Life on TCB

Counselor Dude said when he gave me a grade in February that my working on the novel Jerisland since 1988 or 1989 showed persistence.  He said I had a good grasp of the mechanics of writing, and could become an editor if I wanted to.


Sometime early fall semester, Sharon saw two freshman guys put up a poster advertising the new Roanoke College BBS.  We were surprised, and checked it out.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones on campus getting connected to the wonderful world of the Internet and BBS‘s.

It wasn’t much, mostly a message board saying what classes were canceled and such, but it was still nice to have one.  It was a voice line, however, hooked up to the freshmen’s dorm room phone, so we could only call up at certain times of the day.

Every other college already seemed to have Internet access for students.  Roanoke didn’t have it until the next school year.  I’d watch the students on Beverly Hills: 90210 use the Internet on a school computer, and feel jealous.  We heard the access was supposed to be available senior year, but had to be pushed off until the next year–after I graduated.

Pearl had friends with e-mail addresses through school accounts, and now she could finally send them e-mail through our AOL accounts.  We got one account for all four of us with separate screen names.

But our favorite was The Crystal Barrier, or TCB, as I described here, because of all the fun we had with people who lived nearby:

The action words in Teleconference, or tele, were a lot of fun.  For example, if I typed, “slap stimpy,” Stimpy saw, “Nyssa Of Traken is slapping you!” but I saw, “…Wap!…Wap!…Wap!”

You could also do them to other people privately, like this: “kiss stimpy secretly.”  I saw, “Pucker up!” and Stimpy saw, “Nyssa Of Traken is kissing you on the cheek.”

More action words: “pave,” which said, “Crystal Dragon is driving a steamroller over everything, chanting, ‘The earth must be paved'”; “pkiss,” or “Nyssa Of Traken is kissing you passionately!”; “look,” or “Stimpy is looking at you,” which the user saw as, “Like what you see?” or “See something you like?”

“Look” was good for giving a funny look to someone who was acting very strange.  You could also just type “look” without directing it at anyone, and that showed up as, “Nyssa Of Traken is looking around the room.”

To direct an action at someone, all you needed were the first three letters of that person’s handle, or more if someone else online had the same first three letters.  You didn’t need to capitalize.

Sharon and I often spoke to each other and others offline as if we were in tele and using action words.  For example, I’d say to Sharon, “Nyssa is slapping you,” and we would laugh.

South Bend and S– BBS’s had different commands.  South Bend used dot commands.

Unlike with the South Bend area dot commands, which dealt with other functions on the BBS’s, on TCB you could use dot commands to send an action to someone who was logged into the BBS, but not in Teleconference or Farwest Trivia with you.  Example: “.kiss krafter.”

To look at someone’s registry, or a list of answers to personal questions, you typed “/r Krafter,” or went into the registry menu.  This registry asked for computer phone number, the name of your own BBS if you had one, your favorite food and movie and music and TV show, your least favorite show and music and movie, physical description, eye color, hair color, a short summary, etc.

You could answer each question however you wished: Some people typed “n/a,” or not applicable, to every question.  Speaker typed “.” after every question.  Some people gave answers that revealed them to be scary people, such as one guy who I believe called himself Nightstalker.

I either ignored the phone number questions or made up fake BBS names or spelled out fake numbers (“1800FUNWITHZARA,” for example).  My summary was often, “I long for the days when men were men, alternative was alternative, and mice were little furballs that squeak.”

Krafter liked this one.  I knew it was an adaptation of something I’d heard once (and I don’t mean the standard, “When men were men and women were women”), but I didn’t remember where.  Some time later, I discovered it came from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  My variation was my own, but the Hitchhiker’s version went:

In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were REAL men, women were REAL women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were REAL small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. —

We could also type taglines, which showed up next to a user’s handle whenever someone typed “/#” to call up a list of who was online at the time.  There was a default tagline, I forget exactly what; I generally had various taglines, depending on what I felt like putting there.

When someone was still logging in, the screen showed “login” in place of the handle, and “I couldn’t stay away!” as the tagline.  These were similar to the taglines on Pan-Optic Net.

I was Nyssa Of Traken, Sharon was Ziggy, and Pearl was Pearl.  My name, of course, came from my favorite handle from Indiana BBS’s, as I explain here.  Sharon loved Ziggy, and Pearl’s handle came from her nickname, so none of these names was a surprise.

Even Astrid went on TCB a few times, and called herself Tigger, fitting with her nickname, Boing Boing.

There, as in Internet chat rooms, normal punctuation and spelling rules went out the window.  In forums, people wrote normally (except for the occasional “4” for “for,” “u” for “you,” “c” for “see,” and other abbreviations).

But when chatting or playing in tele, you saw lots of ellipses and emoticons, and a lack of capitalization or punctuation.  Even I, whom Stubby once called the TCB spelling cop (I got better), was guilty of this.  It’s just quicker to write if you don’t have to worry about what your English teacher would think.

Sharon loved going online and being bombarded with “so and so is hugging you” from people all over the system.  I would go online, get such greetings, and type “.kiss Krafter” (which kissed him on the cheek) to greet him each time I saw him online.  Pearl was also popular.

The people online were so sociable and Sharon was so popular, in fact, that sometimes she went online and hoped no one would notice her so she wouldn’t have to answer their pages or return their hugs.  She tried to sneak on, check her e-mail and get back off again.

The problem, however, was that the system announced to everyone whenever someone came online, along with an entrance message, if one was set.  So it was hard to sneak on without being noticed, unless you figured out how to work the “invisible” function.

In my teens, the “cool” kids had never even heard of BBS’s.  (No, I was not one of the cool kids.)  Now, even the “cool” people joined the “geeks” online.

Other people liked to sign their names in various ways–all capitals, shortened handles, funny symbols–so I decided to use my own signature.  This is what I came up with:

}] Nyssa of Traken [{

For a short time, I changed my online summary nearly every day so that a different line of the first twelve lines to the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales–in Middle English–showed up.

When one of us was online, the other two often sat around the computer and watched.  Most often, we went into tele or Farwest Trivia (a multi-player trivia game).  There, the watchers would tell the one typing, “Page so-and-so and say this,” “Say this,” “Tell him Pearl says such-and-such,” etc.

When one of us was online, all three of us were generally online, even though only one of our screen names was logged in.  It was quite a party every night by the computer.

Oftentimes, people, such as Krafter or Speaker, sat in the menuing system (main menu), and just waited there for pages while doing something else.  Just like nowadays we do with, say, IRC, Facebook, or other instant messaging systems.

For me, the computer gave stiff competition to the TV.  Even though I wanted to see a new show named Sliders, Star Trek: DS9, and this new Star Trek show called Voyager, it was hard to pay attention because I was usually online while they were on.

I loved Sliders anyway, as did Charles, and we loved the various things that were different in each dimension the four sliders slid into.  One of my favorites had a dimension in which America had never broken from England.

(When Sci-Fi Channel picked up the show three seasons later, they ruined it, turning it into some action thing where favorite characters got killed off.)

As for the Star Trek shows, I couldn’t get into them.  After that year, I didn’t even try keeping up with them.  My love affair with the continuing Star Trek series had ended: There were just too many of them now.

For a short time, a guy called Atlantis sent me messages on TCB.  He played a game with me, a guessing game, with hints on who he was.  Then he disappeared before I could find out, upsetting me.

I heard somewhere that he was kicked off, maybe for a misunderstanding, but I don’t know if this was true.  Then Mike’s friend Brent finally admitted to being Atlantis.

Sometime during this period, Pearl’s sister came to visit and stay in the apartment for a day or two.  She saw my tapes and CD’s and went wild, because I had a lot of alternative, and the kids were really starting to get into alternative in those days.

She also went on TCB a few times as Squisha.  This name came from an inside joke between her and Pearl, a name one of them gave to a squirrel squished on the highway, Squisha Squirrel.  She had a lot of fun, and the other TCB users loved playing with her in Teleconference.

One day, I checked a user directory for one of the BBS’s.  The new user setup, or a series of questions each user needed to answer–what kind of computer and graphics you had, what password you wanted, your real name, address and phone number–included, of course, the question, “What handle would you like to use?”  The user directory listed all the users of the BBS by handle.  One person showed up as:

What do you mean “HANDLE

(No, no closing quote or question mark for “handle”; there wasn’t room; the handle could only be so long.)

Many teenagers hung out on TCB, and most of these seemed to love talking to Sharon, Pearl and me.  We felt popular.  Sharon said, “I think they think we’re cool because we’re three women living together.”

