Secret Internet Friends
When Patrick and I got married (almost 18 years ago), the internet bore little resemblance to what it is now. "Social media" wasn't really a thing (except the beta version in Harvard dorm rooms), and The Knot and wedding websites were a fairly new idea. And then I stumbled upon "IndieBride," an online chat board full of people looking for less traditional weddings of all kinds (Don't look "IndieBride" up, it's now owned by the Huffington Past and is totally different.)
It was a true old school chat forum, where people had handles (mine was "snugglewombat") instead of their real names, and participated in threads on things. Mostly text, sometimes you could suss a way to embed photos. People naturally fell into cohorts based on when they were getting married, but there were some overarching themes as well, like gay weddings and second wedding and the like.
After we got married, most of us switched away from invitations and receptions and bridesmaids apparel over to "AltDotLife," a similar forum with more wide-ranging topics (jobs, homes, hobbies, etc.). Lots of talk about new marriages (and eventually divorces), and lots and lots of talk about kids. I swear to god most of the pregnancy and early parenting decisions experiences I had were shared with hundreds of women in similar situations all over the country/world. If I say things like babylegs or glitter clam to you it likely means nothing, but to this several hundred women, it's shared knowledge that has them laughing, hard.
Though the majority of these relationships were virtual, I had a great group of people to meet IRL when I went places. I have gone out to eat with, or even stayed with, many an "Altie" over the years. And of course, there were natural IRL get-togethers of folks that lived in the same area.
The Twin Cities Alties were known for being especially close (so much so that, as one snide poster put it, "Oh, the TC Alties *think* they are so close but what happens when one of them starts sleeping with another's husband?" Dear reader: we're still waiting for the husband swap.) For years we were a constant presence in each others' lives, getting together several times a month for brunches or cocktails or barbecues or sewing nights or what have you. We held judged competitions of local pizza places and ice cream shops. I think we single-handedly supported several businesses at the time (I'm looking at you, Town Talk Diner). We created meal trains before Meal Trains existed and always pitched in to help each other out. We got had parties and celebrated together. We were some of the first people to hold each others babies, and to dance at weddings. We networked with job opportunities. We celebrated milestones.
Over the years, as our families have grown, we don't see each other very much. Our time has become less our own. We've moved, and divorced, and come out, and our kids have grown. We've gotten new jobs (or even careers). We've grieved together when one of the circle died. And we've to some extent fallen out of touch.
We're a group of badass women doing incredible things at this point of our lives. And for those of us with kids, how could they possibly be teens?
For me at least, these women remain some of my closest friends, the people who know me best. This month alone I have been able to cheer on people online, but also to have coffee with S ("Zira"), and to hug G ("Gerkat") today after her mother's funeral. And every single damn day I miss L ("Petey") like a hole in my heart.
Maybe you *can't* create authentic relationships with people online. But when you bring them into your real life, they will be some of the closest allies you'll ever have.
Brunch soon, folks?