Online Shenanigans

One day, Speaker offered to let me use his alternate screen name, Alone.  He didn’t let everyone know it was his account, so I could be incognito that way.  I think I was out of hours and he wanted to keep talking to me.  He even trusted me enough to give me his password.

While I was in teleconference with Speaker and Krafter and probably others, Nobody came in and began to troll, which is cyberspeak for stirring up trouble, giving out insults, trying to start arguments, etc.

He told all the people in tele how sad it was that they were on the computer on a Saturday, and to get a life.  (Yet he was in tele on a Saturday, too!  And I know I had a life, one that existed long before we got the modem.)

Pearl or Sharon was watching at the time.  I posted that he probably said all these things because he had no girlfriend.  He said to me, “And what about you, ALONE?”  But that didn’t bother me because I had a boyfriend.  Speaker wasn’t sure he liked my comment, though, because he had no girlfriend, either.

Nobody trolled some more, getting everybody mad, until all of a sudden he disappeared from tele: Krafter killed his connection.  He was now banned from TCB for a time, though he came on again soon with a new screen name (I believe he was Sub-Zero).

Along with my other usual online exclamations, I now included, “Purrr…<lick!>”  Guys weren’t always sure quite how to take that.  🙂

I also “nuzzled” Speaker and Stimpy.  This was my own action word, made by typing “ga is nuzzling Speaker.”

The “ga” stands for “global action.”  Whatever you typed after “ga” showed up onscreen after your name, just as you typed it.  My ga showed up as, “Nyssa Of Traken is nuzzling Speaker.”  Misty also popularized this: “ga is innocent.”  This was especially funny because we knew he was not innocent.  I and others also liked to type “ga is innocent.”

Oftentimes in tele, I said I was Nyssie, the Loch Nyss Monster–“but a cute monster!”  Stimpy typed, “I’ll say!”

One popular expression among TCB users was “doh!”  It was generally used in Farwest Trivia when someone didn’t answer a trivia question for one reason or another.  I began to use it online after a while, and I think my roommates did as well.

My roommies and I helped each other out in Farwest Trivia.  Also, Ish told Pearl once that the answers to the music questions were generally the Bee Gees or the Beatles, and he seemed to be right.

Krafter paid for the first month on TCB ($5) for both Sharon and me.  Now that he was dating Sharon, he still paid for her, though I didn’t expect the same and paid my own fees.

****

Catherine and I went to lunch together every Wednesday and Friday after Chaucer.  Usually the first ones to get to the cafeteria, we’d talk about such things as Chaucer, the ridiculous sex scenes in the bodice-rippers she kept reading, Cugan, and Stimpy.

Charles often joined us later on.  Catherine flirted with him as if he were a stud.  He looked at her strangely because she was married.

But it was all just fun and games with her, lots of raunchy humor but nothing meant seriously.  She did this to all the guys, and enjoyed their discomfort.

I believe this was my first introduction to the concept that heavy flirting can be harmless even when you’re married.

With all the guys now in my life, I told Charles and Pearl once that I was having more fun now than I did while engaged.

Catherine wrote a story about Cugan and me in the style of her bodice-ripper romance novels: “The Coy Mistress.”  I couldn’t believe what she wrote.  Yes, there was a sex scene.  I can’t imagine writing something that explicit about my own friends.

****

One evening, Stubby drove Stimpy and me to his house for a Beavis and Butthead party.  Though I used to hate the show, Phil got me into it.  For a while, it probably reminded me of him.  But now, watching it with Stimpy and attaching new memories to it, I liked it even more.  I also loved being the only girl in a room full of guys.

Stubby said he was engaged to a girl from Indiana whom he’d met online but never seen in person.  We thought he was crazy.  Stimpy said when he saw her picture, “How do you know this is really her picture and not her daughter’s or her niece’s?  How do you know she told you the truth about her age?”

Stubby was supposed to go meet her at some point.  I don’t know how the whole thing turned out, if he ever actually married the girl.

Once, Stimpy and I were in Teleconference, cuddling and kissing and all that, when all of a sudden, Crystal Dragon hosed us off.

One night, with Krafter, Stimpy and Randy at the apartment with all of us roommies, we watched The Lion King and my copy of Wayne’s World.  My youngest brother gave me World for Christmas a year or two before, but I’d been saving it, waiting to watch it when all my friends were together.  This was the perfect time.

Now that I could hear everything and had my friends around me, I could enjoy it and realize it actually was funny.  My first time was at the Zeta party, when I was uncomfortably shy and could not hear the words.  Several of my friends saw it in the theaters, so it was the second time for them, as well.

****

Stimpy was only nineteen.  I hadn’t dated someone that much younger before, unless you count Aaron in Sunday School when I was 5 and he was maybe 3 or 4.  It was only two years’ difference, but when you’re twenty-one, that seems like a lot.

Sharon was seeing Krafter, a whole five years older than she.  That was unbelievable.  Even the Vampire, at only four years older, seemed like an old man.  Charles seemed old, too, though not as much.

In college, just as in adolescence, even one year’s difference seems like a lot.  Cugan was twenty-seven, making him seem positively ancient.

****

People online joked about computer geeks, and I said, “I like geeks.”  I wasn’t one myself–I didn’t sit around talking about computer programming languages and the latest upgrades–but I liked geeks.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have liked Krafter or Stimpy, and I thought they were cool.

Ish Kabibble was a cool guy of about 33, generally regarded as the nicest guy online.  Even the trolls Avenger and Lima liked to talk to him.

One day, he said he found an obituary saying Ish Kabibble had died.  Now, for him, “Ish Kabibble” was some nonsense word that popped into his head when he chose his handle.  It turned out to be the name of a comedian.  It was weird to see his own obituary.  (The comedian died on June 5, 1994.)

Turtle, a teenager and jailbait, had an obvious crush on him, and made passes at him whenever she found him online.  Ish, of course, didn’t encourage her, but it amused him.

Ish, on the other hand, met Pearl online and wanted to meet her in real life.  Pearl didn’t know what to think.  He was much older, and she didn’t know what he looked like or what he was like in person.

Phil Finds TCB; Meeting a Hit Man

My cat Hazel died in late January or early February.  I thought I was getting over her death, but of course, I hadn’t gone home yet, so it hadn’t hit me that she was gone for good.

The cause of Hazel’s death wasn’t certain; Mom wondered if her love of Twinkies was actually a symptom of diabetes.  A few months before her death, Hazel grew emaciated, had worms, and lost much of her hair, so it was hard to pet her.  For her, death was probably a welcome release.

The most frustrating thing was that for years I told my parents she had worms, that she left dead ones behind on my bed.  But they treated me like I imagined it–and was too fussy about that debris on my bed.  According to this, because of the dead worms I found, it was probably tapeworms.

Just like I told them my room was far too hot in the summer and I couldn’t sleep.  But not until I moved out and my brother moved back in, did they discover the air conditioning in that room was broken.  What is this with not taking me seriously, anyway?

****

One day, Sharon told me that Phil was now on TCB!  She couldn’t remember his handle, just part of it.

One day, I saw a new person online, Crash Helmet.  I had a weird feeling about him, checked his registry, and knew it was him.

In his registry, he gave his full name (complete with “III”) and said his favorite music was alternative.  That was a switch!  He used to say he didn’t like alternative.

I don’t know where he got the name Crash Helmet, because he didn’t have a motorcycle.

It was a shock to see him online.  It seemed that, not only did guys break up with me and then join the Zetas, but now they went on TCB!

Even Charles, who said he didn’t want to pledge because it would be like boot camp all over again, had joined the Zetas.  Was he the next to go on TCB?  Would Stimpy come to Roanoke and join the Zetas?  (Neither happened, fortunately.)

One night, I went online and found both Crash Helmet and Stimpy.  In those days, I didn’t feel the need to keep much personal information out of my registry, except for my phone number, so Phil could probably see my full name just by pulling it up.

He’d go and play in tele and joke around and such; I rarely talked to him.  I paged Stimpy and said that was the borderline abusive ex I told him about.

I joined “Crash” and the others in tele, filled with a certain curiosity, wondering what was going to happen.  I wondered if he would check my registry and realize who I was.

I wondered what I would say to him, what he would say to me and the others in tele.  I wondered how Stimpy would treat him (as far as I know, he didn’t talk much to him).

Now both Peter and Phil were on the BBS with me, when I thought this was my own thing.  Phil never showed much interest in going on BBS’s like I did; I think he specifically said once that he didn’t want to.

I went to BBS’s to get away from exes, and there they both were!  Peter had always been into such things, so that wasn’t a big surprise.  But how in the world did Phil end up on TCB?  I may have asked him once, but I don’t remember what he answered.

I didn’t like seeing him there, seeing him playing in tele, there in my territory.  I didn’t like seeing him at all, though my hatred for him abated months before.  I wondered how long he’d be around on TCB.  (Not very long at all, it turned out.)

****

One night, Stimpy flirted with a girl online in front of me in tele.  I pretended to be mad.

Privately, however, I whispered to Stimpy,

“You can go out with her if you want to.”

He whispered back, “I really don’t want to date anybody else.”

“Do you want us to tell each other when we go out with other people?”

“No.”

Hm.  Did he like me more than I liked him?  I hoped not, but if he didn’t want to date anyone else, that was a distinct possibility.

****

I liked to make nicknames out of people’s handles.  For example, Speakery for Speaker, The for The Elite Lamer, Lord for Jesus Christ (yes, there really was somebody with that handle, along with Satan), Flez for Flezter.

One of my favorite songs of the time: “Against the 70s” by Mike Watt with Eddie Vedder, about the return of 70s fashions, music, etc.  It says,

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70s.  It’s not reality, just someone else’s sentimentality.  It won’t work for you. … Look what it did to us.

I loved it because all these high schoolers and college freshmen around me now dressed like the 70s, the same decade that my generation made fun of because the fashion/pop music was so ridiculous.  And here was a rock singer echoing my sentiments on bringing back the 70s.

****

Pearl invited over a national, Christian theater group that did skits and things for InterVarsity groups.  They came on Wednesday, March 1.

Pearl told us one of the guys (who was our age) used to be a hit man, and we should have him tell us the story during lunch.

Say what?

So we did.  Here’s a summary of what he said:

He sat on a bus next to a woman, maybe middle-aged or older, during his travels for this group, and told her he was a hit man.

He told her all the things he did, all the hits he made.  She didn’t know what to think, sitting next to a murderer.

Then, finally, he admitted that he was just fibbing: He never was a hit man.

He had us all going for a while, with Pearl’s help.

