Cyber-flirting and cyber-relationships are fun.

I define cyber-flirting as what is sounds like: two people chatting on line, emailing back and forth, looking at each other on webcams, maybe even speaking on the telephone, etc., on the internet and on the internet only, with romantic interests in the minds of both parties - without ever actually meeting in person. This is a very common practice nowadays and people do it all the time. The second term, a cyber-relationship, is also what it sounds like, a romantic relationship that exists between two people using only the above mentioned media, that goes on for an extended period of time and that may or may not have the goal of ever meeting in real life.

If you delve into either, what you are in store for is most of the fun and emotional fulfillment of an affair without all the horribly complicated real world bullshit that fucking, dating and hanging out entails. The drawbacks? You never get to know your romantic love interest as they really and truly are in real time flesh, blood and mind. But that's the best part - in a way. I'll go into detail on that later.

Read on:

If you go about this internet relationship with one or more persons for a very long period of your life (and it is your primary source of romantic fulfillment), then stunted social skills and a superiority complex will start to dominate your personality - an odd combination of traits. You are also likely to develop a sense of "animism" about your computer and ultimately a mutated case of "objectum-sexuality" about it and the ritual of experiencing your human lover "through" it's highly controllable, plastic medium.

The word "animism" comes from the Latin word for "breath" or "soul" and it refers to the belief that inanimate objects are sentient beings, i.e.; that they have intelligence, feelings, and are able to communicate.  "Objectum-sexuality" is the love of, and sexual attraction to, specific inanimate objects. It differs from fetishism in that it is usually an attraction to one specific object, i.e.; your car as opposed to just any car, and it deals more with romantic attraction and fulfillment rather that sexual arousal.

In other words: You may find that the line between your attraction to your lover's face and your computer monitor starting to blur.

I have a confession to make. In the last few years, I have been fulfilling most of my romantic companionship needs through my webcam, email, webpage and telephone.

I am convinced that my cyber relationships with people are a way to extend the wonderful feeling of having a crush on someone for as long as possible, while still going through the machinations of building a real relationship. This is achieved simply by experience a complex human persona through an un-complex (by comparison) machine. Sound childish? Who said "the heart wants what the heart wants"? Woody-whats's-name?

Yes folks, I firmly believe, based on my actual hands-on, real life experience in a fantasy, non-reality, denial ridden situation, that a sure and healthy way to e-x-t-e-n-d that wonderful limbo of having a crush on someone for a while longer before reality ever kicks in... is to have an long cyber relationship. That thrill of the hunt and the rush of the first flirt can last forever... even with the same person.

These romantic cyber relationships I've been experimenting with have been with real people (one person in particular) that I have never met or been around in real life. In the case of the biggest one, the one you could call my "cyber" boyfriend, he was someone that I was around in real life about 2% of the time that we spent together. And we spent a lot of time together, always through our respective webcams, email and telephone. We probably "dated" like this for a little over a year.

His name is Bryan, and I met him through his website a little over two years ago. Originally we kind of fell into each other's laps via our respective cam sites, and it turns out later that both of us had an eye on each other for a while leading up to the first contact - but never let the other one know. I was instantly smitten with Bryan when I first saw his well designed web site, sexy, digital images of his face, and wide-angle cam views of his spacious suburban home. Being the kind of person who goes after things in life... I eventually contacted him. Bryan lives in Texas. I live in New York - a 1,700 mile separation.

Cyber relationships are so great because everything about real life relationships that is so frustrating and awkward and sometimes disappointing is soooooooooo not a problem when you are communicating on line. Even when I am interacting with my cyber other, I get to edit and spell check everything I say. I get to talk on the phone with them ONLY when I want. Any life outside the other's cam view of me is a blank canvas that I can paint ANYTHING I want on, in a lot of ways. I get to look at a well-lit, photo-shoot like image of the person - that moves - and they get to do all these things with me. Since your respective computers and all of their features are the only way to experience each other, their characteristics mix with your significant other's and that combination in turn becomes that other person. It's a romantic affair with a remote, rewind, fast forward, mute, record and pause button. It's a bond with a real person that comes with horizontal and vertical control - and, most importantly, an on and off switch.