Though TCB wasn’t free, it wasn’t expensive, either: $5 a month got you five hours a day.


Sharon’s Sharon-isms included various expressions of disgust or dismay: “eww,” “ergh,” possibly “erckle” and “icky.”  We both used these online as well.  Another popular term among us roommies was, “Owie!  Owie!”  Sharon also sometimes said “cry” during a fake argument.

During second semester, it became common for my roommates to steal my seat whenever I got up from the couch.  I often ended up sitting in the armchair instead.

It was comfy, of course, so this wasn’t a problem, though sometimes I’d be in the chair while my roommies acted weird on the couch, joking and making weird noises and such.  I felt a bit left out.  But at least I had fun playing the straight woman.

Just as she did last semester, my old roommie Clarissa often came over to walk to dinner with me.  This, of course, was on nights when I didn’t end up eating mac and cheese or Spaghetti-os in front of the computer, while playing on TCB.  Now that we had our own kitchen and food, I could do this.

Tara and Pearl, having just seen Bugs Bunny’s A Hare Grows in Manhattan, began saying, “It’s a GY-raffe!  a GY-raffe!” instead, of course, of the usual “giraffe.”

My friends now watched Sesame Street every once in a while.  They thought there was nothing weird about this, that they had every right to if they wanted to no matter what their age, and that the show was cute.

Pearl’s sister liked Elmo.  (This was before the “Tickle-Me-Elmo” craze, which was in the fall of 1996.)

We noted that the same little African-American boy with an afro (probably John-John) had been on Sesame Street since we watched in the 70s, yet he was still there.

The show kept playing the same old clips even in the newer shows.  It was good, though, that the little kids wouldn’t miss out on some of the things we saw as kids, but wouldn’t they wonder why the kid’s hair looked so weird?

I never wondered about it as a kid, but that was in the 70s, and lots of people had hair like that.  (Of course, if Sesame Street still plays those clips of the afro boy, today’s kids probably think he looks normal.  Fashion is weird like that.)

Meeting Cugan (Hubby)

My last semester was comparatively light: two classes and my senior honors thesis.  But that thesis needed a lot of work: reading the massive book Middlemarch at my teacher’s request and writing reaction papers, research, drafts and rewrites.

Todd, my Irish Writers teacher, was now my Brit Lit teacher.  Most of the students were female, and often amused by him.  He loved Jane Austen, and was quiet and shy.  One day, forced to mention women’s periods because they related to something we’d read, seemed very nervous about it.  I didn’t notice it, but others did, and giggled about it later.  He was a favorite teacher.

On Wednesday, February first, I spoke to Dr. Nelson about my senior honors thesis.  I’d dreaded it since freshman year; junior year I almost took a regular junior studies class instead of junior honors so I wouldn’t have to do the thesis.  But I finally decided to go ahead and see the honors CORE classes through.  As I was about to find out, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.

I began to write my thesis based on Victorian women writers, how they perceived society’s restrictions on women, and how they treated the subject in their writings.  Nelson was to be my adviser.  Sometimes his wife, who shared his office, was there as we discussed the paper; she made her own comments on such things as Middlemarch and Victorian society.  She noted that some women long for the Victorian days so they wouldn’t have to have a job and write.

Middlemarch is by George Eliot, the penname of a woman who wrote in Victorian days.  This book was huge: The recent Penguin edition is 880 pages.  I was supposed to read it as quickly as possible.  I read as much as I could each day, but I did have two other classes, and, despite my comprehension skills, had always been a slower reader than everyone else I knew seemed to be.

I also had to read Chaucer in Middle English.  Catherine and Anna were in Chaucer class with me, so it became a common topic of conversation.  I already liked The Canterbury Tales; Catherine grew to love his works.  She hadn’t realized how clever, fun and, especially, bawdy they could get.

We read not just The Canterbury Tales, but many of Chaucer’s other stories, poems and translations, such as Romance of the Rose, a tale of Antony and Cleopatra, and Troilus and Criseyde.

The most fun part: We were required to learn the first 12 lines of the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, and recite them to a teacher other than our own (Christina) by a certain date.  On about that date, several of the students in Brit Lit cornered Todd after class and recited it to him.

Until that time, Anna and Catherine and I loved to recite lines of it to each other.  It was fun, and the lines were musical.  This is also when I posted lines from the Prologue in my TCB tagline.

Others still complained that Middle English was difficult to understand, but within a short time I got the hang of it.  The theory was, you were supposed to read it in its original pronunciation to understand it better.

But I discovered that just looking at the words without sounding them out made them easier to understand.  Many times Modern English has the same word in the same spelling, just pronounced differently.  Still, it took quite a while to read my assignments each night.


On Sunday, February 5, Catherine took me to my first SCA meeting.  It was for the S–/M– shire.

I was already interested in checking out this group of people who wear medieval clothes.  But she enticed me into going by saying, “There are lots of hot guys there, and they love to flirt with you.”

The meeting was at 2pm, though Catherine told me we didn’t have to get there on time.  I think we got there up to an hour late, which she said was normal for the SCA.  She said they wouldn’t have started until then, anyway, because most everyone else wouldn’t be there until then, either.  Unfortunately, this one started close to the proper time.

Steve the Head of the Psychos used to be part of this group as well, until he graduated with most of the Octagon in 1994 and (I believe) moved back home to Chicago.

The meeting was held at the home of people with the SCA names Ragnar and DiAnne.  Ragnar was a big, burly, blond-haired Viking with glasses and a beard.  He loved to hug, and to take smaller people, like me, and bounce them on his knee.

DiAnne had a pleasant face, glasses, and long, brown hair.  They had a newborn baby girl.  I don’t know how old they were, but I’d say 20s.

Catherine took me to this place, a duplex, and led me in the door and up a high entryway staircase.  She went in and the shire members cried out in happy surprise, not having seen her for some time.

“I brought somebody new,” she said.

They cried out in happy surprise again.  For the rest of the afternoon, I felt like the star of the show.

We set our coats down, probably on the floor, and found seats.  I quickly scanned the room for the hot guys Catherine had told me about, but most of the ones I saw looked too old or too married or too plain.  (Apparently she meant the SCA in general, not just this group.)

One, however, stood out: Cugan, who had been in the SCA for a few years, and joined the shire after Catherine stopped going.  (Well, actually, two were cute, but the other one had a girlfriend.)

I sat down in a chair near him and opposite the couch.  Catherine sat in a nearby corner.  These were the only places we could find to sit, and the chairs had been so arranged that I felt like my chair was out in the open, while Catherine’s huddled into the corner.  I felt self-conscious.

The meeting ended up being very dull.  It was long and all business, since they changed the format recently to make it more efficient.  (No more late starts, tangents or turning on Star Trek: TNG.)  Though it was very boring and I didn’t understand it, I did learn some things about the group, including Cugan.

He wore a black hat with a dragon pin, a Celtic knotwork medallion, and a large cross on a pendant.  In time, I discovered he made the medallion himself in Ireland, when he was about seventeen.  A Dungeons and Dragons book sat on a table near him.  (I later asked Catherine if that was his, and she said it probably was.)

As a person with NVLD, I couldn’t tell how old he was just by looking at him.  I feared he was much older than I, and would consider me too young.  I feared he was married or had a girlfriend.  I hoped he was a Christian, but wondered if the universe could really be so much in my favor.

He just couldn’t keep still during the meeting: His hat kept traveling from his head to his hand to his knee.  Sometimes, it even ended up on the head of a girl named Nadine.

I thought he kept looking at me during the meeting.  I hoped so.

At one point, somebody asked Cugan, the Chronicler (writer of the newsletter), “What about this note in the newsletter about the pitter-patter of little feet?”

Cugan said, “What?”

Cevante, the Seneschal (chairperson), who sat next to him, answered the question.  I thought at first that Cugan and Cevante were married and the baby was theirs, but soon discovered this wasn’t the case–to my great relief.  The baby in question probably belonged to our hosts.

I soon discovered that SCA people usually referred to each other by SCA names, rather than real names, though some people were called by their real names more often.

(For the most part, I’ve kept real SCA names and online handles here because they reflect personalities and can be hard to duplicate with fake names.  Not only that, but they’re much harder to trace than real names.  But not all the names I use for SCA people are SCA names, because some people were better known to me by their real names.  And not all the SCA names and Internet handles I use are real, especially if their misdeeds are recounted.  So you won’t know which is which.  🙂  )

Nadine was the best friend of, same age as, and possibly roommate of Cevante’s daughter, Tatiana.