I think some of us figured it out sooner than I did (not surprising because of the NVLD), but I didn’t know until he said it that he’d never actually been a hit man.  Here I was, sitting at the dinner table behind the partition, thinking how weird it was that a Christian guy our age had killed people in the past.  And then I found out it wasn’t true.  That was a relief, of course, but I felt a little foolish.

Gypsy’s Party: Healed friendship with Peter

One of the people online, Gypsy, probably named after the Gypsy robot on Mystery Science Theater: 3000, invited people to a TCB user party for Saturday, March 4.

Krafter and Stimpy wanted Sharon and me to come to it with them.  This was a popular, invitation-only party, probably held every once in a while.

Gypsy and his wife Nympho didn’t know us, so they didn’t invite us.  Krafter and Stimpy petitioned them.  Gypsy and Nympho sent us amused e-mails saying we could come.

Late one night, I went to Country Kitchen with Krafter and Stimpy.  I sat next to Stimpy and laughed as he said, “For once, we’re bringing chicks to Gypsy’s party.”  He moved his hands like he was setting baby chicks on the table, and said, “Peep!  Peep!”

Sharon and I walked into the party not knowing what to expect.  We recognized almost no one, of course, except for the ones I saw on Krafter’s video of the BBS party.  Stubby was there at one point.  Nympho gave us plastic drinking cups for our pop, and wrote ZIGGY and NYSSA on them.  I saved that cup for years.

I found out which person was Flezter.  He sat watching someone else play on the computer.  He was cute–a redhead–but only seventeen, so jailbait.

After I gave him love advice online (he had a crush on a girl at work and wondered if he should send her flowers from a secret admirer), we had become fast friends.  When we found each other in tele, he wrote “Freak!” and I wrote “Psycho!”  Now, to introduce myself to him, I went up to him and said, “Psycho!”  He turned to me and said, “Freak!”

“Flezter” was hard for me to say–I have a dyslexic tongue at times–so I often said it “Fletzer,” and originally thought it was spelled that way.  I don’t know where he got the name.

We were led to a bedroom to put our coats away, and when I came out, lo and behold, who should be standing before me but Peter!

He said, “Sh–, I wasn’t expecting to see you here!  How are you doing?”

After chatting a bit, he said, “You’ve changed so much.  You look so different, much more confident.”

Ish was at the party.  Sharon and I were charged to get a good look at him and report to Pearl.  (According to Turtle, he was the sexiest and nicest guy on the board.  We told Pearl he was both nice and cute, not ugly or anything, so don’t worry.)

Gypsy and Nympho had their computer all set up for logging in.  All night there was a steady stream of people to and from it.  Sharon said, “That’s so sad.  They come here to meet people in person, and what do they do?  They turn around and go online at the party!”

Stimpy and I sat on the floor across from Peter and his date, a pretty girl with long, brown hair like mine.  I don’t remember if it was curly or not.  We talked and laughed and had a good time.

Peter and his girlfriend left early.  Somebody quipped, “They’re off to go have sex.”  I didn’t need that image.

Later, Sharon said to me, “You two have the perfect ex-relationship: You can both be in the same place with dates, and not even care.”

Which was ironic, given all the troubles we had with each other after the breakup.  But those troubles and enmities had been left behind, and we could finally be friends again.  Each could move on to other people without it hurting the other the least bit.

Though I was shy, I did smile and laugh a lot.

Nobody and his brother were there; they were two short, skinny teenagers, who looked no older than fifteen.  They didn’t act mean at all, but tossed around a balloon with Sharon.

Sharon later said how much she enjoyed herself, that she felt more at ease than she expected.  She did seem to be more talkative than I was.

Avenger and Lima were there, however.  I finally got to see what they looked like.  When I heard the young girl with the short, blonde, maybe reddish-blonde hair was her, I felt uneasy, remembering how mean she was to people online, and the way I muttered “Avenger” with distaste whenever she came online.

She said and did nothing to me.  Though I sat near her for part of the night, I don’t remember speaking to her.  I generally avoided her.

Later on, people began to leave, leaving our group, Ish, Stubby and maybe a few others.  I felt more relaxed now, and it was easier to talk.  I cuddled with Stimpy on the couch.  Gypsy and Nympho sat on chairs nearby.

Gypsy was a dark-haired man with a mustache; Nympho was a blonde, both of them probably in their 30s.  They lived in a small rented house, a duplex I believe, and another couple lived above them.  They joked that they could hear whenever that enthusiastic couple had sex.

****

While I was at the party, Catherine played Dungeons and Dragons.  The next day or on Monday, she told me about her first D&D game with Cugan as the Dungeon Master.

She said, “He looked up hopefully when I walked in the door, then looked so depressed when he saw you weren’t with me.”

She told me about the other players, and said, “Do not look at J.J.  He’s cute, but do not look at him.”  She wanted me to have eyes only for Cugan.  She didn’t want me to end up with Stimpy, either.

She rolled up her character that day, Iliana, a fighter/mage elf.  (All the characters in the campaign at that time were elves.)

On Sunday, March 5, Catherine and I planned to go to the SCA meeting, and I was to be brought back to the campus by Cugan.  That day, however, there was a bad snowstorm, so Catherine called me and said we weren’t going.

Apparently she didn’t call Cugan, however, because he, panicked, called her from the meeting to see if we were okay.  He feared we’d driven into a ditch somewhere.

The Avenger Starts a Flame War (Sociopathic Female Bullies Pt 2)

I previously wrote about “the Avenger” here.

I soon discovered the full extent of Avenger’s abusive personality: You could call her the teenage version of Tracy, another abusive and/or personality-disordered bully whom I met later on in life.

Avenger and her boyfriend Lima constantly carried out smear campaigns against innocent people with reckless abandon, yet still some people were so ridiculous as to try to tell me Avenger was a nice person.

Soon after Gypsy’s party, Sharon heard there had been some sort of flame war over Pamela in the forums, and checked it out.  I did also, soon after.

Lima, Avenger and possibly others flamed Pamela and told everyone how “horrible” she was.  Pamela, of course, got upset.  I think she even tried to defend herself, but they just flamed her more.  In the end she said her presence in the forums just brought on more trouble, so she wasn’t going to read or write anything in them anymore.

It’s such a shame when nice people are forced out by mean ones.  It’s such a shame when a bully chooses to justify his or her behavior rather than repenting of it.

I was so upset by this that I wrote a post chewing out Avenger and Lima, and anyone else flaming Pamela, for bullying her.  I unwisely accused them of immaturity–though, as you see in the link above, immaturity is a common trait of bullies–which would keep coming back to haunt me.

Avenger wrote a scathing reply, but she seemed to disagree and yet agree with me at the same time, as Speaker said when I met him on the 8th.

She seemed to defend her actions, and yet say that we should all respect Pamela and let the thread die.  She was sure one to talk about respecting Pamela!  She was as guilty as the rest of them of harassing her.

Lima complained that the thread was old and people should look at the dates of the messages.  Though, from what I’d seen in teleconference, what I said still needed to be said: Even if the thread had died, their harassment of Pamela hadn’t.

Avenger also insisted, “I am mature.”  My future husband Cugan told me once that this statement showed she was immature.  He said immature people don’t like being told they’re immature.

Meanwhile, Speaker avoided Avenger, and often typed “ignore Avenger” when he went online.  When he did this, nothing she did or said online showed up on his computer, as if she were never there.  She was harassing him now.  She knew his embarrassing real name, and teased him about it, among other things.

Once, I found Pigpen and Speaker online, and Pigpen said to Speaker, “Is Avenger being mean to you again?”  (Speaker told me once that he didn’t know why Pigpen and Cankersore liked to come see him every Saturday.)

Stimpy soon sent me an e-mail saying, “Please don’t say any more to them about this.  Do this for me!”  They were vicious people who loved arguing, and that was all I would get out of them.

So I stopped saying anything in that thread.

Probably around the time of the Big Flame War, which happened later that month, Avenger and some of her friends voted in one of the forums on whether or not Franz, whom some of us called Znarf, was cool.

(Franz was in college now, a freshman at MSOE, or Milwaukee School of Engineering, which was also Cugan’s alma mater.)

I voted that he was cool.  Avenger said my vote didn’t count because only the cool people could vote.

Apparently she meant that only her worshippers could vote.  She didn’t seem to want to have anyone else on the BBS considered “cool” except for her and her cronies, and if you disagreed, she ripped into you.

As far as I was considered, everyone in her clique was very uncool, while nice people like my roommates, Krafter, Stimpy, Ish, Speaker, and others were cool.

According to Love Our Children, such polls are yet another means of cyberbullying.

Check out the answer to the “Bullies prey on the weak” myth here: It says, among other things, that “bullies prey on people with a kind heart” and “bullies are irresponsible people who refuse to accept personal responsibility for their behaviour and the effect of their behaviour on other people.”

Also look at the answers to “Victims are unlikeable” and “People who get bullied are wimps”: Basically, these are myths, the victims are normally likeable, and their good points are seen by bullies as vulnerabilities.  Let’s not let bullies decide for us who the cool people are.

Even after discovering that Avenger found this chapter of my Memoirs

–I keep this story in here and haven’t tempered the wording.  This is why:

Because bullying in any form has always been, always will be.  The victims need to know that it’s not right, they’re not weirdos, and they don’t have to let the bullies decide who they are or what they can accomplish.  

Victims of bullying can read the articles I linked to, for ideas on how to combat bullying.  Bystanders can get past the myths and stand up for the bullied.

A year or two after this, Avenger tried to ridicule and harass another woman (who was older than she was, which, I believe, Pamela was too), the same as she did to Pamela.  She said this woman had done something bad to one of her friends.

I didn’t know the other woman’s side, so I don’t know what really happened.  But whatever the case, I thought Avenger should not be carrying this harassment out in the open on the public forums.  I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to see this in the forums.

The woman found Avenger’s comments amusing–things like, she was ugly and fat–and zinged her right back, which I admired her for.  The forum-op broke in and said if the argument continued, she would move it to the Pit forum (which was for arguing).

I think this Avenger is a narcissist, or more likely a sociopath, because of her constant bullying of so many people.  And the way she quickly took offense at NOTHING, flamed you, and then you became her enemy for life.

This was in US News and World Report for March 22, 1999, in the article “E-Mail Nation”:

Emboldened by E-mail’s seeming anonymity, kids send bomb threats to school and hate mail to teachers–and are often suspended from school if caught.  Moreover, they could be sued for libel, says attorney Christopher Wolf of Washington, D.C., if they defame someone’s character in an E-mail (p. 58).

So Avenger was treading dangerous territory here.  She could get in serious trouble if she ridiculed and harassed the wrong person.