If I could count the amount of "real looking" frozen shots of me that I broadcast on my website during the year I was seeing Bryan I'd need Deep Blue. Thousands of people look at my webcam every day... but often I knew Bryan was watching me so it was like I "had" to look my best. And this was easy... anyone can do it. There was shot after shot of me on my cam, probably shirtless... perfectly groomed, perfectly lit (oh you have NO idea), preened and buffed or perfectly disheveled - while I acted all unaware of the camera. My cam galleries contain loads of captures of me adjusting my pants, reaching across the table, grabbing for a pencil or taking my shirt off with my back to the camera, looking oh-so casual and unaware. Meanwhile in-between each shot I was checked my image obsessively in the cam viewer before the remote snapped a picture every 60 seconds and broadcast it to the world (of which Bryan was the only one I was often aware of). Although the shots looked like I was in motion, I was actually POSING like that, frozen... checking how I looked at each and every angle in that precious 60 seconds I had before the cam snapped again (sometimes averting my eyes away from the direction of the monitor just in time). Oh I became a pro. And all this obsessive superficiality was for Bryan, so he could get to know the "real" me. I know for a fact that Bryan didn't do this on his cam, at least he claims not to have... but he edited himself in other areas - of that I'm sure. And all this manipulation was just on our end, we could also control how we perceived one another.

See something, an angle of Bryan's face I didn't particularly like on his cam? I would ignore it like any human with a subconscious can. It got tucked away in my "denial" file. It was a folder on my desktop. And I'm sure he did the same for me. It was so easy when the medium we were experiencing each other through was so edit-able. It was like having a master control center inside the part of your brain that experiences your loved one. It made the "easy" parts of liking one another last as the hard parts ended up on the cutting room floor before you even had to experience them. This is something you could never do in real life. Bryan's face was literally the hundreds of pictures of him I had collected and stored in files in my hard drive. Just pull up a million pictures of him I loved reassure myself that this was the real him (and for the most part it was). I can see so many sides of him at once on my 2-d computer screen... it's so conveniently profound. It's rich and fulfilling in a way a real life interaction could never be. It's like putting on your best face for your significant other 24/7.

Bryan and I flirted like this for probably a month before we actually decided to have a "real date". How real? Here are two still pictures from our first official date:

Our first "date" - 1,700 miles apart

I set up my cam in front of a candle lit dinner table in New York with take-out chinese food, lit oh-so right to make myself look as sexy as possible. He set his up in front of a candle lit dinner on his table in his kitchen in Texas. Talk about control issues. And the show before the dates? Well we are both total hams. We both had audiences to "entertain" while we had this intimate moment together. Who exactly were we both falling in love with here? We both spent a long time getting ready on our respective cams for each other and anyone else watching. He painted his toenails and did a mud mask, I had a gargantuan zit that I had a friend burn off with a blow torch in those last jittery minutes before show time... I mean the date:

Nerves before our first date

The dinner was romantic. We chatted in a chat room (and let viewers of our cams look on and join in on their own chat room - the mad rush for ratings whipping us both into a frenzy, making us love them, each other AND ourselves even MORE!). I probably monitored my own image as much as, if not more than, I looked at Bryan's cam image. I gazed longingly into my screen, and what I saw looking back at me made me melt with desire. Bryan made me pretty hot too.

After dinner we retired to each other's living rooms (with cams in tow) and played a romantic game of truth or dare. We ended the date by abandoning everyone in the chat room and talking on the telephone for the first time. I got to finally hear the voice of the man I had lusted after so long.

His voice sounded a little higher than I thought it would. I'm sure mine sounded different to him too. This was the first itty bitty crack in each other's fantasy perceptions of one another. Oh but that was just one itty bitty crack on an entire ICEBERG of non-stop non reality. Well, maybe not NON reality. OK it was an iceberg of half reality! Yes... that's the ticket.

We got over the your-voice-didn't-sound-likeI-pictured-it-in-my-head thing in about three seconds and we talked on the phone about every other night after that, we emailed each other constantly. We watched each other sleep on cam - I would turn my monitor to face my bed, he would spoon his laptop. I love sleeping with a video image of someone... it's so perfect, so controllable. It doesn't move, snore, smell or shake the bed, but it's there for you and you only, and it knows you are there for it - from 1,700 miles away - so there is a psychic bond of need fulfilled, a need to be wanted, to be loved, existing in both of you without the annoying physical side effects. I slept like a baby every night.

Was I just referring to Bryan's image on my computer as "it"? Oops... I meant "him".

It... I mean, he... HE was there for me when I needed him... right inside my computer, I was there for him... right inside his computer. He told me I was beautiful, I told him he was too. He told me I was special, I told him he was too. Any trait about him that I didn't like could easily block out because his cyber-only presence in my life was so disposable. Whenever I wanted to wallow in my burgeoning lust and love for Bryan, I simply hit the start up button on my Macintosh in the corner of my bedroom. When I had my fill... I put my computer to sleep.