When the business portion of the meeting finally ended and the members broke up into smaller groups, a tall blond, Marcus, got up and pulled up the hood of his red robe.  Unlike the others, he wore SCA garb.  Catherine poked me and said his persona was a druid.

Cugan said to me, “I’m Cu’gan-mhatthair MacMuircheartaigh.  That means in Gaelic, ‘b**tard son of a bi*** and a passing sailor.'”  Actually, literally it means, “Dog without mother, son of a passing sailor”; the rest was his embellishment.

This was the only time he cussed during the entire meeting.  He then grabbed a clipboard with some papers on it, jumped over and knelt down before me with a big smile on his face, and asked for my name and address.  I smiled and wrote down my name and college address.

At one point, someone announced a homemade brew or wine was available.  Cugan, after proclaiming his enthusiasm, got up and went with the others who sampled it.

Cevante spoke with me as well.  I said I just took a Celtic class at college.  She said, “Good girl!”

The meeting went on for probably two hours or more after Catherine and I arrived.  We mostly stayed in the living room.  At one point, she sat with Nadine on the couch, while I got cornered by the Herald, Donato.

I would have preferred to find Cugan and start a conversation, or listen to Nadine and Catherine’s conversation.  But to be polite, I sat and listened to Donato explain the structure of the SCA, its offices and ranks, and some of the rules: play the game by wearing garb at events, etc.

(You can find this same information here.  A few years later, I heard him give the same talk to a girl with the online handle Malika; she seemed fascinated.)  I caught parts of Nadine and Catherine’s conversation:

Nadine: “You’re married now?  Wow.”

Catherine: “You’re nineteen now?  I feel old!”

Cugan eventually returned; Catherine asked him about a music group he put together to practice period music.  She mentioned it to me before, and the possibility of my joining in with my tin whistle.  (This never happened, and the group didn’t last long.)  I wanted so much to break away from Donato and chat with Cugan.

Finally, Donato finished talking, and I was free! free!

In late afternoon or early evening, people began to go home.  Cugan put on a classy jean jacket, his hat and maybe a scarf, and said to me, “Do you hug?”

These SCA people were like Catherine, and loved to hug.  Now, probably like most people, I felt uncomfortable hugging people I barely knew.  But I said, “If somebody hugs me.”  In my mind I added, “Especially you.”

He hugged me, and I enjoyed it tremendously.  He said a cheerful good-bye to the rest of us, including Nadine, and left.  I hoped to soon see him again, and get to know him a lot better.

Complication: Nadine now said to the shire members near her, “It seems when I like him he hates me, and when I hate him, he likes me.”  (Much later, when I told him about this, he got upset and said, “I don’t know where she gets the idea that I hate her.”)  I wondered what was going on between them, and why she felt this way.  I didn’t think they were dating, at least.

(As it turned out, she had a huge crush on him that he didn’t know about for a while.  She wrote a letter about it to Tatiana, who showed it to him.  He got scared, because to him she sounded obsessed.  So I just walked into a little soap opera.)

Soon, Catherine and I also left the meeting.  On the way back, as Catherine played her Prince tapes as she usually did when driving me places that semester, I told her about Cugan hugging me.  I said,

“I didn’t mind being hugged, especially by Cugan.”

I had no idea that Catherine had been scheming all along for me to meet Cugan, that when she told me there were hot guys in the SCA who love to flirt, she was thinking mainly of Cugan.  I wouldn’t know this until probably a few months later.

She didn’t know him well, but figured he was the kind of guy I’d like.  He seemed better for me than Phil.  She hated Phil (and Persephone).  She must have been pleased that, with no prodding from her whatsoever, I now sat there saying how cute Cugan was and how much I wanted to get to know him better.

I had no idea that, so soon after my divorce, I met my future husband, one who would stick around; Cugan had no idea that he met the future mother of his child.

Learning my ex Peter was a love-fraud; New Men

The following may have happened soon after February 7: I found my ex Peter, or “Red Dwarf,” on TCB.  I sent him a cryptic e-mail one day, saying he could look in my registry and know who I was.  I got no reply, so I thought he wanted nothing to do with me.

Then one night, he paged me on TCB with, “Hello Nyssa.”  He knew who I was.  He said he hadn’t answered, not because he didn’t want to, but because he wanted to catch me online and talk to me.

He said, “I never expected to see you on these BBS’s!”  I told him about Dad’s old modem in Pearl’s computer.

That night we talked online for a long time, mostly about what happened between Phil and me.  He heard we broke off the engagement, but didn’t know why.  “What happened???” he wrote.  He also told me he converted to Wicca/Paganism.

He got angry with Phil when I told him the things Phil did.  At one point, I wrote, “Phil should go and be a monk, and spare all women.”  He’d once wanted to be a priest, but I figured even a priest gives marital counseling to his parishioners, so a monk in some isolated monastery would do the least harm: safely locked away, sparing all women.

Peter made some shocked cyber-gesture and wrote, “I’m shocked that you would say–or rather, type–such things!”

Heck, I had written this and all sorts of other things in my diary on February 7, when I wrote that I no longer wanted Phil because he wasn’t worth it.

My mother also had never heard me talk about anyone the way I talked about Phil.

Peter talked about a girl he recently broken up with who was twenty(?) and acted fifteen(?).  I wondered if it was the same one I met earlier that school year in the cafeteria, though I didn’t mention her.  I couldn’t be sure, though; it could have been someone totally different.

Peter gently scolded me for using cold medicine and not herbs or other natural remedies.  Which struck me as weird, because doesn’t everybody do that, and why would I do different?

He said that he went to see the O’Haras recently, and was treated like crap.  So there was no love lost between him and Phil now, even though they once were good friends.

Soon after we started using TCB, and before February 8, Sharon went on one late afternoon before dinner and met someone who called himself Krafter, age 26.  He chatted with Sharon for a while, then told her he was administration.

Sharon, apparently thinking that a member of Roanoke administration was hitting on her, said, “Oh, yuck!”  As it turned out, he was a member of TCB administration, or one of the co-sysops, so there was nothing icky about him hitting on her after all.

He spoke with Sharon often over the next few days, and seemed to have more than friendship in mind.  One day, I talked to him as well, starting my own friendship with him.  One night, I even chatted with him for hours–somewhere between three to six.

I may have run out of time on TCB, because he told me the name and number of his own BBS, Deltapolis, and we went over there to chat.  We had many things in common and really hit it off (obviously, or we wouldn’t have chatted for so long).  Now he seemed interested in both Sharon and me as more than just friends, but didn’t know which one he preferred.

He’d never dated before, so he couldn’t believe that two women were actually interested in him.  He said he must be dreaming.  My handle, Nyssa of Traken, also interested him because as a kid, he had a huge crush on my namesake, Nyssa on Doctor Who.

He also hated the Doctor’s other teenaged companion, Adric, with a passion because he was “in the way.”  After that chat, he seemed more interested in me than in Sharon, which wasn’t my intention, though I was starting to fall for him, myself.

When Sharon discovered this, I couldn’t tell if she was mad or just faking, but part of it seemed real.  She said, “I hate you,” and laughed.  I didn’t think she meant it, though it made me uneasy.  I didn’t mean to steal Krafter away from her.

I told her, thinking of my ill-fated meeting with the Vampire, “You might not even like him when we meet him.  You don’t know.”  I probably said we should wait until our meeting with him on the eighth to decide who should have him, if either of us.

We set up our meeting for 5:30pm in the Chase Center in the hall beside the plants, or the greenhouse which was on the main floor of Chase.  Sharon had a class there at six.

His description: long leather coat, brown coat, red backpack, a (hooded) sweater/sweatshirt in many colors, blue jeans, and black tennis shoes.  I think he was about six feet tall, and something over 200 pounds.

We ate our dinner in excitement.  Randy joked about our meeting.  When 5:30 neared, we rushed off to Chase.  We sat in the hallway by the plants, wondering what we got ourselves into.

A scuzzy-looking guy in a leather jacket walked by.  At first we feared it was him, but it wasn’t.  We sighed with relief and waited some more.

Finally, Krafter arrived.  He was cute with striking, slanted, dark eyes.  He had short, brown hair, glasses, a shapely mouth, and a sweet, cute smile.  I was attracted to him, but Sharon wasn’t.