I haven’t been on TCB for some time (it’s March 24, 1999), because a couple years later it had become a haven for people like her, and most of the nice people had left.  So for all I know, it’s already happened, and she’s been slapped with a libel suit or two.

After all, she’s not exactly anonymous on TCB: She’d be easy to track down and sue.

Okay, now it’s May 19, 1999, and I’ve been on TCB again.  No one seems to use it for anything other than games and the Internet, so even Avenger hasn’t been on for a while and Lima’s account has been deleted.

Avenger seemed like the ringleader of a clique which worshipped her.  The “clique” title fits because other people were kept out and ridiculed.

Ish said privately to me once, after I read a message from Lima, that Lima just did whatever Avenger did and didn’t seem to have a mind of his own.

Also, Avenger, Lima and a few of the others couldn’t even type a regular, non-flame message without cussing.  Since the BBS was set up to censor such words, their messages kept showing a bunch of asterisks, making them hard to understand.  If the words didn’t show up anyway, why bother writing them?

And the whiny group kept crying “censorship” because their swear words didn’t show up, even though it was a family BBS, and the sysop CD had every right to restrict such words on his own BBS.

As for Avenger, she had a serious persecution complex: She thought everyone over twenty (Lima’s age) was out to get her and all teenagers, and owed her something.  No matter what anyone said, no matter what the subject or how totally unrelated to kids, in her mind it must have been a cutdown on kids.

Not only that, but she and her clique showed absolutely no respect for authority, cutting down on the sysop just as viciously as anyone else–despite the fact that he could ban them all from the BBS if he wanted to.

She’ll get nowhere with that attitude, and if she treats people that way, that’s how she’s going to be treated: It’s the “what goes around, comes around” thing.  Just wait until she has teenagers just like her (though I do hope her and Lima’s future kids will rebel against them and become nice, sweet, wonderful people, like Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous).

I liked to play online with a teenager named Mustang, and we shared stories of our genies (mine was Zara, and I think his was Abu).  To my surprise, I found one day (probably after the Flame War) that he was getting to be good friends with the clique.  I really, really hoped he wouldn’t start acting like them, since he was such a nice, fun guy.

The Big Flame War began after Gypsy’s party and before the BBS party on March 18th, 1995.  I believe it went on for several weeks, so in the beginning I may have still been dating Stimpy (or just broken up with him), and in the end I was with Cugan.

This is how it began: In one of the forums, probably /events, CD and others discussed the BBS bowling party, which was to be on the 18th.  They wondered what time it should be, and suggested some late evening times.

Sharon posted that they should keep in mind that many users were under eighteen and might have curfews; the time should be early enough for them to join in the fun, too.  She was just being sensitive to the needs of the kids online.

That’s it.

Avenger posted, “ExCUSE me!” and how sick she was of adults looking down on kids like that.

????!!!!?????!!!!!?????!!!!!

It was a clear case of someone not reading a message thoroughly and reading in things that were never there.  Stimpy quoted her and replied simply, “Um–um–what?  Um–um–what?”

No matter how much Sharon tried to explain that she didn’t mean it that way, Avenger refused to listen to her.  Instead, Avenger insulted her in various ridiculous ways.  For example, she accused her of sleeping with her professors to get good grades.

Irate at Avenger for defaming my smart and virtuous friend, I wrote that she was totally wrong, and told her off.  I did for Sharon what I would want a friend to do for me.

Avenger and her clique began a vicious attack on the both of us, making personal remarks and cutting us down.  And this all because Sharon was trying to be sensitive to the needs of the younger users!

I didn’t know back then that this was called trolling, or baiting people to start fights online.  I didn’t know that it was best to ignore such mean, rude people, aka, “Don’t feed the trolls.”

Sharon apparently didn’t know this, either, because we both got caught up in a Big Flame War with Avenger and her clique, which included Nobody and Sub-Zero.

Avenger and her cronies threw around all sorts of personal remarks like you hear from children on the playground: making fun of our looks and clothes, calling us “dorky,” ridiculous crap like that.  They proved themselves to be just as immature and childish as Avenger insisted they were not.

I didn’t do that to them.  Heck, even as a child, I did not behave in such a ridiculous fashion.  There is no need to go into details; flame wars on the Internet are now a dime a dozen, and everyone knows now how they go.  But eventually all sorts of people began taking both sides.

When the contested bowling party finally happened, Pearl joined Sharon and me.  Though Pearl and I didn’t bowl, we all joined a group with Krafter, CD, and Ish.  Avenger and her clique were in the lane right next to ours, and CD joked, “Nobody say anything about maturity!”

Avenger ignored us all, of course.  This was Pearl’s first look at Avenger.  She later told Sharon and me that Avenger had this snobby or snotty way of holding her head and looking at people, which Pearl imitated for us.  She said, “It was like she was thinking, ‘I’m hot.'”

Though Pearl wasn’t in the Flame War (and was sick of hearing Sharon and me say “Avenger this” and “Avenger that”), one night she found Avenger online, and argued with her about how Avenger treated us.

One girl told me that Pigpen was two-faced, and would seem nice, then do something really mean to you.  Pigpen pretended to be this girl’s friend, then stabbed her in the back.  I forget the details, but it had something to do with the girl’s brother.

This put me on guard against Pigpen being two-faced to me.  Pigpen had seemed like my friend because I was friends with Speaker.  But now she turned two-faced to me, too, joining in with the Avenger clique, making me believe this girl told the truth.

I got all my forum replies in my BBS inbox, so I couldn’t stay away from them simply by avoiding the forums.

Keep in mind, Pearl’s computer was an 8088, and had no mouse or Windows OS, which was in its infancy.  We were running on DOS.  Also, the BBS’s in S— were different from the ones back home in Indiana, so I didn’t know how everything worked.

On BBS’s in 1995, you got your messages immediately on logging in.  It’s not like an e-mail program in Windows which lets you look at a list of headers before deciding what to read.  Some e-mail programs even let you delete without opening, though Thunderbird does not do this.

But there was no such option on this BBS.  The BBS sent me each message as I logged in, and I had to open it before deleting it.  So every time my bullies replied to one of my forum posts, it came directly to my attention and I had to see what they wrote.

I was increasingly bombarded again and again and again by these creeps, with no way to get away from them, unless I stopped going on TCB.

And why should I be forced away from my new online friends and all the fun of playing games with them, when I had done nothing wrong?  This was also my principal means of communicating with my new boyfriend Stimpy and with Krafter, whom I now knew personally, not just online.

So every time I logged in, I’d get all these attacks in my inbox, and tried to defend myself against them.

Not only did they make personal remarks (calling me ugly etc. etc.), but they twisted my words and told lies about me on the forums, which the more gullible kids began to believe, so they started defending the bullies!

Since they kept attacking my friends and me, I kept defending, since nobody ever told me this was not the way to deal with bullies.  When our friends stepped in to defend Sharon and me, they got hit with the bullying, too.

Yet more proof that Avenger is a narcissist and maybe other Cluster B personality disorder as well–probably even a sociopath–surrounded by sycophants and sociopaths who mob-bullied anybody she wanted.  And no, there was no justification for what they did, no matter what they dreamed up in their sick little minds.  This was a cold, calculated smear campaign.

This whole thing also did a number on my self-esteem, making me doubt myself and my looks, and wonder if I was as awful as they said.  I wasn’t, of course, but the residual effects lingered long afterwards.

I believe it went on for weeks.  I was so upset that I carried it through my days, thinking of it even as I sat in class.  I felt like the dork and retard these creeps called me.

I shouldn’t have let little Avenger and her pipsqueak friends get to me like that, but I did.  It was like middle school all over again.  (And yet she insisted she was mature….)

One big problem with bullying is the way sensitive, kind people are made to look like idiots and nerds by the insensitive, immature and unkind.

Instead of accepting it as a “part of life,” bullying of any kind should be stopped by bystanders and/or those in authority: teachers, parents, forum moderators.  

When a bully is supported by his friends, when authority figures aren’t interested in stepping in–even resorting to blaming you for the bullying, when the bully “gets away with it”–this makes it much harder for the bullied to reach “closure.”

At one point, I heard that harassment online was illegal, so I sent a message to CD asking him to step in.  He said the best thing to do would be to ignore Avenger, Lima and Nobody, and they would get bored and go away.

What he really should’ve done was ban the whole lot of them–

–not just for their constant bullying and harassment of me so I couldn’t even log in in peace–

–but for how they bullied so many others on the forum, gang-style, and occasionally chased people away. 

As I noted earlier, that BBS became overrun with flaming gangs and eventually died.  Not banning bullies is a good way to allow your BBS/forum to be overrun with bullies, while the victims get no justice.

CD and Krafter set up a secret, invitation-only forum, which would not show up in the list of forums.  This way, only the nice people could be in the forum and wouldn’t have to deal with the Avenger trolls.  (I didn’t know this usage of the word “troll” until 1998, so I didn’t actually call them that.)

It was called the /elite forum, and in the beginning included maybe a handful or a dozen people: me, Sharon, Pearl, Ish, Krafter, Stimpy, CD, a young girl named Grace and her boyfriend.  If one of us wanted a friend to join, we mentioned the friend in the forum.  If everyone agreed, this person was invited in.

This worked for a few days, but then Lima, Grace’s brother (talk about siblings who are total opposites), came over by the computer and saw the /elite forum when Grace was online one day.  He got mad, wanted his own forum, and told the others in the Avenger clique, who promptly cried, “Censorship!”

This was ridiculous: Forums often have private sections like this, whether for the admins/moderators, or for people to discuss how they’ve been abused without the abusers and trolls finding it, or for some other reason.

(The Forum has such a section.)

This was the abusers and bullies finding the sanctuary and refusing to let anyone have peace and quiet without their trolling, to let their targets have a safe place to get together without their bullies harassing them.

The /elite forum was scrapped, especially when CD or one of the others decided maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.  The Pit, or /thepit, however, was formed.  Here, anyone could argue all they wanted, but it had to be kept out of all the other forums.  We applauded this improvement.

I finally wrote a message intending to end the whole thing.  I set things straight about accusations made against me, which some of the kids believed merely on Avenger’s word, and said I would stop my part of the argument:

To ALL

I’d like to set a few things straight to everyone who’s been reading this forum, especially to those who seem to think Avenger is some sort of hero for standing up to those ‘b—- college students who think they’re better than us high-schoolers.’

I don’t care anymore if Avenger or Nobody hates me. Avenger’s friends say she’s ‘nice’ and ‘cool’; well, maybe she is in real life, but I’m not dealing with her in real life, I’m dealing with her on here, and this is the persona she’s chosen to have online.

She’s chosen to treat myself (and others) this way online.