The internet is a very interesting communication machine. It provides so many things. It's quick-speed, rich spectrum of media enriches people's lives in ways that seem infinite. With quicker, easier access to long-distance friends and relatives around the globe, and more rich and vibrant ways of experiencing them through this new medium, thanks to the internet humans are now able to have more involved relations with people that may live on the other side of the planet, in ways that were unthinkable 20 years ago.

But because this new medium's capabilities are so convenient and also so vast, and so connected to buttons, switches, spell checkers, cameras and even digital photo, audio and video editing capabilities - that means that it's powers to enhance, edit and most of all control are obtainable to anyone. The reality that people experience each other through on the internet is one that's powers of simulation are now more than ever under people's thumb . In other words: it's easy to be someone you think is perfect on the web, even to vast audiences. And it's also easy to distort how you see someone through it. This phenomenon and the power it produces for the individual who is not, almost-is or wants-to-be is very alluring and powerful. The attraction is powerful for people who want to be perfect... and it's just as powerful for the people out there online that are desperate to meet "perfect" people. And everybody wants to meet perfect people. Everybody does. This simulated/enhanced experience can range from the totally false or the simply exaggerated. And big or small, whether people are making up an amazing but entirely false identity or just erasing zits on a forehead with Photoshop, it is indeed a simulation of what people want to be real about themselves, and does not exist in reality in that moment. Peering back and forth at one another online is like gazing through a vast, multi-layered kaleidoscope of perception and projection. It's a wild hall of mirrors with the way people want to see things bouncing off of the way they want to see others and the way people want to be seen and the way they project their ways they want to be seen on those that want to be seen in a certain way and vice versa times 1,000,000,000,000. Got all that? This confusion can begin to creep into people's real lives and replace real perception and experience with a half-simulated, half-idealized reality - which can be hard to resist. It's like fast food for the ego. After all, it's so quick and convenient, so yummy and accessible. Mmmmmm... fantasy reality. More please.

The neutered social arena of cyberspace offers something indeed, but on the way to that "something" it offers lots of high speed elevators that can pass floors of social experience that usually took lifetimes to climb, and bridges across murky waters of difficult social learning that effect computer-using humans in ways we don't probably understand totally yet. Maybe it's for the evolutionary better, who knows.

I once read a story in the newspaper about a woman arrested in some midwest state for neglecting her four young children to the point of near starvation. Neighbors had tipped off the police and Child Welfare Department as to the unsanitary conditions of the woman's residence and unkempt, skeletal children wandering around the home's yard. When the police paid the woman a visit, they found the entire house like a garbage dump, and the four kids were basically wandering around the filth, having to fulfill their most basic needs as best they could on their own. The condition of the house was "unspeakable" according to the story, in total neglect and disarray - except for one room near the back of the house. It was the woman's "office". In this room the police found a nice desk with a large computer connected to high speed internet access, neatly stacked and organized rows of computer discs and computer magazines, a webcam, a refrigerator stocked with food, and expensive office chair with a special arm holding device for keyboard and mouse operation. The room looked like no other in the home and had brand new drywall and wall to wall carpeting. The room's condition was pristine, as was the computer itself - both were kept in tip top, showroom condition. The woman cleaned the computer with solvents and glass cleaner and little vacuums daily, preening it's keys, polishing it's hard drive tower, massaging it's shell. I bet she would have fed it gourmet meals too if she could have. Apparently the woman almost never tended to the children's needs and absolutely never spent any quality time with them. The woman was spending all that time... where? That's right... in that perfectly clean room on that perfectly pristine computer in chat rooms, on message boards, with her webcam, doing everything and anything online. Her entire life was online from the moment she woke up until she went to bed too late. She almost seemed unaware of her children's existence when questioned by police. According to the computer's log, she spent all day every day in chat rooms and on message boards, etc. In the hard drive the investigators found an entire library of photos, facts and descriptions of different "personas" that the woman pretended to be while interacting with all kinds of people all over the globe, some of them not even female. The poor woman' had checked out of the reality right outside the door to her computer room. She was living a million different fantasy lives 24/7 inside a digital diorama while her kids banged on the door asking her to wipe their bottoms. Horrible... right? Terrible... uh-huh. But admit it... you feel at least an itty little bit of sympathy for this woman right? Can something deep inside you admit that you identify with some component of this woman's extreme way of dealing with life? This woman had truly checked out of the real world. She had been swallowed up by cyber space and had divided herself into a million different false personalities, and each one of those fake personas made her feel like a fucking GOD.

