originally met online, you should have known them online for at least four months before meeting in person. Fred suggested meeting on Memorial Day (the end of May); I put him off. He suggested the weekend of July 4th; I put him off again. We finally settled on Labor Day weekend (September), which was a nice, safe SIX MONTHS away.

As time passed, we fell more and more in love. Fred "unofficially" proposed to me. I "unofficially" accepted (yes, I'm aware of how incredibly dorky it all sounds). He managed to resist begging me to let him come to Rhode Island. Mondays were terrible for us; one or both of us invariably had serious cases of the blues, exacerbated by the fact that September was so far away. Finally, unable to deal with having to wait so long, I told Fred I wanted him to come to Rhode Island for the July 4th weekend. That made both of us happier for a while. Then the blues started hitting even worse. All either of us wanted was to be together. Fred was sending cards every day, with long, love-filled letters. He sent flowers, poems... he was so smart and funny that all I wanted was to finally be with him. At the beginning of May, I told him that I wanted to meet for Memorial Day weekend, which was a mere three weeks away. He was thrilled, and so was I.

On May 10th, we broke up for about 18 hours. We got back together. As time drew closer to the fated weekend, I got more and more nervous. He kept saying "What if we hate each other?" I didn't even consider the possibility, insisting that I had no doubt we'd "click."

On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I drove 8 hours, he drove 12, and we met in Pennsylvania. We spent 2 1/2 days together, getting to know each other.

Suffice it to say, we clicked. When we said goodbye Monday morning, I had to force myself not to cry, knowing that we weren't going to see each other for another month and a half. I drove home, crying for the first hour or so.

Of course we didn't wait a month and a half. Two weeks later we met in Virginia, which was almost exactly halfway. We spent 1 1/2 days together, and then parted again. Fred flew to Rhode Island for the 4th of July weekend; I flew to Alabama for a long weekend.

The original plan was this: I was going to file for divorce, and when the divorce was final, my daughter (who was 7 1/2 at the time) and I would move to Huntsville, and Fred and I would date and... whatever. That didn't happen. Instead, shortly after he flew back home after the 4th of July weekend, Fred hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed, then finally asked me to move to Huntsville as soon as I could, and move in with him.

I said yes.

On August 12, 1996, my daughter and I left Rhode Island and made the two-day trip to Alabama. And we moved in with Fred. I filed for divorce about a month before we left, and had to fly back to RI in October to go to court.

My parents had no idea whatsoever of Fred's existence until sometime in November, when my daughter let it slip that "Fred made pancakes for breakfast. Fred. Our roommate.", and she didn't know for about a year that Fred and I were anything more than roommates (we had separate rooms, you see).

I'm sure Fred had no idea how much his life was going to change; and it HAS changed. The reality of living with someone is nothing you can ever be totally prepared for. Quite often, I have to stop and tell myself that I am actually here, that it's not just a dream.

But I'm happy. If I make him a tenth as happy as he makes me... Well, that's pretty damn happy.

Yes, I know. Cheesy, innit? Don't say I didn't warn you. If you need to go down some hard liquor to get the goo out of your mind, I completely understand.