I did not start the argument and neither did Sharon; it was, I admit, stupid of me to respond to what was said to me, and be an ‘easy target’; but I learn from my mistakes and will know better next time.

Now I am trying to end this once and for all so there can be peace, or at least a truce. Also, I don’t want everyone hating me without reason.

I never cut on the age or intelligence of anyone in here. I have not made personal remarks, which the argument has turned to. I have merely responded (though ill-advisedly) to remarks made to me, with ‘an equal and opposite reaction.’

Such as IQ’s, etc.–that was merely a sarcastic response to being called a ‘tard,’ as Nobody termed it. I said nothing about his or anybody else’s intelligence, only mine.

As for age–I have nothing against high-school students. I used to be one myself. What I’m against is the immaturity many high-schoolers have, and also–brace yourself for my unexpected admission–many college students.

I am against immaturity in general, especially when it is the cause of someone else’s relationship problems. Many high-schoolers are also–gasp–mature.

But it usually irritates someone older to see blatant immaturity and popularity games in a group of younger people. It irritates me.

Also Sharon was concerned about younger users having curfews and not being able to go to the bowling party.

I have a note which says, “and might not be able to join in the fun,” though I’m not sure where that was supposed to fit in the sentence.

We had curfews too, everyone under eighteen has curfews (usually), and she was concerned. Her message was the focal point of the argument, originally; it has gone too far off base and has no further purpose.

There has been a lot of assuming, reading between the lines, and twisting of words going on here. There have also been personal comments made to me that are actually ludicrous because they’re the opposite of what I really am or look like.

I’ve had many intellectual conversations here and elsewhere, I’m most definitely not ugly, and the thought of ME being a conformist just makes me burst out laughing! Go ahead, tell me more! I like a good laugh.

Plus, Avenger, I never called you–to yourself or to anyone else, not even to myself–a “dumb blonde.”

I do not believe in the concept of dumb blondes. I have at least four blonde friends (natural blonde) who are very intelligent, as well as brunette friends who, it is said (as a joke, not as a rip), ‘are blonde but their hair doesn’t know it.”  (I did not make up this phrase; an intelligent AND blonde friend of mine likes to say it.) And I was in an environmental group in high school.

This paragraph referred to things said by Avenger, such as “you may think I’m a dumb blonde but I’ve been accepted to UW-Stout and I’m in an environmentalist group.”

Anyone who has thought I meant differently about anything than I did, I’m sorry you took it wrong, but you must realize how it was truly intended. And please, before getting on the bandwagon of one side, look at the other side as well.

Plus–I do realize this is the /argue forum, for arguments. Argue away, but if someone doesn’t want to argue, let them be instead of harassing them. It’s much easier on everyone.

}] Nyssa[{

Four years later, this letter still makes me proud.  Ish, one of my supporters, saw my letter and approved.

I soon checked the responses, however: It was just Lima saying, “Blah blah blah,” nothing more intelligent from any of them, and Lima saying we must worship them (or something like that) before we could ever be in their good graces.

Like I even wanted to be in the good graces of a group of bullies.

What, did he get the silly idea that I was apologizing?  I did no such thing!  Obviously he didn’t actually read the post.  Do you see an apology to the bullies anywhere in that post?

I complained to Ish about these responses.  He said that group doesn’t want to read anything longer than a few paragraphs.

Considering how mean these people were in general, I suppose I shouldn’t have expected that they’d listen to me and lay off.  After all, that would violate the sociopath code.

But back then, I didn’t understand this about bullies, having the naïve notion that bullies could be talked into reasonable behavior and apologizing.

Ish and I were in tele when Lima, probably Avenger, and maybe others showed up.  I whispered to Ish that I would act nice to these people because, as the Bible says, that would “pour burning coals over their heads.”

I greeted Lima with the usual “hello Lima bean–olleh amil neab,” but he made some strange remark about “groupies.”  Then he started talking about bowing down and worshipping him!  I certainly didn’t do that, though I may have joked around a bit.

Then Lima and the others ganged up on me, despite my attempts to be nice, and treated me the same as they did Pamela.  Sharon, watching, said I should show them a thing or two by just leaving, so I did.  I then paged Ish about it, and he consoled me.

Sharon wrote a post to everyone saying that those who adopt online “personas” different from their own personalities, should realize that some people online are real, not “personas,” and do get hurt in real life by things they read online.

For the next several days, I refused to go into the forums.  I may even have stayed away from the BBS for a couple days.

CD soon forced Avenger to apologize to Sharon, which she did, sort of, with a public message in the forums.

I was upset, though, because she apologized only to Sharon when she should have also apologized to me.  I deserved an apology for her b**chiness and bullying of me, just as much as Sharon did.

I don’t remember how CD made her apologize to Sharon–maybe he finally threatened to ban her from the board–but it was a victory for our side.

(Either late that year or in the next year, Avenger wrote on the forums how much she liked Third Rock From the Sun, and sympathized with the aliens for being different and being misunderstood.  She actually said she didn’t make fun of people for how they look or dress, because that was stupid.

(LOL

(What a liar and a hypocrite!  She made all sorts of personal remarks about my looks and dress during the Big Flame War, and accused me of being a snob when I was merely quiet and shy!)

Around this time, CD or Krafter posted a warning to all the users on TCB to not use the same password on different BBS’s.

I didn’t go on Solaris, a rival BBS, very much, especially since it was apparently just some kid trying to go up against TCB instead of just having his own BBS and supporting all the other ones in the area.

But it was popular with the Avenger clique, who figured out people’s passwords (such as Pamela’s), began logging in as those users, and left nasty messages to other users and on the forums.

The innocent users looked bad and had to explain that no, they didn’t write the messages.  I was afraid to go on Solaris during the Flame War, for fear the same thing would happen to me.

This is yet another form of cyberbullying and trolling, which still happens online all the time.

This makes me wonder if Lima and Avenger (who got married eventually) and their sycophants have gone on to become hackers and trolls, spreading hate and trouble throughout the Net, hacking into people’s accounts, spreading viruses, etc.

Because you can see above that they behaved just like those sociopath trolls we still find all over the Net, doing the very same things to harass people–for fun.

In maybe 2006 or 2007, Avenger found these memoirs and posted in my guestbook.  She said little other than that I have “an interesting perspective” on what happened.

Mindblowing.

She must have been well into her 20s by then, and more than 10 years had passed. 

Yet she still thought SHE was right, and did not apologize for her actions.

My childhood bullies tended to apologize to me years later, yet she still had this twisted, false view of herself. 

Don’t most people GROW UP eventually?

Yet more evidence that this bully was still stuck at 16. 

Though when I was 16, I didn’t behave that way, and neither did most people I knew, so age is no excuse for her behavior.

After all, this is yet another way she behaved just like Tracy, another possible sociopath I had the misfortune to cross paths with in 2007. 

Sociopaths will laugh at you for calling them abusers, and refuse to admit wrongdoing or apologize for their bullying and abuse.

And that’s what Tracy and the Avenger both did.

Meeting the elusive Speaker

Catherine started planning a movie night, and we planned to play Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday the 11th.

Cugan called me to chat several times before then.  He had a musical phone number and a soothing, gentle, pleasant-sounding phone voice.  He said he liked playing D&D at about noon, but Catherine told him it was hard to get me up before then.  He’d been to Ireland; I was jealous.

Catherine also called me on the phone a few times.  When I told her Cugan had been to Ireland, she said, as one of the reasons I should go out with him, “He’s a world traveler.”  Then, “Just listen to how soothing his name is.”  She cooed, “COO-gan!  COOO-gan!”

At first, neither Cugan nor I said much to each other about dating, despite how pleasant and chatty our phone conversations were.  It was an unspoken understanding, and I was too nervous to bring it up.  But then Cugan said with a smile in his voice,

“Is Catherine pushing you as much as she is me?”

****

One day at lunch, Persephone and Phil sat with my friends and me.  I don’t know why Phil sat with us, since Persephone had broken up with him for good and none of the rest of us liked him.  Maybe he just wanted to stalk us.

Persephone and I sat across from each other, and somehow got on the subject of men.  I went on and on about Cugan and Stimpy, and how fun it was to date two guys at once.  We both laughed about it.

Phil said nothing at all to anyone.

Then, all of a sudden, he got up in a huff and left.  He didn’t come back.

?????!!!!!

I was both amused and mystified.

Why should Phil care who I dated?

It was five months now since he left me, and he made it clear he did not want to come back–even dating Persephone instead and telling her he loved her and wanted to marry her.

I sometimes wonder if he planned to get back together with me.  If so, this discouraged him.  But by now, I had moved on, and–with so many new prospects–no longer wanted to shackle myself to my abuser again.

****

On Tuesday, March 7, Stimpy and I went on a triple date with Krafter and Sharon, and Ish and Pearl.

This was the first time Pearl met Ish.  I think we dressed up a bit.  We went to Country Kitchen at 6pm.

We had fun, though Pearl wasn’t sure about Ish, and the guys all kept going on and on about computers.  Pearl thought Ish was too old for her (at 30).  Now, if Turtle had been in her place, you know she would have drooled all over him!  Darn statutory laws….

Soon after this, Pearl met W– online and agreed to go on a date with him.  He was between eighteen and twenty, probably more like eighteen, and a good friend of Flezter, who said, “Don’t hurt W–.”

After the date, however, Pearl came back complaining of the psychotic time she had.  I forget if W– himself was part of this, or if it was just the circumstances, but I think he was.

I don’t remember much of the details, but I do remember that near the end of the evening they stopped at his house, where he soon argued with his family over something.

That night or the next, W– said to Sharon online, “Should I talk to Pearl?  I’m afraid she thinks I’m psycho!”  I think Sharon encouraged him to.  Despite all this, W– did seem like a nice guy.

****

On or before Wednesday, March 8, Speaker ignored me whenever he came online.  I got mad at him for this.

Then in the late afternoon, just before dinnertime, he called Sharon.  We never spoke to him outside of TCB before, so this was quite an event.  Sharon wanted to give me the phone, but I grumbled,

“If he even wants to talk to me.”

He did, so I took the phone.  Speaker was surprised and, I think, amused that I was mad at him, and explained what had been going on.  (I think he was just playing around.)

He said I had “a cute Southern accent,” which surprised me because I didn’t have a Southern accent, just a mix of S– and South Bend accents.

Of course, my mom sometimes sounded Southern with her lower Michigan accent, so maybe some of that rubbed off on me.  South Bend is right next to the border, so there is a lot of intermingling, yet there is a distinct difference between the accents.  Michigan’s accent is “rougher,” more “country,” with the old folks saying “dinner” for “lunch,” “davenport” for “couch,” and “crick” instead of “creek.”