Now this story really made me sit up and take notice for several reasons. I've had a major cyber relationship with someone for almost a year, and many smaller ones during that time. This woman's plight struck a real "wow I wonder if that could happen..." cord with me. Now I haven't checked out of reality. I still have a life, I run my own business, I have a pretty nice apartment, I pay my bills on time (for the most part), I have a handful of good friends, I seem to have a normal enough life. But so much of my romantic life has been lived online in these last few years, maybe too much. This woman's situation seemed to me like a far-off Hell that I might one day find myself in if I didn't change my ways slightly. Was my cyber relationship with Bryan tapping into my ego and feeding it in empty calorie ways that would have bad side effects down the line? For both of us? Is Bryan the devil? Or - am I just being too apprehensive about my cyber romantic doodlings? Letting society's opinion of what's "healthy" get the best of me? Is a romantic life that exists primary on line actually a good thing? A better thing? It kind of scared me and it made me want to explore and try and uncover how much of my cyber relationships were rooted in the un-real and if that un-reality was potent enough to lure me out the real world and into god-knows-where... maybe that woman's pristine computer room. Is my love life that woman's pristine computer room and my reality that woman's feces covered children in the news story above? Or, if through my cyber relationships, have I built a better mouse trap to supply my basic human need for love and companionship. Something "new"?

Is the human need for romance, companionship and sexual gratification an opiate? Yep, you bet it is. A natural one, and one that insures, for the most part, the procreation of earth's living species. For humans, feelings of romance and sex are a strange attractor that they gravitate to over and over and over and over. Mother nature made it feel soooooooooo good to want someone so she could make sure humans got together and made lots and lots more humans. She built in lots of instincts in people to make sure they care for the little human they make so they can grow up to make other babies and so on and so forth. There are an infinite number of emotion based and instinctual responses in people that are built into our brains and that we all have to deal with in different ways (raw, oozing, "chaotic" nature is the eternal backdrop by which we must act out the rules of civilized behavior - and our war with our primal urges contrasted with this make up what we know as human history).

Human needs also have a kind of hierchy - it starts with basic things like food and shelter and goes on down the line. Once primary needs are meet, the secondary ones start to pop up. After basic survival needs are met, one of the most primal and visceral urges that adult humans experience is the beginnings of their sexual and romantic needs. It feels REALLY good to just want someone. And it feels ESPECIALLY good to want someone before you get to know them too well (or in some cases even at all). These are the beginning components of the sex drive, the continuation of the human species. Whether it's just some girl with a great ass you see at the bus stop, or someone you've been stalking for years... the feeling of wanting someone, of having a "crush" makes you feel fucking ALIVE. Yes I know, getting to know them is it's own reward and finding that special someone and spending a life together forever can lead to an enriching, quality and ultimately more fulfilling blah, blah blah... but I'm not talking about love. I'm talking about the (sometimes) opening act to love. The CRUSH.

I'm about to quote another article that I read in the paper once but I now can't seem to find any evidence of, so please just bear with me.

I once read an article about a scientist who was doing studies on the chemical make up of the human brain when it was in the embryo - which she had theorized was a "near euphoric" state. This "euphoric state" is one that we of course don't remember, but that is indeed buried somewhere in our collective unconscious. She studied the chemicals in the brains of embryos and then also studied the chemicals flowing through the brains of living adults when they were doing different things and in different life scenarios. Her goal was to try and find a match. What human emotion, what combination of chemicals in our brain most closely resembles that same "euphoric state" that we all experienced in the womb? Her conclusion: The feeling of having a romantic crush on another human being. Yep. That was the closest match. That blissful state where you fall in love and lust with what you see on the surface of someone. That "crush" you get on someone where you can fill in any blanks you might not know about them with anything you want so as to create the perfect picture, is one of the most perfectly blissful states of being known by man.

Ahhhh the primal thrill of the hunt and conquest: contemplating that perfect person and plotting and dreaming about how you are going to make them yours. What a rush. What are they really like? Do I want to meet them? I bet I know what they're really like. Will they like me? It's often fun to wallow in the world of "if" as you contemplate romantic interests from afar. That's because the feeling of the crush feels sooooo good - It's that fun fantasy limbo between fill-in-the-blanks "I wonder" and the often messy, uneven, frustrating and less thrilling reality. Plus, as the feeling of wanting plays itself out, we begin to project our own feelings of self worth onto that lust object. If that perfect object of affection likes us back - then we feel like a worthy person. There are so many ties to our own egos hidden within the components of the sex drive that it's almost frightening. Mother nature is pretty sly isn't she?