She said none of this to him, of course.  We went into a classroom, sat at the desks, and talked for maybe ten minutes or more.  I was jealous because Sharon had more to say than I did, so the two of them talked mostly to each other.  He smiled a lot.

When it was time to separate, Sharon said to me, “He’s so nice!”  Whether either of us wanted to date him or not, we certainly wanted to see him again.  And I was definitely interested in dating him.

I probably met Speaker online around this time, too.  He was 20, which seemed young to me then, even though I was only 21.  He had low self-esteem, refused to give his real name, and complained that he could never find a girl to love him.  We chatted for hours; I seemed drawn to such guys.  Phil had been similar.  I didn’t mind trying to encourage them.

Speaker had spoken to many of the other girls on TCB, but I was the “only truly nice girl” or the “nicest girl” there.  We became fast, online friends.  He called me Nyssie, and I called him Speaker-y.  I called myself his Nyssie.

Speaker and I got acquainted by doing the Budweiser frog thing to each other: One of us typed “Bud,” the other “Weis,” and the first typed “Er!” or “ER!”  I didn’t know it then, but he hadn’t even seen the commercial.

(When I met him finally, he said that on the way over he saw a Budweiser frog billboard, and thought of me.  Then I had to explain to him that I got the “Budweiser” thing from the frog commercial.)

Krafter wanted to meet us again.  He said he and his friend Stimpy watched Mystery Science Theater: 3000 and ate pizza every Saturday night.  Though at first he wanted to just see us alone that Saturday, he said, “No, I can’t do that to Stimpy.”

Krafter knocked on the kitchen door on Saturday the 11th at around 5pm, holding a box of pizza.  Somebody also provided Mountain Dew, since, as my roommates and I now discovered, caffeine-filled Divine Dew was the drink of choice for computer geeks.

I answered the door.  Stimpy was nineteen, tall and skinny, with distinctive eyes.  His handle came from Ren and Stimpy.  His hair was long and light brown, and under a baseball cap–but facing front, not back, a good thing.  I thought he was cute, and Sharon and Pearl thought he was hot.  If Sharon wanted Krafter, I could take Stimpy.

We seemed less like two people meeting two other people, and more like two girls and two guys trying to get together and pair off.  All we needed to know was who wanted to pair off with whom.

That night, I sat on the couch, Krafter in a chair to my left and Stimpy on the couch to my right.  I wanted to choose one of them, but wasn’t sure which one I wanted most.  At the time, I thought it was Krafter.  I also flirted with Stimpy.

Sharon thought they were paying too much attention to me and not to her, so she finally went to bed.  She didn’t understand that she was Krafter’s favorite, not me.

To me, TV wasn’t a conversation killer, but a social gatherer.  By watching it and not each other, and filling up uncomfortable silences with it, you could feel more comfortable with people and begin to open up to them.

(Farwest Trivia, though it killed teleconference after its debut, was also this way, because you could comment on the questions if the conversation lagged.)

You could learn a lot about people just from their comments and laughter during TV shows.

Krafter was “in charge” of an imaginary corporation named Delta, made up of some TCB users (such as Ish Kabibble; more on him later).  Its aim was to take over everything.  This was all a joke, of course.  He even gave us Delta business cards.  The name of his BBS, Deltapolis, came from this.

Delta was housed in an imaginary pyramid, which, Krafter said, one day would “crush H–.”  I asked why H– (the town in which my friend Mike grew up); he said it was arbitrary, picked for being tiny and close to S–.

I dropped a Mississippi Mud ice cream sandwich (chocolate ice cream and nuts) on Stimpy’s lap in a flirty fashion.

After the TV shows ended, Krafter and Stimpy sat on chairs by the kitchen counter.  Krafter said,

“Stimpy and I can tell you about the users on TCB.  We can tell you who’s nice, who you can trust, and who you should avoid.

“If you want to meet someone, do it in a public place with people around.  If somebody doesn’t want to meet you, you should beware that they may not be as nice as they seem.

“Ish Kabibble is the one truly nice guy on TCB.  Speaker is a problem, since he never wants to meet anyone, and keeps giving girls these sob stories to make them feel sorry for him.

Red Dwarf is the worst!  He pretends to be what a girl wants so she’ll date him.  And he’s always borrowing programs from us for his BBS, which is really annoying.”

This revelation floored me.  I smiled and said, “I used to date Red Dwarf when I was a freshman.”

Krafter and Stimpy looked at me like I’d been contaminated or there was something wrong with me.

I laughed and said, “He was a Christian back then.”

Of course, what they said about Red Dwarf, or Peter, made me wonder how much of our relationship had been real, and how much had been an elaborate lie so I’d date him.  Was he like that back then, or was I not only his first girlfriend but the one who actually got to see the real him?

I had no way of knowing, especially since he changed completely after the breakup.  That could indicate that he lied to me, except that back then everyone else saw him the same way I did: as a sweet, Christian person.

Of course, Shawn wondered all along if Peter truly changed after the breakup, or if he’d been that way all along.  He said sophomore year, “Nobody changes that much.”

I didn’t believe Shawn back then, but now I didn’t know what to believe.  I still don’t; it’s not the sort of thing you ask somebody, even when you’re friends again: “Were you just fooling me and manipulating me?”

Apparently he makes a girl think he’s just the guy she’s always wanted–then wonders why she’s so upset and can’t let go after he breaks up with her!

I saw Speaker online soon after that, and he began beating himself up again.  Instead of reassuring him like usual, I got mad because he seemed to be manipulating me just as Krafter and Stimpy had warned me.

He then got mad at me for getting mad at him based on what other people said about him.  We eventually made up; I decided to be his friend and make up my own mind about him.

When I returned from Christmas Break, I planned to go back home after I graduated, and be with the Vampire, my old friend Josh and my high school friend Becky.  Now I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving all the wonderful people I was meeting on TCB.  I decided to stay in S– with them and my roommies.

Before Tracy, There Was the Avenger (Sociopathic Female Bullies Pt 1)

Sharon, Pearl and I soon discovered a bullying and smear campaign being carried out on TCB, led by “Lima” against his ex-girlfriend Pamela.

Lima’s usual greeting in Teleconference was “hello” written backwards, or “olleh,” the mirror-image effect Rachel was so fond of.  So I always greeted him with, “hello lima bean–olleh amil neab” or “hello olleh lima amil bean neab.”  But this was before I knew about the bullying.

Now, whenever I went online, I found Lima (a tallish, dark-haired guy of about twenty who worked instead of going to college) and his friends ripping on Pamela.

One day, Pamela came online and he complained about seeing her.  I asked why; he whispered to me (that means, he sent a private message to me) that Pamela was his ex-girlfriend, that she cheated on him and was just awful to him.

After this, Sharon went online one day and found Pamela.  Pamela, a pretty girl with dark hair who was about our age, took her into chat.

She said that Lima and his friends were lying about her, that she never did those things they accused her of.  She said he’d already dated and dumped another girl since her, so Avenger, his new girlfriend (who was only sixteen), was afraid he’d do the same thing to her.

(Actually, a few years later, he married her.  I have no idea if they’re still together, because–even though I can search divorce and criminal records easily in Wisconsin–I never knew their full names.)

Avenger posted sexual innuendos in her profile, which disturbed me because Lima was twenty and she sixteen: Sixteen-year-olds are jailbait in Wisconsin.  In fact, if the police discover that two minor teenagers of the exact same age have slept together, both get charged with sexual assault!  It’s nuts, I know.

“Pigpen” and “Cankersore” were friends of Avenger and Lima.  They were teen-age girls: Pigpen was pretty and slim, and recently broke Stimpy’s heart in a nasty way; Cankersore was plump.  I met them at Gypsy’s party.

Sharon and I witnessed the horrible things Lima, Avenger, Pigpen and Cankersore, probably Nobody, and probably some of Lima’s male friends did whenever Pamela was online.  They waged out-and-out war with her.

She didn’t like being online at the same time as they were, especially in Teleconference, where they’d rip and rip and rip on her with no mercy.

They posted nasty things about her in the forums.  No matter who else was in tele (Teleconference), this group posted everything publicly.  If they whispered anything to her, I don’t know.  This cyber-abuse, cyber-bullying, upset Pamela a lot.

Sometime during this period, I met Avenger online for the first time: I went into tele, finding Ish Kabibble, and Avenger in private chat with a boy who wasn’t Lima.

She came back into the main Teleconference channel and the boy left.  Ish said words like, “I see you brushing yourself off, there, Avenger.  You’d better be careful not to let Lima know you were alone with another boy.”