Speaker had a cute accent, himself, with a strong “o” in his “no’s,” even stronger than in the local accents.  I believe he was from M–.

I said I wanted to meet him, but he kept saying no, and “Why do you want to meet me?  You don’t want to meet me.”  He said it all playfully, making me wonder how serious he was.

I finally talked him into meeting me, so we decided on Wednesday at 6:30 in the Campus Center lounge.  We’d have dinner at Burger King, and then watch an episode of Doctor Who in my apartment.

I figured these things fit Krafter’s specifications for safely meeting a BBS user: a public place first, and my roommies would be in the apartment the whole time.  He said he’d be wearing a blue coat, not zippered; jeans; and a black shirt.  His hair was brown.

****

I went to the Campus Center lounge at that time with my Nyssa cup from Gypsy’s party, and waited for quite some time, watching the TV.  It was just me and the guy working at the information desk.

Had Speaker stood me up?  I got up to go back to the apartment and look for him on TCB.  On my way out, I saw a guy fitting his description right outside the Campus Center.  His hair was about shoulder-length and curly, and though he had unusual features, he wasn’t bad-looking.  (Don’t ask me for details 20 years later, especially with my NVLD.  But I believe his face was kind of pinched.)

He asked if I was Nyssa: To my great delight he was Speaker.  He said he was late because I thought he was from a different place, and gave him the wrong directions, so he had to stop and get new ones.  Oopsie.

We went to Burger King in S–, where we spoke of Avenger.  (The Big Flame War was just an embryo at the time.)  We returned to my apartment and watched the episode of Doctor Who, possibly “Paradise Towers.”  My roommies were there.

I gave Speaker one of my college senior pictures, which had just arrived, and said, “Have a picture of your Nyssie.”  I didn’t like the pictures, since I forgot to remove my glasses, but my friends thought they were good.  They were certainly better than the ones from junior year.

We got along well in person, and often flirted online, but he kept saying, “You’re Stimpy’s Nyssie” and acting like he didn’t want a girlfriend.

I told him Stimpy and I agreed we could date anybody we wanted, but that changed nothing: Speaker said he wanted to be single all his life, despite his complaints about no one ever wanting to date him.  He also didn’t like having to compete with other guys.

In those days my roommies and I still didn’t know why the vacuum cleaner kept spitting stuff out, so there were hairballs and dust bunnies all over the place.  Silly us, it wasn’t broken, just needed a new bag.  Argh….

Since all my life I have gone around in my stocking feet inside, I’d sit down and find blonde and brown hairballs sticking to my socks.  Speaker laughed.

****

InterVarsity had a Lock-In from 7pm on Friday the 10th to noon on the 11th.  It was supposed to be a sleepover in the Ley Chapel basement, but there weren’t enough people, so we made it a party in the apartment.  Krafter and Stimpy came.

At the time I thought I could handle dating two, three, even four people at once.  I felt no need to make a decision yet.  Other people were able to date around.  There was nothing ethically wrong with it as long as the guys knew they weren’t my one and only.

After what I’d been through with Peter, Shawn and Phil, I didn’t want to commit to one person and find out that, yet again, it was the wrong one: abusive, manipulative, deceitful, whatever.

However, I soon discovered that with Cugan I thought of Stimpy, and with Stimpy I thought of Cugan.  Then there was the other guy I wrote to….I felt pulled every which way.

Though even my mom said it was okay to date around, and even though this is the time-honored way to date, it still felt weird, like I was supposed to pick one guy to date and potentially marry.  Still, as I said, I was wary about commitment.

First Date with Future Hubby Cugan

Just before the Dungeons and Dragons game and movie night, which was planned for the 11th, Catherine told me she’d sent Cugan two letters:

In one, she pretended to be in love with him, and used the terms she’d wanted me to use in my first letter–such as “coy wanton advances” and “sultry attractiveness.”

!!!!

Along with that letter she sent one that read, “Please disregard my first letter!”  She explained it was just a joke.

Despite the second letter, the first one still concerned Cugan, who didn’t know how to take it.  After all, Catherine was married!  He wasn’t yet used to Catherine’s flirty ways.

Catherine’s scheme for the movie night was to invite Cugan and me, Cindy and Luke, maybe Tara and Randy, and probably Sharon and Krafter.  But the only ones who could go were Cugan and me.

On Saturday morning, Catherine picked me up around 11am so we could get to the Dungeons and Dragons game in M– by noon.  The movie night was set for 5pm at her house, which I’d never been to before.

We got to MPB, a small gaming shop on one of the downtown streets of M–.

In the back, a screen hid a large table from the customers.  This was the gaming table.  The gaming area was cramped, the seats uncomfortable and hard to get to.  This was partly a storage area, and had an outside door and a vending machine.

A fabric and sewing shop was right next door and on the right, with an entrance in the wall of the gaming shop.  You went through this to the basement, to get to the badly maintained toilet.

The gaming shop was set up with sundry items you’d expect to find in such a store: miniatures along the wall, boxes and books belonging to various role-playing games (even Doctor Who).  All sorts of dice were on the counter with the cash register, along the wall shared with the sewing shop, and near the outside door.

The second time I went there, I brought money and started putting together my own collection of D&D things, replacing the ones Phil let me use during the summer of ’94: a gold nugget die, the Bard’s handbook, a player’s guide, and a die with red and pink flecks.

I would have gotten one exactly like Phil’s flecked die, with twenty sides, but Catherine begged for it, so I got the twelve-sided version instead.

I discovered a couple of years later that Phil probably got his nugget and flecked die from this very same store.  He used to go to it a lot, and even knew Cugan’s friend Laura, who either owned it or worked there at that time.  I believe that by now, she no longer owned it, though she still worked there until mid-1999, when she moved to Madison.  She sewed my wedding dress.

I also got my own starter set of blue dice, with every kind I would likely need, except for a hundred-sided die, which I got at my first Gen-Con in Milwaukee in 1996.

Having my own copies of all Phil’s cool gaming stuff,  broke my last ties with him.  I stopped longing to use his Bard’s handbook, player’s guide, gold nugget or red die, because I had my own.  Eventually I even bought a brownish-red, felt dice bag with a drawstring opening, my first step in personalizing my gaming gear.

But on March 11, I had to borrow some of Cugan’s dice.

The first time I saw him again, even though we’d talked on the phone, he was still practically a stranger.

As with all my past boyfriends, as soon as I knew he liked me back, I lost my crush temporarily.  I don’t know why that kept happening, especially since the crush came back shortly after I dated a guy a few times.

I also wondered how Cugan really felt about me.  He calmed–or maybe worsened–some of my nerves: He looked at my Halloween T-shirt, black with pumpkins on it, and said, “Cool shirt.”  I didn’t know his birthday was on Halloween.

I sat on one end of the table next to Catherine, and started rolling up my character.  The name “Thundina” for my thief/mage elf was a kind of variation on “Phoena” (my old character with Phil) and probably “Thumbelina.”  It just came to me.

I worked on that during most of the game.  I had to ask Catherine’s help with a lot of it: It was months since I rolled up Phoena and Fury, and I did not use standard character sheets for them, just sheets Phil made on Microsoft Word.  I recognized few of the terms and abbreviations.

There were two other gamers, J.J. (character name: Konig) and Casey (character name: Thorin).  Thorin had a dog named Lockjaw and a talking sword named Ethelmark.

Casey wore glasses and a long, dark ponytail.  J.J., our age but looking much older, was stunningly handsome.  He had longish, brown or blond hair and no glasses.  Both generally dressed like Cugan: T-shirt, jeans.

At one point, we took a break.  I had my coat, but it was so unseasonably warm outside that I didn’t need it.  Cugan, J.J., maybe Casey, Catherine and I went over to the door for a few minutes, then outside.  Catherine said to me when the others were out of range,

I told you not to look at J.J.!”

We all chatted and walked down the nearby streets, which were closed off except for local traffic because of major construction.  Imagine the freedom of walking down the middle of a city street without worrying about cars.  This was my first exposure to M–, and I loved it.

Back inside again, while Cugan and I sat alone at the table, he came up to me and asked me to go to the March Haire Affaire, an SCA event, with him.

It was during Spring Break, however, so I didn’t accept right away; I thought I would be at home.  But when he asked me, my heart did that proverbial leap.  Of course Catherine was glad to hear about it.

I later checked with my parents; they said if he took me home to Indiana afterwards, it would be okay.  No, I didn’t need my parents’ okay for a date: It was just a matter of getting home for Spring Break without inconveniencing them.

After the game, Catherine drove me to her house, with Cugan following in his car.  Catherine pointed to his red, stickshift, ’92 or ’93 Saturn with license plate “CUGAN S” (Cugan’s).  She said, “Doesn’t he have a cool car?”  (It’s perfectly safe to put his license plate number here, because he changed it years ago.)

We got to her house a while later.  We watched all her brand-new tapes of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  I hadn’t seen them since I was a kid, so these movies were never associated in my mind with any other guy but Cugan.

These movies first entranced me in my prepubescence, when my younger brother bought them on laserdisc and I saw them for the first time.  He probably got Star Wars when I was in fourth grade–while Star Wars was still fresh and Return of the Jedi wasn’t even out yet.

(I can date this because I got glasses right before fifth grade, and have pictures to prove it.  Before then, I thought Star Wars was supposed to be that fuzzy.  Getting glasses made the movie so clear, that it looked “wrong” and a bit “ugly” until I got used to the new lines.)

I’d play them over and over–so much that my dad had to tell me to play Star Wars only once a week.

Back to March 11, 1995.  Catherine’s husband Glen was with us for a little while, but soon left us all alone.

Cugan and I sat on the couch, but he sat at the left end and I sat at the right end.  As the night went on, I began to feel more comfortable with him, and we began to joke about the movie.  Catherine saw us moving closer together.

Then, all at once, Cugan made a cute whining noise, put his arm around me, and pulled me close.  I didn’t mind.

I sometimes felt uncomfortable with some gesture he made, but felt more and more comfortable with and attracted to Cugan as the evening wore on.  At one point, Catherine left the room for a while.

She later said that she noticed we were cuddling, and being there without Glen, she felt like a third wheel.  We asked her if she’d fallen asleep, but she was just giving us some privacy.  She later said to me,

“When you got here you two sat on the couch like this–” she held her two index fingers far apart– “and in a little while you were like this–” she jammed the two fingers together.

Cugan drove me home.  At first we weren’t very talkative.  But finally, probably after we decided to not stop at Roanoke and soon got lost in the roads around it, we found the right topics of conversation, and became as talkative as we were in letters and on the phone.

We agreed that modern dance was boring; I said I wanted to dance like in medieval times, with ring dances and fun.  The SCA soon gave me that chance (though, actually, it was English country rather than medieval).

Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo came on the radio, a song which Q101 played all summer 1994.  Because of that, I thought it came out in 1994.  It actually came out in the 80s.  I missed it the first time: Either it was too avant-garde for our local Top-40 station, or this was during a time when I only listened to Christian music (because a camp preacher told us rock music was “of the Devil”).

I loved it because it reminded me of a story I read the summer of ’94 in a Gothic collection: A young boy, who didn’t know he was a ghoul, crashed a party and didn’t understand why everybody ran away.

Cugan knew the story, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft.  “Don’t run away, it’s only me,” a line in the song, matched the ghoul’s sentiments exactly.  Cugan also knew other Lovecraft stories, which I’d never even heard of.

At one point, Cugan said, “You’ve done something few people can do: You got me lost.”

I laughed, banged my fist against the car door, and said, “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”

He laughed.  He soon found his way again, and we got to Roanoke.  I offered to pay for the extra gas used, but he said that was okay.

As we sat in the car in the parking lot just before I went inside the apartment building, we agreed to go out again.

He leaned over and gave me a peck on the lips–nothing spectacular, so I thought he’d never done this before.

(He told Catherine he never had a girlfriend before.  I didn’t know yet about the SCA’s cloved fruit game, a kissing game.)

On Breaking Up with Kindness

On Sunday, March 12, I had at least 100–probably more like 200, 300, 400 or 500–pages of Middlemarch to read by the next day.  I’d been reading it all week, in addition to homework from other classes, work, classes and the occasional outing, but still had quite a ways to go.

Dr. Nelson had assigned far too many pages for me to read, since with NVLD my reading speed was slow.  I didn’t know if I could possibly get it done even if I read all day and night, but I was going to read what I could.

I stayed in the apartment all day and evening.  If I went online at all, it probably wasn’t for long.  I turned down all other activities because I didn’t want to disappoint my thesis mentor.

Cugan called to ask if I wanted to go out that day, but I turned him down because of the reading.  He cheered me on and said I could get it done, but I didn’t.  I believe I still had several hundred pages to read.  I hated telling Dr. Nelson; fortunately, he didn’t yell at me, though he did seem disappointed.

****

The night of Wednesday, March 15, I had my second date with Cugan: He came over for an 8:00 showing of the movie Maverick on RoanokeTV, which was channel 19.

After this date, I decided I couldn’t see Stimpy anymore.  It had been fun dating around–my mother even told me I should keep doing it–but I was falling too hard for Cugan.  I had a lot more in common with Cugan, and it wouldn’t be fair to Stimpy to keep seeing them both.

That meant I wouldn’t see Brad, either, whom I’d been writing to as friends since we met at the Superbowl party.  I was ready to get serious with someone again.

Though on the one hand I was happy about my decision, on the other hand it made me sad.  For one thing, I loved hanging out (and making out) with Stimpy.  And Brad’s letters made him seem quite nice with much in common with me, plus he was good-looking.  I think I could’ve ended up happy with him, too, but he was far away and Cugan was here.

I resolved to be nice to the guys when I told them, letting them know they were great people but I decided to be exclusive with someone else.  I determined to be nothing like the guys who had dumped me.

After talking about it with Stimpy, who seemed understanding, I spoke with one of the teenagers on TCB in Teleconference or Farwest Trivia.  I don’t remember how it came up in conversation, but I told him I’d broken up with Stimpy.

“You dumped Stimpy?  Cool!” he typed.

“How is that cool??!!!”  I typed back.

I have wondered ever since if this kid told Stimpy, “You know, Nyssa defended you.”

For the first few days or week after the breakup, though Stimpy had said he didn’t hate me, he obviously didn’t want to talk to me.  I paged him a few times to show him I didn’t want to ignore him, saying hi and, at least once, asking how he was, but got no more than short, clipped answers in return: “hi,” “I’m doing okay.”

Normally these answers would have been fine, but they took a while to arrive and he sent no others, a marked contrast to how he usually talked to me online.  So I respected his wishes and didn’t push him or ask any more questions.

But not only did he not talk to me, he ignored Sharon, Pearl and even Krafter, even though they had nothing to do with it.

Pearl got upset, saying, “But he knew it wasn’t serious!  You made that very clear to him.  So why is he acting this way?”

The song “Popular” by Nada Surf didn’t come out until maybe a few weeks later, so we hadn’t yet heard these lines:

Be prepared for the boy to feel hurt and rejected
Even if you’ve gone together for only a short time,
And haven’t been too serious,
There’s still a feeling of rejection
When someone says she prefers the company of others
To your exclusive company
Lyrics

I don’t know why websites say this song came out in the summer of 1996.  I distinctly remember not only watching the video on Pearl’s TV in the apartment in spring of 1995, but also hearing it shortly after the breakup with Stimpy.  (Who knows–maybe the single came out on MTV long before the album was released.)

It told how to go about breaking up with a guy so that you’ll still be friends with him later.  I could have used this advice sooner, but it reassured me that I had done nothing wrong, and that apparently I broke up with Stimpy well enough that he would still want to be friends with me.

That was what I wanted; I didn’t want to hurt him and be mean to him like other guys had been to me.  Of course, the problem with dating even casually is that somebody often gets hurt.

I hoped he wouldn’t have a hard time letting go, but if he did, I intended to treat him the way I thought Peter and Phil should have treated me: not like dirt, but with respect and understanding that this was difficult for Stimpy.

I like to think that I would have acted in the following ways: If he wanted to talk, I would, and if he wrote me a letter, I would answer it nicely.  I would explain that I didn’t hate him, still liked him, and wished I could date him, but knew it would never work.

I hadn’t told him before that I couldn’t get serious with an agnostic, or that we had trouble talking, since I didn’t want him to feel it was his fault.  But if I had to tell him these things now, I would.

I’d say I cared a great deal about his feelings, and that breaking up with him now would be far less painful than stringing him along for weeks or months, risking that one of us might fall in love, and then breaking up with him then.

I would say I was sorry for hurting him, and that the breakup made me sad, too, but I had a feeling about Cugan and it would be unfair to date any other guys and give them false hope.

I would be kind, though firm.  I never wanted to be in Peter or Phil’s place, to be the mean one that Stimpy would detest forever for having treated him like dirt just because he still cared for me.

I never, ever wanted to be like them, just as I never, ever wanted to date them again and give them the chance to treat me that way all over again.

I was relieved, however, that instead I got the silent treatment (though I hated it) and then–well, that’s for later.  I don’t remember how much, if any, of these things I eventually told Stimpy, but I didn’t have to say more.

If Peter and Phil had treated me the way I planned to treat Stimpy, things would have been very different.  Phil would never have gotten an angry letter, and we might have actually been friends again because he would have shown himself to be a halfway decent guy.

(But for that to happen, he would also have to be decent enough not to treat me the way he did that summer.  But then, we probably would have gotten publicly married instead of divorced, because I don’t think he would break up with me after making such vows.  We would have had a pleasant summer and no reason to break up.)

Instead of being mad at Peter, I would have soon forgiven him and we would have been friends again.  I wouldn’t have spent a couple of weekends with my nerves on edge, wondering what Peter would say to my latest letter, only to hear nothing at all from him.

We would have actually talked, and I would probably have discovered that he wanted to try drinking and smoking and weed, that our ideas of religion were changing in ways I could not tolerate, and that we were best just being friends.

I was Stimpy’s advocate online.  Maybe a month or two later, some girl in tele didn’t know what kind of guy he was, so I said, “Stimpy’s really very sweet.”  Stimpy responded with an action word: I soon saw, “Stimpy is blushing for that you said!”  (The grammar on the action words wasn’t perfect.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that when you break up with someone, and it’s your idea, not theirs, you must be very delicate with their feelings.  Be polite, but don’t try to force them to talk, or go out of your way to be polite.

If you pass them on the street, say hi, but don’t act cheerful, because that will only make it look as if life without them is wonderful (which will only make them feel worse).

If you see them across a crowded room, don’t go over to them just to say hi, or if you see them through a window, don’t wave at them (like Charles did to Trina).  As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, dumper and dumpee, I believe this is the best way to act.

****

Krafter drove Sharon, Stimpy and me to the BBS bowling party on Saturday.  I don’t remember if Pearl went with us, though she did go.  Somehow, not at all by my design, Sharon ended up sitting in the front seat of the van, so Stimpy had to sit next to me when we got to his house.

We sat like two bumps on a log, not speaking, not looking at each other.  I felt extremely uncomfortable because I knew he was mad at me.  I wished I didn’t have to break up with him, because I missed him very much.  I missed typing the global action word “.cuddle stimpy” every time I logged onto TCB.

At the bowling alley, he sprang out of the van and ran off to find Misty.  Krafter joked to us that he was “running away,” and that he’d probably say to Krafter (or had said), “Yer next!”

Stimpy found an alley with Misty, and talked and laughed with him all night, ignoring me, Sharon, even Krafter.  I knew what he was doing, because I did it myself with other guys: trying to show me I didn’t bother him.

At least I knew one thing: Stimpy would not join the Zetas like my other exes!  He wasn’t a Roanoke student, after all.

Maybe a week passed.  One day, Sharon and Pearl logged in and found cyberflowers from Stimpy waiting in their e-mailboxes.  He apologized for ignoring them.

I hoped to find the same thing, but Sharon said that wasn’t likely.  However, when I logged in, I found one for me!  Stimpy wrote that he had a long talk with his friend Teri about how he’d been acting.  He apologized for ignoring me.

Soon after, I found him online and had a long chat with him.  We patched things up and became friends again.  We didn’t start dating again, because I knew that would be a mistake.  It would never work out, and I already told Cugan I was now dating only him.

Loony Roommies and Flying Gargoyles

On probably Friday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Cugan came to the apartment for a date.  He tossed two cute, stuffed baby gargoyles on the chair, and handed me a St. Patrick’s Day card that he originally planned to mail.

I soon found out that one of the gargoyles was for me.  I didn’t know what kind of name a gargoyle would have, but he suggested Dido, and named his own Liko.  We decided mine was a boy and his was a girl.

Cugan said dust bunnies were Dido’s food.  Well, then, he had plenty of food at the apartment and, especially, under the beds.

My roommates called Cugan into the office.  I listened from outside as Pearl said with a laugh, “We want to know, what are your intentions toward our roommate?”

Their little “interrogation” didn’t last long, and may have embarrassed Cugan a bit, but it also made us laugh.

This was probably when we saw Forrest Gump, which we liked.  Of course, we had no idea that one day, a new variety show called Mad TV would mix together Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction in a sketch, and have Forrest say, “We’re going to get medieval on your butt-ocks.”