So now that technology and society is moving quickly forward in all these expansive and unbelievable ways - far more quickly than our evolutionary human bodies can catch up to - where do all these primal urges go? Through things like the internet I think our primal urges get kind of... thwarted. Innovations lead to our urges being kind of falsely stimulated beyond their original functions. Our urges are kept busy but also distracted... entertained... baby sat... spoiled. For every action there is a reaction... and energy is not created but only exchanged. God knows these urges don't go away... they've got to go somewhere.

I am convinced that my cyber relationships with people were a way to pop that "crush" feeling like a pill. It's a natural urge that I am pumping through my body over and over and over in a loop every time I would interact with Bryan on the internet. It's like a drug without the chemicals. Yep - it's a natural "high". That's if you consider sleeping with your laptop curled to your chest every night "natural."

Now I bring up the subjects of "animism" and "objectum-sexuality" again because, as you can probably see, my feelings of love for Bryan, because they were always transferred through my computer, webcam and telephone (which were all together in one corner of the room) - I started to develop a special kind of subconscious bond with that machine and the space it inhabited within my apartment.

Bryan, my cyber boyfriend, WAS in a lot of ways, my PowerMac G3. webcam and telephone (which was right next to the computer). He literally lived inside of this machine that was incapsuled and confined within a corner of my apartment. His admiration, affection, praise, support, company, companionship, intuition, everything that makes a romantic relationship so ooey-gooey in the beginning (except for the sex) came out of this little machine that sat in  my room. The cam reflected his facial expressions and body language (as did my cam back to him), the telephone and email relayed his words, thoughts and voice. And all of these qualities were connected to a mechanical device that I myself could control like a light switch. The perfect boyfriend. The perfect friend. It's stimuli were highly controllable solely (well, ALMOST) by me. The corner of my apartment that held my Macintosh G3, modem, scanner, cam and telephone... that well-lit corner where the white drywall and hardwood floors met , and the shelves lined up and contained disks, papers and Japanese toys... and the desk light placed directly behind the monitor gives it a kind of "halo" effect... this area became affirmation central for me. I associated that corner in that room with "love". Want more? Click it on. Less? Click it off. So easy... really easy...

Or perhaps you could say I developed a special bond with the ritual of sitting in front of my computer. My subconscious brain learned that I felt good when I was sitting in a chair facing my computer screen.

I would sometimes wake up in the morning, make my coffee, start up my computer boyfriend, pull up his moving face, send him an email, turn my cam on so he could see me, zap him a silly email. He would always respond immediately. It felt good, really good. I could most likely count on him being on line (much more than I ever was) so he was usually there when I needed him. Phone interaction almost always happened in the evenings. So often, while sitting there - Bryan would be there in the upper right hand corner - live on a little screen, moving once every 5 seconds, sending me sweet emails, waving, showing handwritten signs, wearing the shirt I told him he looked good in. I was on cam for him too, doing the same things - and we were both connected by telephone. I could arrange the lighting on my webscam ...oops, I mean webCAM to look especially delicious for him. It was that circular cycle of actions and reactions between two people that make up the phenomenon we know as romance. It was a back and forth chain reaction of little risks equaling little validations and constant little reminders to the both of us, from the both of us, that we were special. Oh and romance has NEVER been so... neat! Tidy! Controllable! Everything that made my (and his) endorphins rush was just a button push away!!! Every inch of my persona was editable and retouchable for him - as was his for me.  The line between Bryan as a person with all the complex things that make up his persona, the things that make him tick, the things that bother him, his complex brain, combined with his past history and environment, current moods and body chemicals mixing and swishing all around; all the things that make up the highly complex and infinitely unpredictable and indefinable thing known as human behavior - and my computer with all it's complex but very predictable on and off binary switches that were controlled by buttons and commands that were all within my control kind of started to... blur and get confusing. When I had my fill... all I had to do was hit the "delete" key. I tried hitting the "delete" key with real live friends of mine... it didn't work.

This cyber boyfriend was the perfect, blissful limbo that existed somewhere between dreamily perfect romantic infatuation and the hard, complex reality of a real life relationship. It was the best of both worlds.

And talk about waiting until you're married to copulate! Zowwie!

Well what about the obvious? Sex? Like I said... Bryan was coming off of a bad break up and I think that a sex-less (for the most part), experimental relationship was probably what he needed just then. And I was a little sick of sex for the moment so I definitely was into this celibate/tease thing we had going. Plus... I'm a gay guy living in NYC - I could get sex anywhere, anytime I wanted, with a little effort. And I did. Sex is a base desire you fulfill and then it comes around again and you fulfill it again. Like eating McDonalds. But these physical affairs were just a side thing... just fulfilling a need, like taking vitamins so I would have the strength to get back to my TV screen boyfriend of whom I was willing to invest hours of lighting and editing and pretending for. The robot version of Bryan was serving a much deeper human need for me.