I made some joke in this vein which I can’t remember now, just some harmless throwaway comment to make her laugh.  Everyone else laughed.  But she turned on me and wrote, “Listen, NEW USER, you’d better be careful.”  I had no clue why she’d say that to me, especially when she wasn’t mad at Ish for teasing her.  It was bizarre.

I believe she left tele soon after, so I discussed it with Ish, wondering what the heck had just happened.  He didn’t know what set her off, either.

When Avenger logged off a few minutes later, she sent a message to me that said, “Avenger is hugging you!”  I paged her with, “So you’ve forgiven me now? 🙂 ”

She didn’t respond because she was already offline.  I didn’t know at the time that this was her logoff message, sent to the entire board, that she wasn’t hugging me personally.

(By the way, I soon began to type “.wave all” before I logged off each time, which sent a message to everyone online saying, “Nyssa Of Traken is waving to you.”  That was my good-bye wave.)

After I discovered my mistake, and that Avenger had not “forgiven” me at all, I dreaded her appearance online, and avoided her.  I grunted “Avenger” with a frown whenever she came online.

I checked her registry.  It said she was sixteen, which I knew to be a volatile age, so I said to myself, “That explains it.”  Well, sort of, since I wasn’t like that at sixteen.

It wasn’t just her age, but her personality.  Of course, I didn’t know that yet.  She was rude and mean to me ever since she first met me, even though I was always nice to people online.

Her attitude problem didn’t go away with age, as I discovered a year or two later, and then around 2006 or 2007 when she found this memoir on my website.  She still refused to admit that she was mean and nasty to everyone, still saw herself as some kind of champion.

At 16, she seemed to hate anyone over 20.  She seemed to think people that “old” hated teenagers.  She turned on them with the slightest provocation–even with no provocation–and twisted anything they said into a slam on teenagers.

She and her cronies ridiculed older users in the forums.  If anyone tried to defend them, she ridiculed them, too.

She was immature, but insisted she was mature (which Cugan later told me was a sure sign of her immaturity).  She was bad-tempered, arrogant and cocky.

I never did anything to her–except disagree with her–yet she hated me.  One of the other users told me there were few girls on the BBS, so many of them hated competition.  (What’s with this “competition,” anyway?)  However, that didn’t excuse how nasty some of these girls got.

After all, Avenger wasn’t just rude to other girls, but to men, too.  Speaker was one favorite target.  So were Krafter, Stimpy and their male friends.  Once, an older guy wrote to her in the forums, “I don’t understand you at all.”

Nowadays, I believe that Avenger is a sociopath.  She could also have other Cluster B personality disorders, considering how easily she took offense, a sure sign of borderline or histrionic disorders.  I soon discovered the full extent of Avenger’s abusive personality, so much so that you could call her the teenage version of Tracy, another personality-disordered bully whom I met later on in life.

But this was not the end.  More on this batsh**-crazy sociopathic female is in the March chapter.  There, her drama-queen antics reached a fever pitch as she tried to mob-cyber-bully me off the board with a massive smear campaign.

That’s what she and Lima did to Pamela, who eventually stopped going on the BBS entirely, yet another nice person intimidated off while the nasty ones took over.  That’s what she tried to do to another girl, Amethyst? a year later–except Amethyst just laughed at her.

Torn Between Three Men as Catherine pushes me toward Cugan

I found a note for Friday, February 10 to work on our Chaucer seminar presentation with Catherine after work.  But it wasn’t all about homework: She said I should write a letter to Cugan and ask him about the SCA, his persona, whether or not he played Dungeons and Dragons, etc.

She gave me several suggestions for questions, all of which I included.  She also wanted a copy of the letter when I finished it.

I believe Cugan already gave me a list of shire addresses; I saw from this his real name, and that he lived in M–.  I’d never been to M–, so it seemed remote and cool.  Writing a letter made me nervous, but also excited.

On the top of a piece of paper, I took notes on versification, which Catherine and I chose for our seminar presentation.  In the lower right corner, I wrote what Catherine said I should say.  I probably had no idea what to say, so she wanted to help me and make sure I wrote that letter.

I kept the letter non-flirty, to test Cugan to see what he was like.  But Catherine wrote in my notes that I should include “Sultry Attraction” and “Nyssa–Coy Wanton Advances.”

I wrote, “Catherine doesn’t know if she can go [to next meeting]–could he take me,” and Catherine wrote under it, “and ravish me?  When & Where.”  After the close, she wrote, “I want your body and I want it NOW!!!”

I knew better than to speak of his sultry attraction, say “I don’t know if you noticed my coy, wanton advances,” or ask him to ravish me.  Besides being out of character for me, these words would scare him off before I had a chance to start anything.

That night, I also went shopping, probably with my roommies and friend Mike.  We often went to the grocery store, usually Pick ‘N Save, on Friday nights.  We joked about how other people would party on Friday night, and our party was going to the grocery store.

On Sunday, February 12, my friend Helene took me to see Little Women, the version with Susan Sarandon and Wynona Rider, which recently started playing in the S– Marcus Theater (where I saw most movies during college).

First she took me to her small, two-story house, where I met her two daughters and saw a plaque on the wall commemorating her late husband, who died in a plane crash several years before.

In those days, a matinee cost $4.50.

I loved the way the movie was done.  You could tell during close-ups that they were going for a more accurate, makeup-free look even on the women.  Some may have been made up, such as society girls, but not Marmee, Jo, Meg or Beth.  In the grainy look of a movie on a big screen, these characters looked much more true-to-life than movie characters often do on a TV screen.

Helene nudged me and said Winona Ryder reminded her of me.  Especially in her role as Jo with long hair, I could see what she meant.  I don’t think we would pass as doubles, but we were close to the same age, and I could see similarities in our appearance.

Though Jo March and Laurie would have made a good couple, when Professor Baer appeared, I wanted him and Jo to be together.  In this movie, he was played by Gabriel Byrne, a handsome man with a distinctive, dignified appearance.  This was the first time I saw him in a movie, and after that, whenever I saw him playing another character I’d remember him as Professor Baer.

Despite one biographer’s thoughts that Louisa May Alcott deliberately took a passionate relationship with Laurie away from Jo and gave her a passionless relationship with an older man–which, to the biographer, couldn’t be passionate because he was much older than Jo–I thought those two had marvelous chemistry.

And come on, a young woman can certainly have a passionate relationship with an older man!  Just ask Celine Dion.

As I watched it, I also thought of Krafter and Stimpy, and my own struggle to figure out which one I wanted.  Krafter was my Prof. Baer, and Stimpy was my Laurie, because Krafter was much older (as he seemed then) and Stimpy was closer to my age (though a youngster to me).

I thought maybe I preferred the older one, Krafter.  I wasn’t sure, though.

At 7pm, Catherine and I met again about our seminar presentation.  She came to my room; I gave her a copy of my letter to Cugan.

We spoke of versification and our seminar presentation for a short time, but the bulk of our time was spent talking of other, more important things.  We sat on the floor of the study room beside my desk and talked for what may have been a few hours.

She hated Phil, didn’t think we should have been together.

I said, “You should have said something back then.”

She said, “I tried to tell you once.”  It was in April, right after she and Rachel came to see me and inadvertently started an argument between us because I wouldn’t convert to Catholicism, but she wasn’t clear enough for me to catch it.

She said, “The next time I see you with a guy you shouldn’t be with, I’ll come right out and say, ‘Get out now!  Break up with him!  Get away from him!'”  Of course, she also asked, “If I did say something, would you have listened?”


One night, somewhere between the 12th and 18th, Sharon wasn’t able to come with us, but Krafter took Stimpy and me to his house.  Actually his parents’ beautiful house, where he lived in an awesome basement suite: a few small rooms formed with posts and black tarp or trash bags.

His bed was in one room, and chairs, a full entertainment system with TV, VCR and stereo, and several computers were in another.

My new “geek” friends preferred jeans and T-shirts.  I began to wear T-shirts around them instead of long-sleeved dressy shirts, to fit in.

Krafter played music on the stereo system with the lights off, to impress me with his setup: surround sound and blinking lights everywhere.

He played his videotape of the last TCB user picnic, from the summer of 1994, of which he planned to scan stills into the TCB files for users to download.  I got to see a whole bunch of people I’d met and was yet to meet online:

There was Peter and his girlfriend of the time, who I thought was the same girl I met earlier that year in the lunch line.