(I don’t know how long this Mad TV lasted.  We only saw the first episode, because the Forrest Gump sketch was the only good one, so we figured it wouldn’t be around for long.)

I came home that night to find my “stash”–my own cupboards, which held snacks and chocolate–taped shut.  My roommates did this as a joke.  I just pulled off the tape and opened up the cupboards.

My roommates were so strange that night, making weird noises on the couch and laughing to high heaven, that I could only attribute it to the full moon.

I don’t remember what Tara thought of Dido, but Pearl thought he was cute.  I kept him on the back of the couch during the day and evening.  That’s how stricken I was with Cugan and his gift.

Sharon, however, whenever she saw it, would say, “Eww!  It’s ugly!”  She or Pearl said, “If it flies, it’s outta here!”

So, naturally, one night he fell off the back of the couch onto the cushions, and Pearl or Sharon cried, “He flew, so he’s outta here!”  He wasn’t, of course.

Unfortunately, after all the years of hanging around our various dwellings and sitting on the beds with other stuffed animals, Dido and Liko got lost in our latest move in 2003.  One bag or box held them and others of our most precious stuffed animals; one bag held rags.  Naturally, the rag bag made it just fine.

We searched everywhere and even called people who helped in the move, but the bag was nowhere.  Also lost were Cugan’s Animaniac dolls and my Halloween witch cat, which looked just like a Halloween decoration I named “Pirate Samantha” back when I was around nine years old.  I used to write and act out all sorts of stories about this Pirate Samantha.  But now she was gone, too.  🙁

****

The first time I went to Cugan’s tiny apartment in M–, its contents impressed me, though the mess did not.

The outside walls of the two-story apartment building were typically German: white with brown half-timbers.

The living room, with a big picture window, was small and crammed with stuff, which lay all over the floor and on plastic shelving units, though I think he had made some attempt at cleaning up before I came over.

A chess set was laid out on the coffee table, which was off to one side.  Two big, square pillows, which also went on the big, round, papasan wicker chair, formed the “couch” because, as Cugan said, a couch was often a luxury.

On top of one of the shelving units lay stuffed versions of all three of the Animaniac siblings.  That’s when I discovered his love for Animaniacs.  I think other stuffed animals were here and there.

A Celtic harp stood in one corner, books on the Celts (including the same one by Nora Chadwick which we read in Celtic class) were in a bookcase, a Bible or two sat near the “couch,” and Luther’s Small Catechism lay on the floor by the “couch.”  Had I found the kind of man I didn’t dare dream of finding–one with interests similar to mine, one who actually liked the Celts and the Bible?

Not only that, but based on his name, he believed himself to be Irish, and had a plaque with What Shall I Say About the Irish?  He fit the traits quite well.

(I’m not Irish, rather Scottish, but took an Irish Writers class which got me interested in the country.)

Though many years later his family discovered that, through his father, they were most likely Scottish, it has not been confirmed one way or the other about him being Irish, Scottish, or perhaps both.

In any case, I can’t help noticing that all my lovers (Shawn, Phil and Cugan) have been Irish….

And the best thing: Unlike Phil, he bathed AND brushed his teeth every day! not just once every several weeks after lots of nagging!

The Goddess of Pleasure and Salt

Catherine and I wrote dream visions for Chaucer class, based on Romance of the Rose, which Chaucer translated.

Mine was “Romance of the Rosebud,” including a character named Lord Cugan.  Catherine loved being the “goddess of pleasure and salt” in my story, especially the following:

“Goddess of Pleasure and Salt?” I said.  “Do those two things go together?”

[Catherine said,] “They do if you throw salt all over your body and have your man lick it off.  Of course, you’d better keep plenty of water on hand for him.”

She often proudly told people that I made up that title myself.  It was based on her always telling people at lunch that she was the goddess of salt so they must ask her permission to use it, or at other times that she was Venus.

Her character’s humor was raunchy, just like the real Catherine.  Then it cut off right in the middle of the Reeve’s perverted Canterbury Tale, which Catherine began to tell, and said, “And here the manuscript breaks off, the rest of it lost to history.”  Read The Romance of the Rosebud here.

Catherine’s dream vision included both Sir Stimp-a-lot and Lord Cugan.  Sir Stimp-a-lot (based on my casual boyfriend Stimpy) was a bungler vying with Lord Cugan for the attentions of a fair maiden, and Cugan won.

She also included a wall, such as in Romance of the Rose.  She used real teachers, putting virtuous ones inside the wall and “bad” ones outside or on the wall.

I forget where she put Counselor Dude, but he was included.  Our Chaucer teacher Christina was probably included, and put inside.

Christina apparently read my story first, because she wrote on Catherine’s paper, “I’ve seen this name ‘Lord Cugan’ before; it seems to be a popular name.”

****

Brad wrote on Monday, March 20,

You said you are perverted at times [when joking].  That is a great trait.  It confused the ones around you.  Make people wonder what you mean.  Add a little of vagueness [sic] so people wonder if you are perverted or just misunderstood.

On probably that same day, Cugan and I saw Pulp Fiction.  I was surprised to find it still playing, since it came out months before, when I read a bad review of it.

Cugan and I and another young couple were the only ones in the theater, so Cugan and I lounged in the seats with our feet on the backs of the seats in front of us.  I thought the movie had bombed.  I couldn’t figure out why as it played.

I sat there laughing and enjoying the whole movie (though parts were gross and I didn’t like what happened to John Travolta’s character).

Despite my laughter, with the cussing and references to sex, Cugan kept saying, “I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!  I didn’t know it would be this way.”  And I kept saying to him, “Don’t worry about it!”

We both loved it, and thought it, not Forrest Gump, should have won the Oscar the two contended for that year.  Cugan figured Forrest Gump won because it was about values and such and not a bunch of people cussing and shooting, but Pulp Fiction was more fun.

A Conversation with Oscar Wilde

As part of my Lit mid-term, I was to write a dinner dialogue between myself and one of the twelve authors we studied.  I wrote,

I have invited over Oscar Wilde, have sent my time machine to him and brought him to my house.  We go to Country Kitchen, not because it’s the best food (not), but because it’s the “local hangout” and he can see bits of local society.

“I loved ‘Importance of Being Earnest,'” I say.  “It was so funny and so ridiculous.”

“Well, in my day, society is ridiculous,” Wilde says.  “Marriage based on how much money you have, your worth determined by what you do and what your connections are–I wanted people to see how silly they were being with these attitudes.”

We go on discussing the play for a while, not any others since that’s the only one by him that I know.  Then we begin to talk about contemporary issues–starting with marriage.

“Marriage these days is supposed to be based on love,” I say, “but we now have a 50% divorce rate.”

“We base it partly on love,” Wilde says, “or, rather, infatuation–and partly on economics.  Our divorce rate is low because people just don’t divorce.  But so many people are unhappy because they didn’t know their spouse well enough before marrying them, and now they’re no longer ‘in love,’ if they ever were in the first place.”

Somehow we end up on the subject of homosexuality; I admit I don’t agree with it, but I say that I think it was wrong for Wilde to be jailed for it.  “You shouldn’t be put in jail just because of the way you are, when you can’t always help it,” I say.

“I was put there for ‘corrupting a young person’ with it,” he says.  “I wish I’d never fought the Marquess; when he said I was homosexual, it was true.  Maybe people would’ve forgotten about it if I hadn’t sued, but now I’m in prison for a drive I have.  A drive I don’t know how to control.”

“You must admit, you were pretty–promiscuous there, and you do have a wife,” I say, which leads to AIDS–which leads to a discussion of the prevalence of syphilis in Wilde’s day.  Interesting, but not something I’d want to record here.

People look at us and wonder why Wilde talks the way he does and why he dresses the way he does.  But he notices that they seem less shocked at our topics of conversation than they are about him.

“It seems like you’re so much freer to talk, really talk, in your day,” he says.  We eventually leave, and I take him back to my house to spend the rest of the evening–wishing all the while that such a handsome man weren’t gay!

Actually, I’ve since discovered that he swung both ways.  And changed my mind about homosexual love being wrong.  But anyway, finding this test paper especially interested me after reading De Profundis (my commentary here) and a new biography of his wife.  There are details in the above conversation which, over nearly 20 years, I forgot I ever even knew.

My First SCA Event

On Friday, March 24, Cugan drove me far away to a place about an hour away from Stevens Point, where March Haire Affaire was held.  This may have been Wisconsin Rapids or Marshfield.

We stayed, or “crashed,” at a house with a friendly couple, at least ten or twenty years older than us, with a dog or two, three or four cats that loved me, and pet hair all over the house, even on the towels.  I decided to never have that many pets, because of all the hair.

On the morning of the 25th, I parted my hair in the middle because that seemed more medieval.  I hadn’t done this for several years, and liked doing it again so well that I began to part it in the middle for months afterward.

Middle parts, which seemed to vanish in the 80s in the backlash against all things 70s and hippie, came back into fashion in the late 80s or early 90s.  Nowadays, nobody cares where you part your hair.

But when I had “hippie hair” in high school, one day I looked around and wondered why nobody else had a middle part.  I felt terribly out of fashion, so I tried parting it differently.

I didn’t have my own garb, so Cugan let me borrow some of his.  I wore a white shirt and huge, green “horde” pants.  Cugan tied the legs up with leather thongs, but I felt like I was drowning in the clothes, which were much too big for me and very hot.  I may have worn my own black dress shoes.

I laughed at the absurdity of this costume on me.  Cugan gave me his cape to wear outside, since it was only March and still cold.  We drove about an hour to the event, which was held in a school.

We went into one large room full of merchants’ goods: veils, headdresses, clothing, jewelry, everything a person might need at a non-camping event.  This spoiled me, because for a while I thought every event was like this, and that if I couldn’t afford something this time, I could get it the next.

I found a green, embroidered dress which went over an off-white undertunic.   Cugan said the color looked wonderful on me, and the woman selling the clothes said she could alter them if necessary.

But the size was medium, and when I went into a bathroom and tried them on, they fit me perfectly.  Some of the undertunic showed, but one of the women there told me it was supposed to, unlike a modern slip.

This dress was much cooler and more comfortable.  I went back into the merchant room and showed Cugan, who was amazed.  He even told his fellow shire-mate Donato how amazing it was.

I had no idea at the time that finding perfectly-fitting garb at your first event, and for only about $25, was highly unusual.  Most events don’t have merchants selling full sets of garb.

We then found a metal link chain that looked like gold, and this became my belt.  (I tried wearing it as a necklace, but somebody told me only knights did that.)  I think Cugan also lent me one of his leather pouches.