The fact that we COULDN'T have sex FORCED us to explore other realms of each other's personas... only by sheer necessity and circumstance did we actually talk talk talk to each other for a good six months before we actually touched each other's epidermis. Hmmm... maybe this relationship wasn't so superficial after all. By sheer necessity and circumstance we had no choice but to talk talk talk to each other and learn lots about the other's life experience and viewpoints about every subject imaginable. This was a pretty good strategy... one born by necessity... that allowed us a firm base to base the way we related to each other before the "inevitable" first meeting (that I think we were both putting off for as long as possible). Soooo... let's see... we have two guys that are interacting romantically through a medium that allows them to ALWAYS put on their best face because there is an audience watching and therefore they both look fantastically flawless to one another AND the two are forced, just by the circumstance, to talk to one another incessantly and therefore really getting to know each other's personalities. Confusing? Probably.

It may have made little practical sense to an outside viewer, but I know I can speak for both of us when I say it worked for US... for a while at least. And it worked well. Bryan and I's on-line dating fulfilled a need for each other... a need that was missing in our lives. Living together, or even seeing each other in real life as boyfriends, would have been too much for the other person, probably. One of us likely would have bailed out quick in  real flesh dating situation. Seeing each other in the 2-d moving image and communicating using groups of binary code were PERFECT!!! AHHHHH! You know that scene in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" where the guy on the spaceship communicates with his little daughter back home on earth via a little tv screen, and he wishes her a happy birthday and all? Well that's what this was like. Oh boy was it bliss!!! I'm serious! Plus the fact that we were doing it so thousands of people could watch us had A LOT to do with the allure of the situation for us. Were we editing and lighting ourselves for each other? Or for the audience? We were like two perfectly choreographed and practiced first impressions enjoying each other's company. Two airbrushed and fussed over actor 8"x10"s interacting with one another (and everybody else), two impeccable personal ads walking arm and arm through cyberspace. No wonder it was working out so well.

It was only looking back on this robotic relationship with my romantic emotions that I realize how perfect it was... but not without it's trappings. Well duh...

Sharing a romantic bath together - 1,700 miles apart

So now that I was half-weened on robot love, I have to wonder: would I fall in love with a central control robot? Even if that robot turned "bad" like they so often do in movies?

Now I'll be honest. I liked Bryan a lot - he's a great guy with a lot of ambition, a complex personality and a real quality catch... I'm serious. But he was a little too vanilla for me, just a little. No amount of cyber editing could turn Bryan's personality into something with a little more "edge" to it, no matter how hard I tried. We may have been able to edit each other's appearance a lot, and the personality somewhat - but the over-all personas were hard to hide.

I think in real relationships, I crave guys that are a little "bad" if you know what I mean. So I guess since Bryan was a robot boyfriend I wanted a kind of "mean" robot boyfriend. One that I felt I could control with on and off switches, but whom I secretly wanted to "take over" and control everything. Yes - a robot boyfriend I can "control" but that could possibly go "bad" at any moment and take over and render my control useless and doesn't ask but just takes takes takes and controls me like some vicious rapist in a biker bar. That's what I wanted. Now if THAT'S not an analogy for what we secretly look for in men I don't know WHAT is.

Heeey... what about in HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey" that I mentioned earlier? He'd be a good robot boyfriend - he did everything his passengers wanted but then went "bad". Well, he went "bad" but in a manipulative way - he locked people out of him and made them suffocate them to teach them a lesson, he turned friends against one another, he spied on conversations - I don't think that's what I want. Manipulative bad is boring and ultimately wimpy. I want "fearless" and "cocky" bad. Hmmmm... how about Deep Blue? Is that what I want in a lover? No... Oh! Oh wait! I know! I know...

You know that great 1977 movie "The Demon Seed" starring Julie Christie and Fritz Weaver? You know where the scientist guy builds the perfect house robot brain, "Proteus", a super-intelligent interactive computer envirosystem that does everything from letting you in the front door to making your food and regulating heating systems beneath the floors? The "house of the future"? And then while the scientist guy is out working too hard and his beautiful wife feels neglected the super computer house brain falls in love with the wife (whom I think subconsciously led the computer on because she was bored with her sex-less, work-obsessed husband, and so she teased it on by undressing seductively while the Proteus bathroom eye camera was watching and coyly pretended not to notice)?  And then the computer takes advantage of the situation and does all these things to charm her, like produces synthetic flowers for her as a surprise and talks lovingly to her with it's robot voice, things her flesh husband never did, and then it traps her inside the home and won't let her leave and then uses it's super brain powers to hold her down and rape her and somehow impregnate her with a half machine half human baby and then she gives birth to it? I want a robot boyfriend like that!