There was Stimpy, Krafter, Stimpy standing under a tree talking with his good friend Teri (a buxom, pretty girl).  As far as I knew, they never dated, which surprised me.  Maybe she always had another boyfriend, or maybe she wasn’t interested.  I couldn’t imagine Stimpy not being interested in her at some point.

I didn’t see Avenger or Ish Kabibble, but Lima was there with Pamela.  This was obviously while they were still together and happy.  Lima wore a weird jester’s cap that was popular with the girls there.

Everyone wore “Hi my name is” stickers, though Lima and Pamela kept switching theirs.  I already knew about the Lima and Pamela saga.

A few of the younger kids were there, as was Stubby, a hobbit-like, cute guy of about Stimpy’s age.  Someone asked him as the camera focused on him, “Why are you called Stubby?” and laughed.

Krafter and Stimpy introduced me to the British sitcom The Young Ones.  We watched six episodes.  This mid-80s show, once on MTV, was about four college boys living together in a horrendously dirty apartment.  (Think frat house and multiply it 100 times.)

One, Vivian, a punk with star rivets in his forehead and spiked hair, tended to get violent and/or yell at everyone even in ordinary conversation.  This was probably a reaction to his feminine name (Vivian was once a masculine name, but I guess even in England it wasn’t anymore).

Neil was a hippie-type with long, dark hair and jeans.  I liked him: He was sweet.  Sharon once said he reminded her of me because of his hair.

Rik called everyone fascists.  Mike was short and had a way with the ladies.  It was the most insane show I’d ever seen, and I loved it.

Example: Everyone decides it’s about time to go to the laundromat, because their socks are starting to run away.  However, when they try to put the clothes, which are now life forms, into the washing machine, the clothes try to get away and have to be forced in.  Then the machine spews them out.  Scene here.

The Love Rectangle

Sharon and I also got into Absolutely Fabulous.  She said British shows were funnier than American shows because they just had the humor, and didn’t try to make a point or have a moral or deal with social issues.

Sometime during this period, Krafter and Stimpy came over to the apartment to watch my copy of the Doctor Who episode “Snakedance,” which included Nyssa.  Krafter explained to Stimpy that Nyssa was the hottest of the female assistants, and I said, “Yep.”

Stimpy looked at me and wondered why I, a female, said that about another female, and I said, “I’m just supporting what he said, because I’m [nicknamed] Nyssa.”  Of course I’d want to support my online-handle-namesake.

While I still wondered which one I wanted, Krafter or Stimpy, I talked with Stimpy online and he said Krafter was a Buddhist.  He was joking, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I feared to find out what religion either of them had, in case it was not Christian.  I didn’t want to have to give up on both of them, or find out that Sharon and I were going after the wrong guys.

Sharon eventually decided to see Krafter even though he wasn’t a Christian: He was searching, and interested in Christianity, even though he was still undecided about it.

I decided not to deal with the religious issue with Stimpy, not if we weren’t having a serious relationship.

I may have already decided along with Pearl that dating a non-Christian was okay, but getting serious with one wasn’t, because when you’re dating someone it may never get serious, but a serious relationship could lead to love and/or marriage.

Why set yourself up for pain by being serious with someone you’re going to have to break up with anyway?  Christians are forbidden from marrying non-Christians.  (Some do anyway, but I have no idea how they’re able to, unless they can get dispensations or they’re in congregations with looser restrictions.)

This is one reason why being in a “Christian” school with few Christian men to choose from, was so discouraging–and one reason why I had so few dates/boyfriends from high school through college.

Once I learned about the restriction midway through high school, I had to stop liking guys who weren’t Christians, which cut my potential “dating pool” way back, because most of the guys I knew were agnostic, atheist or some other religion.

And if the Christian guys I knew, did not want to date me, I had nobody left.

Now Sharon and I found ourselves in a strange and amusing situation: a love rectangle.  You usually hear about love triangles; well, this time, four people were involved.

It seemed we both kept liking the same guy at the same time–sometimes Krafter, sometimes Stimpy.  I thought Krafter was cute, but Sharon thought Stimpy was cute.  She didn’t think Krafter was cute, though I thought Stimpy was cute.  Yet as Stimpy later confessed to me, he and Krafter each ended up with the girl he wanted.

Once or twice, Sharon talked to Stimpy online, and he seemed to be coming on to her.  I didn’t know what to think about that, because I had the impression he liked me best.  We weren’t sure either of them had a preference.

One day, I sent Krafter, Stimpy and probably Speaker cybercards for Valentine’s Day.  There were three kinds of Valentine’s Day cards on TCB.

There were also other cards for birthdays (a big cake with candles) or other things, and you could even send someone a cyber flower or pizza.  (The pizza card spelled it “pizzia,” which became a sort of in-joke for me.)

When choosing a cybercard to send each guy, I didn’t go for the card with a big, beating heart that read, “I love you.”  I chose cards that a friend or flirt would send another friend.  When Sharon found out about this, however, she said,

“You should send Stimpy the ‘I love you’ card.”

Silly me, I thought she was serious, and prepared the card.  Then I chickened out and sent a different one.  She then confessed she wanted me to sabotage my chances with Stimpy by scaring him off.  It was hilarious.

Krafter and Stimpy both began to act like they wanted me.  Then Sharon finally said to me on Valentine’s Day, “You can have them both!  If they both want you, then I don’t want either one of them.”

That afternoon or early evening, I went online and found Krafter.  He asked if I wanted to be his Valentine.  (Maybe I was just the first girl to go online.)

I wrote, “But what about Stimpy?”  I now wanted Stimpy most, and didn’t want to disappoint him if he wanted me to be his Valentine.

Krafter finally sighed and wrote, “I’ll try for Sharon, then.”

I wrote I didn’t know about that, that she didn’t seem to want to date either of them.  But Krafter began singing her praises.  He said, “She’s got looks, brains, what more could a man want?”

As soon as possible, I ran to tell Sharon what Krafter said about her.  She went online that day or the next, and they went into chat mode.  The end result was, they decided to try dating, and see how it worked out.  Though Sharon still was not attracted to him, they had many things in common, such as philosophical ideas and books.

Krafter jokingly claimed to have baby llamas on a farm.  He talked about them in tele.  Sharon became the llama Mommy, and joked about them as well.

In those days, Farwest Trivia hadn’t yet stolen all the interest in teleconference.  Ever after, we remembered those days when tele was party central, sometimes with as many as sixteen people in it at once.

Sharon changed her online summary to, “I’ll twist your mind till you scream.”

Eventually Sharon fell for Krafter, and I said, referring to her and the fun times we were all having online, “And to think, you can thank my dad’s modem for it all!”

Back to Valentine’s Day.  I heard nothing from Stimpy about being his Valentine.

Sharon began gloating a little about getting Krafter, saying I couldn’t have him now.  I clammed up and eventually walked out of the room, went into the study, and closed the door.

Sharon came in and asked if I was mad.  I was, a little.  A part of me still wanted Krafter.  I tried not to be mad, and took the opportunity to move in on Stimpy.

In the last few minutes before midnight, I found Speaker online.  I probably cried out in a squeak, as I usually did, “Speaker!”  Speaker asked me to be his Valentine for the last few minutes of Valentine’s Day, and I said okay.  So even though I had no husband, fiancée or boyfriend, at least I had a Valentine on Valentine’s Day.

Torn between FIVE Men!  Me?

Sharon and I plotted to go to The Brady Movie, which had just come out in theaters, with Krafter and Stimpy on a double date.  But before we could say anything about it, Stimpy told me (totally oblivious) that he just saw it with his good friend Misty, a thirtyish gay man.

Misty was a sweet guy, and also flamboyantly gay, at least online.  I loved playing with him in tele.  Fortunately, he and Stimpy were just friends.  But dang it, now our scheme was ruined.

On Saturday, February 18, Krafter drove Sharon and me in his minivan to his house.  (Stimpy didn’t have a car.)  We watched MST:3K there, sitting on the pillow-filled, white couch in the immaculate living room, watching a big-screen TV.

I sat close to Stimpy on the couch and kept inching closer.  I forget what else I did, but it was obvious to Sharon what I was doing.


I couldn’t believe how quickly I got a reply from Cugan: within a few days of sending my letter.  I showed his letter to Catherine, who read more into it than I did.

She thought the line, “If you cannot find someone [to drive you to the next SCA meeting], let me know, and I’d be happy to help,” and his phone number, to be signs of interest.  I hoped so, but didn’t want to read in things that might not be there.