Ayesha and her husband Donato were both there–and surprised to see me with Cugan.  I don’t think Catherine came.  Cevante also saw me, and hugged me with glee.  I hoped she noticed I was there with Cugan.

As a shy person surrounded by strangers, these familiar faces were welcome.

I think Donato even offered us Coke in cans.  He was selling yarn slipcovers for pop cans, which he made himself and (as I later discovered) he usually sold at events.  They made your pop can look “period,” or like you belonged to the time period the SCA covered: about 600 to 1600 AD (the dates are subject to debate).

(When Cugan and I got married both in real life and then in an informal SCA wedding, Donato gave me a cover with the letter “N” for Nyssa, and Cugan a cover with the letter “C” for Cugan.)

Some of Cugan’s friends from outside the shire, such as from Appleton’s Windhaven, showed up.  Cugan introduced me to them as his lady, and one of them, probably Clyde, said “Oh!” and kissed my hand.

I must have smiled all day.  I was never bored, and had lots of fun.  At one point, Cugan and I went into the foyer and played pente at the tables set up there.

I always thought this was a medieval game, but Wikipedia says it was invented in 1977.  It’s sort of like checkers, except any number of people can play.  Each player has a set of glass beads in a particular color; you move them around and capture other beads, on a cloth mat with a grid.

Cugan and I played against another couple for a while.  Cugan was red, and I think I was blue or green.  I think we were all beginners.

I won the most games, and was finally matched up against three guys from the other tables who also won most of their games.

One of these was Clyde, who cracked lots of jokes as we played.  One in particular I wish I could remember, because it became a catch phrase; I think it was a line from a song.  One of the guys there seemed cocky, so I hoped he wouldn’t win.

I came in second place at this game, making me nearly the pente champion.

Because of this–coming in as a “newbie,” finding the perfect garb right off, nearly winning at pente, and stealing away Cugan’s heart–I told Brad in a letter that I felt like a cheekish, charmed upstart.

(By the way, it was so sad to have to tell Brad I chose another guy.  Why couldn’t all these guys have shown up sooner?  I could have had a chance to date each one of them.  Maybe I would have had better experiences in college than I had with Peter, Shawn and Phil.  Or maybe I would have had guys to fill up my long “love droughts.”)

I also met Master John Wagner, Cugan’s mentor when he was a newbie.  John was a remarkable man: tall, handsome, 30ish, but no eyes or hands due to being stupid with dynamite when he was about 11 or 12–

–yet able to get around and weave beautiful patterns through touch.

The skin of his forearms was clipped so that he could use the bones as two-fingered hands.  If he greatly honored you by asking you to hold onto the edge of his huge staff and lead him, you could also meet all sorts of people who knew and loved him.  He was so well-liked and respected that if he didn’t like someone, that was quite an indictment.  (He met our shire’s sociopath, described here, and found him “slimy.”)

When Cugan and I crashed at his apartment once, John led me through the hallways.  He was immensely capable.

Unfortunately, he died young, in 2012.  His obituary is up permanently, here.

We sat at a table in the merchant room for a while, with Master John and a man dressed as an Arab.  Once, Cugan turned his head down while talking, and John asked him why.

Cugan, shocked, wondered how the heck John could have known he was looking down.  It didn’t shock me, because I noticed in childhood how the sound of a person’s voice changes depending on how he turns his head and the proximity of a table.

To Cugan, however, John seemed to see without eyes.

Fighting–a bunch of guys and even a young woman in makeshift armor beating on each other with rattan sticks covered in duct tape–was in the gym, but I didn’t want to watch.

That evening, we sat feast in the same room the merchants had used, which may have been a cafeteria.  Along one side was a cardboard? castle for the kids to play in.

There were several different “removes,” or courses, and the meat remove alone included at least two different kinds of already cold chicken.

Cugan’s feast gear had strange-looking three-pronged forks.  I loved eating off wooden plates and bowls and drinking from a wooden or pewter? goblet.  I wasn’t too crazy about most of the food, except for the bread and the custard, which Master John loved.

There was also a naming contest for the mascot, a winged-rabbit puppet.  There were several winged stuffed animals, including cats, at one of the merchant tables; Cugan bought a few.

Cugan won the contest with “Arfur of the Round Tail.”  I think the “Round Tail” idea came from me.  I thought it terribly corny, but he won, and got to keep the puppet, which he later dressed in its own garb.

He also won or bought a stuffed rabbit, which I think he called Lancelot, and also dressed in its own garb.  Winning Arfur made him very happy.  A guy who liked stuffed animals?  What a find!

Outside at his car, I told Cugan he looked good in garb, which he did.  He wore a brown pirate shirt with huge, black “horde” pants, a black tunic-like vest tied with a belt, and black leather boots, which kept him from tripping in the pants.

No one else was at the crash spot when we got back there, so we started to watch Dragonslayer in the living room.  But Cugan was too tired.  As long as we did watch, however, we still wore our garb.  I didn’t want to change because my dress was comfortable, and it was fun to dress like I’d stepped out of the Middle Ages.  In fact, years before I watched Dragonslayer and longed to wear those dresses.

Cugan: a vast improvement over Phil

The next day, the 26th, Cugan drove me home to South Bend.

On our way to South Bend, we stopped in Milwaukee in the suburb of Wauwatosa to see Cugan’s parents.  This was the first time I saw them, and I was impressed.  His mom was from Wisconsin and had a German background.  His dad was from West Virginia and still had a Virginian accent.

They seemed like nice people, respectful of each other and Cugan, and glad to see me.  Cugan’s dad seemed like a nut, constantly joking.  This first impression turned out to be true, to my delight.  That was where Cugan got his sense of humor from.

I told Cugan my impressions, and he said that he felt lucky with the parents he had.  I had finally found a guy who didn’t have a dysfunctional home life, and that boded well for our future.

Now that I was at home, I finally felt the loss of my cat Hazel.  I kept expecting to see her.  Mom showed me where she was buried: beside my brother Jake’s garage.  I think a tree or flower was planted over her.

As Cugan and I sat on the couch the night we got to town, my dad also in the room, my other brother left the family room, came over, looked at Cugan, then left, no words at all.  He’s an odd one.

Though I felt secure in my relationship with Cugan with him around, during this week apart, I feared that I’d get back to school and he’d say he wanted to break up.  I even wrote this poem:

Why does the thought of him scare me to death?
Will it last?  Is he half of what he seems?
Will I do something to push him away?
God knows why I feel so terrified:
Failures in the past?
As if love’s a beautiful snake–
Within its coral stripes–venom.
Fear, fear, you beast,
Go away!  I can’t breathe.
Let me be free.

****

I found my middle school friend Josh online again (“Modem Menace” on PanOptic Net), and told him about Cugan.  Just before I returned home, Josh also called me on the phone.  His voice sounded so different and deep.

I found Stimpy and Krafter on AOL, and sent them messages.  Stimpy wrote back about the wonders of the Internet, connecting friends who are many miles apart.

I also read or skimmed many books I checked out of the library on Friday the 24th, and took notes.  These were biographies on the authors I wanted to include in my senior honors thesis: Victorian women who broke away from society’s expectations.

I enjoyed the books, but the account of Louisa May Alcott‘s life was depressing.  Apparently, Little Women expressed what Alcott’s family should have been, but wasn’t:

The sisters were plain, though the one who inspired Amy was the best-looking of them all.  (Though a picture of Louisa, age 25, strikes me as pleasant, not plain.  Not a great beauty, but “normal,” not ugly.  She looks like she’d be your favorite tomboy bud in high school.)

None of them treated Louisa, Jo’s inspiration, very well, and neither did her parents.

Louisa’s father was just awful.  He wanted her to become a little woman and not act so “manly,” so Jo became what Louisa’s father wanted her to be.

Reading Little Women with this knowledge now became bittersweet, because the story was so ironic.

Louisa also wrote sensational stories with murders, chases and melodrama just as Jo did, and these were always her first love, even though books like Little Women were considered much “better.”

(In 1995 or 1996, I bought and read one of these books, A Long Fatal Love Chase, and saw a TV-movie version of The Inheritance.  Neither quite measures up to Little Women, but what do you expect?)

In the February 1995 chapter, I wrote,

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.

Basically, the biographer (Martha Saxton) suggested that Louisa didn’t allow Jo to marry Laurie because Laurie was too sensual and Jo wasn’t womanly enough.  It was her parents’ criticisms, carried out in the novel on her family’s idealized and fictional counterparts, in a strange psychological punishment of herself.

For an excerpt of Saxton’s work, the part which goes into this, see here.

Another take on this is here.  I was disappointed that she turned down Laurie, but then again, in the 1995 movie, Gabriel Byrne was hot and I totally got that.

****

Since Cugan had gotten me Dido, I wanted to find him a gift, as well.  Mom and I went shopping in a Walgreens one night.  She pointed out some cute, stuffed bunnies.  Though Cugan loved his two March Haire rabbits, I knew he’d think these were cutesy-cute, not just cute, and passed them by.

I found a key chain with a tiny Etch-A-Sketch attached to it, and decided to give him that.  He was glad I passed up the bunnies and got him the key chain.  A few months later, when he started his new job, he put the key chain in his cubicle and labeled it a back-up CAD tube in case the ones there stopped working.

When my parents took me back to college, we met Cugan at Marc’s restaurant in S– for lunch, so they got a good chance to get to know him better.  He impressed them.

One day in Cugan’s apartment, we turned on a talk show with makeovers.  We hated that the women’s long hair was cut and everyone was dressed in professional suits, which Cugan hated especially.  We’ve noticed this since, that makeover shows are too annoying to watch because long hair is always cut when it should be left long.

Through this, I also discovered that Cugan liked my long hair.  He said long hair is elegant.  After Phil’s constant badgering to cut my hair, it was healing to hear two guys in a row (first Stimpy, then Cugan) say how wonderful my long hair was.  Cutting it to please Phil, would have been a huge mistake.

Whenever Cugan came down to S–, he tried to catch 102.1.  He didn’t have an alternative station in M–.  I said to Catherine, “Whatever I like, he likes too–and turns up!”

This was quite a change from Phil, who kept ripping on my favorite kinds of music–alternative, modern metal, hard rock, Christian rock.  He even said once that he would’ve broken up with me for liking hard rock and metal, if it weren’t for a friend of his who liked it!

(The strange thing is, I started listening to a hard rock/classic station in the first place because I thought he liked it, and ended up liking it myself, only to find that he didn’t even like such music.)

****

In late March and early April, Pearl and I read Hard Times by Charles Dickens for Brit Lit.  We were interested in what happened to the characters, but with its lack of the usual Dickensian melodrama (which we loved), it seemed too hard to get into.  It was also very depressing.

April 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:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email