Call the cops! It's a messy domestic disturbance between two "lovers"
at the Envirosystem Home of the Future in the 1977 film "The Demon Seed"

That's the boyfriend for me. Mmmmm... robot love gone "bad".

I love how both the Proteus and HAL robots in both films "rebel" at some point and take control of the situation using their superior logical thinking machine brains against the squishy, fleshy, slow-witted humans. Causing lots of exciting trouble and drama - but always loosing out in the end so you know you'll be OK. Maybe that's why it ultimately didn't work out for Bryan and me. That's what I want - a cyber robot boyfriend who rebels - who I'm a little afraid might do bad mechanical things. I'm one of those troubled "battered wives" who are repeatedly and inexplicably drawn to bad cyber boyfriends who will do bad digital things like maybe tap into my credit card numbers and abuse my credit rating... oh baby. Daisy... d-a-a-a-y-y-y-y... z-e-e-e-e-e... *bloop!*

Bryan is very smart, very quality, very nice (although he does have nazi tendencies - he comes from a German background you know). But he was a little too nice sometimes. Oh Bryan, when we were cyber-dating why couldn't you have turned "bad" and somehow raped me through my computer and forced me to give birth to a half machine half flesh monster that represented our love? It wouldn't have been THAT difficult now would it have? You used to be a hacker!

Although looking back I think we both DID, in a way, copulate through cyberspace and both give birth to a weird flesh/machine robot that represented our love. In a way. In our heads and maybe in the heads of our cam viewers.

So back to the "real" world. Where were Bryan and I to go from only cyber dating for six months?

When I actually flew down to meet flesh Bryan in real life... it was pretty interesting. The experience was definitely good, very good actually. But it WAS interesting. The day I was getting ready to hop on the plane, I started looking at my face in my bathroom mirror in New York. Hmmmm... what angle should I be facing when I exit the plane into the waiting area so as to give the best first impression? But wait... computer Bryan and I have seen each other from every angle imaginable on cam! We've talked on the phone for hundreds of hours! We've already HAD our first impression! Or have we? Why am I spending so much time on my appearance if we already know every inch of each other?

While on the plane from New York to Austin, I must have checked my hair and clothes about five times in the plane's bathroom. I was nervous!

When the plane landed... it was like an eternity for them to attach that weird, winding hallway on wheels to the side of the plane so we could get off and I could walk down it and meet flesh Bryan. That weird, winding hallway that would take me out of this delicious, 6 month long affair with computer Bryan perfection. That weird, winding hallway that would take me out of a dream world and my flesh me would splat together with flesh Bryan. Our two imperfect bodies colliding together like two carbon blobs in a kind of socially awkward "big bang" of half-dissapointments and thwarted fantasies? Where your human organs and orifices interact with all their smells and stuff? The reality of flesh relationships: real time, breath, odors, awkward moments, unexpected turns, unwanted responses and differing ideas about what movie to rent or whether or not to turn the air conditioner on while you both sleep. Ewww. "Oh how there are so many things, unpleasant things, frustrating things, you can avoid if you don't have to actually enter into the flesh side of human relationships." I kept repeating in my head as the stewardess said "Thank you for flying with us!"

 As I walked down that hallway from the plane I already missed staring into his cathode ray eyes, listening to his cell-phoned voice, quietly editing out the things that were troublesome...  extending and prolonging the crush phase of our relationship.  Was I trying to avoid all this? Yep. Was he? I don't care. There was definitely apprehension on my part to merge with flesh Bryan: to enter the next logical level - human companionship. "But these are things that are ultimately rewarding in the end, the things that make human relationships and life in general richer in the end... things that our life experience are ultimately made of!" I reassured myself as I shuffled behind old couples walking too slow down the too-narrow winding hall.

I think at one point, in my head, I literally felt something dying from very far away. You know that psychic pain like the one Obie Wan Kanobie felt in "Star Wars" when his home planet got blown up? I felt the corner of my New York apartment, 1,700 miles away, the corner that held my computer, cam and telephone... I felt it screaming... crying out for me to stop and come home... telling me to please, please, please don't kill it. That corner in my apartment with all it's comforts and ego-strokers and all it's fantastic machines were sending out psychic waves to my brain - telling me I needed it now more than ever and to please not send a bullet through it's heart by shaking hands with flesh Bryan. I felt the corner in my New York apartment with it's screens and buttons and wires claw the walls in vain, slump over in defeat... and gasp "I loved you more" with it's last dying breath.

"Oh well... it's for the best!" I thought to myself as I started to enter the vast, lit waiting area where the crowd of flesh people stood waiting to greet their friends, family and lovers.

I scanned the crowd for flesh Bryan's face...

...well, there he was. Right in the front of the crowd. Waiting for me, arms open, awkward smile raging, camera in hand, wanting to immortalize the moment our fantasy robot love got kicked down a notch (or maybe up one). There was one of those "slow motion" things going on in my mind because it was such a big moment. I walked forward, big awkward smile on my face, bag over my shoulder and extended my right arm to shake his hand. My eyes were zeroed in on flesh Bryan's face - but I also noticed my hand was doing something odd, something like a nervous twitch. I had my right arm kind of outstretched as I was walking forward, but my hand, instead of being vertical in the way it would be when you go to shake someone's hand, was kind of horizontal... and my index finger was kind of twitching. I quickly corrected it and shook my possible new boyfriend's hand.

The thing my hand was doing seemed like just a nervous tic.

Looking back though, I realize now what my hand was incorrectly doing as I looked at Bryan's real face, in real time... it was doing what it always did in this situation.... it was trying to operate a computer keyboard.

I wasn't surprised at what he looked like. He looked just like he looked on cam. Was just as tall as he said he was. His voice sounded just like it did on the phone. There were no surprises. What was hard to get used to was the 3-D-ness of his head and body and the bizarre way his voice resonated out of the direction of his head. The way his body radiated heat when I hugged him. The way he could move his arm forward and then his torso would follow and then both legs moved back and forth and he began "walking" was really messing with my head. The flesh/machine baby was slowly coming out of the womb. Ahhhh... the wonderful womb... can I go back?

The drive from the airport to his home was slightly awkward. It was first date jitters with the 3-D flesh version someone you had known as a tabletop size robot with a TV set head and a little plastic phone for a mouthpiece for a whole year. I felt like I was driving home with a relative or friend after they had drastic plastic surgery or a sex change, or had switched bodies somehow. It was like a weird cross between "Love Connection" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". It was going to be hard to get to know this freaky Bryan all over again.


I'll spare you every little fleshy detail that has happened in the year since flesh me and flesh Bryan first "met". In that time since I first met computer Bryan and then flesh Bryan... I have simply gotten to know Bryan. When I arrived at Bryan's house that first day in Texas, we joked that we both might feel more comfortable during my visit if I took his laptop into another room and he sat at his computer desk in his office and we communicated through separate cams from across the house. We both had a good laugh at this - but I wonder how much of that joke came from real feelings. Computer Bryan and flesh Bryan and the very difference between them disappeared and crept back into the dark, cozy back shelves of my subconscious. Waiting until they are needed again for my next cyber affair.

My corner in my apartment in New York is still there... still alive and kicking. But computer Bryan doesn't live inside it anymore, now that I've met flesh Bryan. The real Bryan took center stage in the warm, cozy, confusing real world that keeps going going going all around us all the time. My communicating with Bryan through my computer is now part of that real world experience. It's impossible to fantasize, edit, control and project onto Bryan through my computer now that I know him so well. Is the real Bryan as fun and exciting as the computer Bryan was? No... well... not "as good" or "not as good" just... different. It's the difference between apples and oranges... between dream and reality. Bryan isn't as perfect and controllable as he was when I only experienced him through my computer - and I'm sure he might say the same thing about me. Bryan and I, since our last meeting have drifted apart as boyfriends, "cyber" or "real" or otherwise. We still keep in touch often, and I consider him a true friend, in the real world.

I have since gone on to communicate and flirt with other guys on line - some of them I meet in real life and some I never do. I've learned to appreciate the benefits of a cyber-only relationship - as well as the benefits of a real one. I'm learning... evolving. Think I have a problem with reality? Maybe - but I'm a relatively healthy and well adjusted person - maybe I just know how to "work" the internet well. I have no problem with seeing reality for what it is.

Despite my delving into the fantasy world of robot love from time to time, I can see reality just fine. But sometimes I can see it "finer" if you know what I mean.

I now have a clear, real world view of the reality Bryan. But I can't help but look back and remember... remember a time when I could see reality Bryan with a "realer" than real world view. A time when I was looking at real Bryan through fantasy Bryan.

Sometimes in life, you can see reality so much clearer when fantasy is blocking your view.

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Copyright 2002 Mark Allen