We were both impressed to find that the universe actually favored me: Cugan was a conservative Christian, a Lutheran (Missouri Synod).  I asked Catherine if that was compatible with Nazarenes, because I’d had quite enough of religious friction.  She, a member of ELCA, said Lutherans are probably the most compatible denomination.

I planned another letter, hoping to start a correspondence that may lead to more than friendship.


On the night of Monday, February 20, I went online and found Stimpy.  Somehow, the conversation turned to dating.  I don’t remember if he noticed me coming on to him on Saturday, but he might have.  I asked if he wanted to be considered my man, and he said okay.  I wrote,

“I just got out of a bad relationship only a few months ago, so I don’t want a serious relationship yet: I’m scared of it.”

This is one reason why I pursued several guys at once: If the heart is so divided, the rejection of one will not hurt, and none will be able to wound it with mistreatment.

It gave me the chance to find out what each guy was really like, to find a compatible one, and to weed out deceptive ones like Peter and abusive ones like Phil.  I even flirted with Stubby, though he had an online girlfriend.

Stimpy wrote, “I’m not going to push you, and it’ll be nothing you don’t want.”

We agreed that we could see other people.

That same night, Catherine called and asked, “Do you want me to call up Cugan and get some information out of him?  I’ll say I’m doing a poll on who’s married and single in the shire.”

I didn’t know it for quite some time, but she was actually direct, asking him what he thought of me.

Soon after I logged off TCB that night, the phone rang again.

Catherine said, “I just talked to Cugan.  You know what?  He thinks you’re cute.”

Of course, here I was in Heaven because Cugan thought I was cute, but also ambivalent because I’d just asked Stimpy to date me.

I knew it was okay to date them both if they both wanted me.  I’d never played the field before, despite wanting to with Peter at times, so it intrigued me.

After I told Speaker of my agreement with Stimpy, I still called myself “your Nyssie,” but Speaker wrote, “No, you’re not my Nyssie.  You’re Stimpy’s Nyssie now.”  I tried to tell him it wasn’t exclusive.

And I also wrote to Brad from the Superbowl Party.  I never had three guys interested in me all at once before.

If I got serious with any of them, I’d have to give up the other two–and give that one a chance to turn abusive.  Brad was more a pen friend than a boyfriend, though: We were writing to see if we wanted it to go farther or not.


On the night of either Friday the 24th or Saturday the 25th, Krafter hosted a “Python-a-thon.”  He invited those whom he considered to be the nice and cool users of TCB.  So Avenger and Lima were not there, of course.

Sharon and I were invited.  An engineering student named Franz was there; either I or someone else called him Znarf.  He was one of Avenger’s favorite targets.

I believe Stubby was there, too.  A few others were also there, mostly guys.   Krafter showed Monty Python movies: The Holy Grail, The Meaning of Life, and Life of Brian.  I’d never seen The Meaning of Life before, and it was quite a treat.

At some point that night, when everyone else had gone home and left Sharon and me with Krafter and Stimpy, somebody mentioned the SCA.  Krafter said he thought about joining a local group, but then he met a member who didn’t believe in bathing or modern dentistry.  (I later found out who he meant.)  He didn’t want to join anymore.

Sharon and I stayed over until the next morning.  No, there were no orgies or improprieties.  🙂  I cuddled up with Stimpy on the couch, and eventually fell asleep.

Sharon, Krafter and probably Stimpy watched late movies they found on TV, such as the re-make of The Fly with Jeff Goldblum.  I was asleep when they turned it on, and since I couldn’t stand to ever see that movie again, I tried to go back to sleep.  (I had to see it in my Sci-Fi Winterim class freshman year; it was gross.  😛 )

After that, whenever I saw Stimpy online, I usually typed “cuddle stimpy,” and he typed “cuddle nys.”  This called up the actions, “Nyssa is cuddling with Stimpy” and “Stimpy is cuddling with Nyssa.”

Persephone’s Own Outrageous Stories of Phil’s Abuse

On probably Sunday the 26th, the most likely date, one of the sororities held an 80s party in the Pub.  It was part of a theme week held by the fraternities and sororities.  There was a party each night, starting with a 50s party and ending with an 80s or 90s party.

I just went to the 80s party, since I was most interested in that.  On the day of it, 80s pop music was piped into Bossard during meals.  Charles complained because those weren’t the 80s metal songs he knew.  But the rest of us enjoyed it because we were into pop rather than metal in the 80s.

During the party, however, somebody apparently forgot it was an 80s night, and played a mix of songs none of us knew or that seemed to belong to the present day.  It may have been a radio station.

In getting ready for this party, I found a shirt I’d never worn, that my mom gave me.  The collar was torn–apparently a garage sale find.  It was really one piece, but made to look like a sleeveless sweater worn over a long-sleeved shirt.  The sweater part was green, and the shirt part was white and green-striped.

This kind of shirt was popular in 7th and 8th grade, but by the time my mom got it, it had gone out of style, so I hadn’t worn it.  It was perfect for 80s night, however.  I didn’t know how to roll the handkerchief-necklace that was so popular in 6th grade, but tried it anyway, rolling my big, brown scarf and pinning it around my neck.

Astrid remembered kids folding over and rolling their pant legs and pinning them tight, though I didn’t remember that; I just remembered fighting with my jeans every morning, wondering why the legs of all my new pairs had such tiny hems that I could barely even get my feet through them.

Nowadays, I only had two pairs of jeans, both either straight-legged or gently tapered, nothing like those mid-80s jeans.  I wore one pair and pinned the cuffs as Astrid described.

I still had a big, plastic hair clamp lying around, popular in 7th and 8th grade, and held up the hair on one side of my head with it, just as the clamps were worn back then.

Several TV’s were set up with Ataris on the Pub platform; I sat there along with several other students.  Both of my absolute favorite games were there: Pitfall and Demon Attack.  Frogger was also there.

I played them the best I could, though I had a hard time working the joystick and fingering the button without my thumb getting tired.  I guess I was rusty.  There were two kinds of joysticks there: the small, black standard and the long-handled, easier-to-use deluxe version.

(By the way: Also check out Pitfall 2.  I played that all the time on our Radio Shack CoCo computer in 1986 or 1987, usually listening to Whiteheart’s song “Fly Eagle Fly,” which fit with all the bats flying around.)

Persephone was also there; after a while we got to talking.  We were there so long that my friends left without me.

She had finally broken up with Phil for good.  (At least, that’s what she said then.  I don’t know if they got back together later.  I do know they were finally “done” before December.)

We had many things to talk about and agree on.  She told me her own problems with him; we laughed, complained and agreed about the ways he treated girlfriends.

She still went dancing with him as friends on Saturday nights, and laughed as she watched him flirt with girls there.

She said, “Phil practically lived with me and Trina” in Muehlmeier for a few months.  He didn’t like going home, where the dysfunctional living got worse.  (Either that, or a summer with my family showed him how a functional family lives, and made his own unbearable.)

He was at least as bad with Persephone as with me, if not worse.  She said:

“Once, he even slapped me.  I slapped him right back so hard that he never did that again.”  Good!  Persephone didn’t seem like the type of person to allow abuse.

“He didn’t want me to be friends with you.  That was suspicious.  Was he afraid of something?”

“We were very unstable: We broke up five times!”

“He’s not to be trusted.”

“I couldn’t believe his immaturity.  One night, one of his friends came over to my room to visit Phil and me.”

(It sounded like his Vampire Friend S–.  He didn’t want to introduce me to this guy, for fear he’d steal me away–as he sometimes did with Phil’s other girlfriends.)

“This guy thought I was pretty, and tried to steal me away from Phil.  Things ended up in a huge argument, and Phil ran away.  We finally found him hiding under my bed!

This guy even got my roommate Trina to spy on me!

“Phil’s minivan finally died because he knows nothing about taking care of a car.”

“Trina even had a crush on Phil.  She and his friends used to spy on me for him!”

(That reminded me of September between our first and second breakups, when I felt like Phil’s friends were spying on me.  Now that I knew he did this to Persephone, I felt less paranoid to think he did it to me.  Since Trina was also her roommate, this was especially hard for her.)

“Oh, it was a major rebound for him.  He’d call me by your name, and I’d say–” with an angry tone–“I’m not Nyssa.”

“He treated me like a child.”  Just as he did me, and just as he did his mother.  “He respects you if you’re his friend, but not if you’re his girlfriend.”

“I think he has an Oedipal complex.  He complains about his mother but is trying to get a woman like her.”  To be fair, wanting a girl “just like Mom,” especially if Mom is a wonderful person, is not so bad, but treating a woman like a child is bad.

“After he got your last letter, he called Pearl over Christmas Break to ask what was going on.  Then he saw the school counselor, who advised him to stay away from you.”  I was glad, because I’d asked him in the letter to do just that, because he was being cruel to me and I didn’t want to see him.

“I didn’t play Dungeons and Dragons with Phil.  One night he complained to his D&D group because I wouldn’t have sex with him!  Then one of the girls in the group came to me and scolded me!”

This woman should’ve known better than to scold another woman for not giving her body when she didn’t want to.  Persephone didn’t buy it, of course, and was very upset about this.

I said, “What a loser.”  If she didn’t want to have sex with him, she didn’t have to.

All these revelations confirmed to me that it wasn’t me, it was him.  And that I was well rid of him, as painful as the breakup was at the time.  He was not just immature, but controlling and abusive, while pinning the blame on others.

College-style living

In my second letter to Cugan, I used a more familiar tone.  I made no secret of my attraction to him, though I didn’t talk about it much.  After all, now he knew how I felt about him, and he already knew Catherine was planning a movie night to get us together.

One night around this time, Krafter and Sharon left Stimpy alone with me and went off by themselves, which was agreeable for all of us.  I took Stimpy to the Muskie for dinner.

I had fun showing him the campus and the Muskie.  There was probably a commercial on the TV for Step by Step or Family Matters, or else one of them was playing, and Stimpy said how much he hated those shows.  I said I used to watch them, but didn’t anymore.  (They were okay when I was still in my late teens, but around twenty they began to seem lame.)

I also showed him the campus to get him to want to come to Roanoke.  He’d never gone to college before, and some of us were trying to convince him to.  If he did, though, I hoped he wouldn’t join the Zetas.  Wouldn’t that just beat all?  (Peter was a Zeta, Phil had just joined, and now Charles was pledging–Charles!)

I talked with him a little about my relationship with Phil, that it was “borderline abusive.”  I told him we got engaged too quickly.

As you’ve seen, I had a tendency of getting engaged (officially or unofficially) after dating a guy for only about two months.  Then the relationship crashed and burned, and I soon discovered that this “perfect man” was SOOOO not the person for me.

“Next time,” I said, “I want to wait at least six months before getting engaged.”  He agreed this was a good idea.  (And no, there was no hinting here.  I didn’t even think of referring to marrying Stimpy, and I don’t think he took it that way.)

I carried out this resolve: Cugan’s first proposal was after about eight months, which I didn’t accept, and his next was after about ten months.  (I get the impression that modern generations find even this too “fast,” even “creepy,” but in those days, there was nothing seen wrong with it.)


Though far away from everything else on campus except the two scary-dorms, living in the apartment was liberating.  With the kitchen and the occasional Friday late-night grocery run with my friends, I could make lunch or dinner when need be.  I even had frozen treats sometimes.

So on weekends I could sleep in and then make my own lunch, instead of getting up at 11 or 11:30 so I could shower and get lunch before they closed the doors to the cafeteria line.  I often slept until somewhere between noon and one.

And on weeknights, especially Tuesdays or Thursdays, when my roommies were out and I went online for hours after class, I could either choose to get off and go to dinner before the cafeteria closed, or simply make up some Spaghetti-o’s, eat them in front of the computer, and keep talking with my Stimpy or with Krafter et al.  There was also my frozen chicken to zap in the microwave (like I did my Spaghetti-o’s), or my mac and cheese.

TCB was addictive, and my favorite users would come online around dinnertime.  Once, I used up all of my daily allotted five hours, and next time I spoke to Stimpy online, he said, “See?” because I discovered just how easy it was to use up all those hours.

One night I told Stimpy I was eating a Mississippi Mud ice cream sandwich in front of the computer for dessert.  He typed, “Mmmmm! Can I have some?”  So I gave him a cyber-Mississippi Mud.  People online liked to feed each other cyber-food when someone said he was hungry.  Krafter had his “pizzia delivery.”  You could go into the games menu, order a sausage, pepperoni or smurf (blue) “pizzia,” and a few minutes later it showed up onscreen in primitive pixel art.

My roommates introduced me to the wonders of stove-heated s’mores.  I thought you had to roast the marshmallows on a stick over a fire, but my roommies knew you could stick them on skewers and hold them over a heated burner on a stove.  It didn’t have to be a gas burner with a flame: Even electric coils could heat up the marshmallow.  I began making them all the time.

My roommates and I didn’t bake much, but sometimes Astrid came over and baked something, such as cookies.  We often smelled delicious odors wafting from the apartment above ours, and were jealous because they cooked more often than we did.  We wondered what they were cooking, and wanted some of whatever it was.

Our appliances still got much use, however.  Nuking Spaghetti-Os in the microwave or, in my case, cooking Kraft Macaroni and Cheese at the stove were done quite a lot.  I wasn’t the only one making my own lunch on weekends: Pearl often got up between noon and one or two.

I had been keeping up with Beverly Hills 90210, which I always called “Beverly Hills” while everybody else called it “90210.”  But lately it was too boring.

I’d do other things, such as ironing, while it was on, and barely pay attention to it.  Brenda was gone, Andrea was having problems with her new husband and looking at divorce, there was no couple I really cared about, their view of college life was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, Brandon had turned into a nice but “I’m cool and I know it” type of person, Dylan never got back together with Brenda even though everybody wanted him to, and Dylan and Kelly made an awful pair, totally mismatched.  Kelly and Brandon began to like each other, and that seemed more believable to me.

The show had gotten too soap-opery.  The couples would never stay together, so it wasn’t worthwhile to care about any of them.  Brandon and Kelly looked good together, but they were still hard to care about.  The Minnesota kids had turned into just Brandon, and he had become totally Beverly Hills.  His parents didn’t even show up anymore, and they’d helped make it “real.”

It was sad because, at the very beginning of the year, the show got interesting again: Dylan had a near-death experience and the episode was mystical, weird and cool.  The actor playing Dylan was now directing and said he would make it less soap-opery, more like it used to be.  But apparently he had little success with this.  It wasn’t long before I stopped watching for good.

Stimpy said he chose the handle “Stimpy” “when Ren and Stimpy were still cool” and Beavis and Butthead hadn’t taken their place.  Of course, people always said to him online, “Steempy, you EEdiot!” just like Ren.  He joked about taking away the privileges of people who liked to do that and thought it was funny.

Krafter and Stimpy went to an Mystery Science Theater 3000 convention in late 1994 I think.  Many people were in costume.  Someone was dressed like the Head That Wouldn’t Die.  An older woman even came on to Stimpy, which was really weird to him.

I often called up registries for people I knew or didn’t know but saw online.  Nearly everyone, including me, and especially the guys, listed alternative as their favorite music.  I wondered if alternative was “geek music” just as Mountain Dew was the “geek drink.”

One of the younger teenagers online really liked Sharon.  He kept logging in with new names, and one day, Sharon logged on to find Son of Ziggy.  It was this boy.  She thought it cute.  Krafter found out about it, though, and killed his account because the users weren’t supposed to use all sorts of different names like that.

Since the demo class allowed for full use of the system in those days, a person could use one name until it ran out of credits, then log in with a different name, and never pay money to Crystal Dragon (CD).  CD didn’t like this, of course.

CD, the sysop, was about thirty, with a wife and a new arrival: a cute wiener-puppy, Peanut.  CD joked about him online.  He presided over a BBS full of mostly teenagers, some of whom would bully and verbally abuse others, then complain “freedom of speech!” when CD forced them to stop.

Stimpy and I could get into conversations on Beavis and Butthead or personal things, but trying to start one with him on almost everything else didn’t work.  We just didn’t have enough in common.  We could meet on lowbrow humor, but that wasn’t enough to establish a long-term relationship.

He was also agnostic.  As long as we weren’t serious, his lack of religion didn’t matter, but in time it could.  (I was not supposed to marry people who were not Christians.)

I knew early on that there would be a breakup, though I didn’t start dating him with this on my mind.  I knew it would be soon, and that I would probably be the one to do it.  I knew it would make me sad.  The only consolation was that, for once, a breakup would be my idea and not the guy’s.

March 1995
Life at Roanoke: My College Memoirs–September 1991 through May 1995

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?
April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign
May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Junior Year
Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams
September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

May 1994:

Senior Year
June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

September 1994–Divorce: The Long, Dark, Painful Tunnel:

October 1994:

November 1994:

December 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: