By Sue

© 1997


I got my PC in January 1997, I had not had one before. I worked until 1995 when I was downsized, and in my job I had the luxury of a secretary, that fast disappearing breed of person who carried out one's instructions rather than having to do it oneself. My day consisted of talking into a microphone, dealing with clients, in the office and on the telephone with other professionals.

Between the time I was made downsized and the arrival of my PC I busied myself doing voluntary work and, by September 1996, taking one - to - one tutorial PC lessons in the back room of an employment agency.

During my working life I suffered a back injury which I had been told to live with, and I did, studying and qualifying in considerable pain. Now nerve damage is the problem. So when I was made downsized I wasn't fit to sit for the duration of the working day in an office environment, more for disability benefits.

I first got connected to the World Wide Web in March of '97. My first experience looking into Newsgroups did not last long. It was in early April of this year and somewhere I must have clicked to find a box in which I inserted a question about how to do it. The result was, next morning, I had six or so mail letters asking "Tell me about what"? All mails were from abroad, Japan, US, Canada, Australia. I corresponded with them all for a couple of weeks until most found that I was a mature student of the Net and in any event their mails were confined to one liners usually about the weather or their favorite pop groups.

A gentleman I discovered later to be of my age however, similarly disabled and an experienced mailer, took on a bullish attitude at my ignorance in mailing - I fell into the trap of quoting all their mail instead of editing, I just didn,t know how. There are some however who would say that they know what they said and do not need reminding! I took exception at his attitude at first then I retaliated and told him to "gimme a break" and once I showed him that I wasn,t going to be dominated we became friends for several weeks, until he told me he was going away and would mail on return but never did. He had been something of an executive editor in Finance. By now this left one out of the original 6 or so. A young man of 33 who apparently got his PC about the same time as I did. The young man, who I will call Robert and I were to share some confidentialities in the weeks to come.

Rob kept coming back with responses to my mail and I found mail on my PC every day as I logged in for several weeks. Having looked at the four walls and a great deal of TV for some months. It was good to have another interest and I looked for messages each day, as I still do. I have found that when one mailer decides to leave another turns up, though this view I would not have shared some months ago.

Rob couldn't get over the fact that he was mailing someone in another country. I acquired a sense or urgency in reply because I don't know when surgery will have to intervene in a cervical spine condition which is being postponed until the reaches a certain emergency stage because of complexity. Mail was going backwards and forwards between us. I was able to give responses to his questions, so quickly that it seemed I could have lived only blocks away. It wasn't long before I could surmise that Rob had an unhappy home life, possibly that his expectations of it were too high, or perhaps a lonely marriage. He told me he had a day job six days a week and three nights he would go to school for lessons in Windows. His aim was in software. His mail was encouraging about my PC expertise, my ability to touch type as opposed to his having to look at the keyboard. This might have revealed my age. He told me that he found he was able to write more to me than he did with others. He said that I had improved his vocabulary and he even found himself looking up words I had used in a dictionary. Previously he admitted he would only write one liners asking about the weather. He also said that people did not always talk very well or freely, and certainly not about sex and he wanted to include in his conversations with people talk about sex which he reasoned he should be able to talk about with like minded people. as well as other things in every day life.

One day I got a message telling me that he was married and he hoped I would not take the news badly. "Why should I," I reasoned? He told me that a friend had had an affair on line and it had wrecked the marriage. All his friends had told him that he only got a PC for the purposes of having an affair. I mailed him about marriages that went wrong; I had had some experience professional experience in talking to clients in similar difficulties. I have a natural ease in doing so. The result was that I got a mail which said something "I,m not afraid any more". "I,m not going to tell my wife about you"

Our mails altered in regularity but not in numbers; he would mail me on the nights when he went to school and I was able to calculate how late he was stopping up to do so. The idea was I think that he would allow his wife to go to bed first. A young married couple, now with a demanding young child, the wife frequently found "on the couch, where she usually is" (his words not mine) unwilling to make love quite so regularly as had been their practice before the arrival of the child. In another mail he told me that she had not had anything to do with him in bed since that time.

I told Rob that he needed to get some counselling but I suggested that if they both wanted to tell me their problems I would be receptive. He had also told me he had a sleep problem and could not afford to take advice.

I told him I thought the problem was that his wife was afraid of enjoying the sex in the same way that they had had prior to marriage and that their squeals and shouts of excitement had been curtailed. After a while his mails got more personal and he asked me details about myself. I thought that he was beginning to form some sort of affection for me. Again mail told me that "he wasn,t afraid any more" . It seemed afraid of having a friendship with a "female through e-mail." Why should it be any more different that having a chat with a male buddy. It clearly is I have found because there is a certain honesty indicated when you do not know the other party, have nothing to lose, in fact everything to gain by being able to talk freely, in other words free counselling.

At this point in the article I should like to pose the situation that where there are disabled people sitting behind a PC for the purposes of communicating with the outside world, unable to communicate by usual social means far from assisting in their disabled status it does in fact make them equal to the outside community. Could it be therefore that unwittingly they are making themselves vulnerable to situations they are unable to deal with in their lives which are unsophisticated because of their immobility.

I went along with the subject matter of Rob,s mails quite willingly. We debated the possibility of our thing being a fantasy and then he told me that he thought it was more than that "it is real". Neither of us had considered the possibility of using the Pc to compensate, more from the point of view of increasing our awareness of the Technology. I discussed with Rob the differences in our ages, and my appearance which would be noticeable were we to walk down the street t ogether. He told me to "stop knocking yourself" I decided to hit him with obstructive ideas against a relationship involving people with a considerable age difference between them but again this brought the response that "we seem to have transcended those differences". I had sent him a jpeg of myself to make sure that he knew to whom he was writing but it made no difference, in fact it seemed to enhance his interest in me.

Rob mailed me about a first meeting and how he would whisper things into my ear that "at last we were together". We would emphasise feeling by hanging on to words, thus .......ssssssllllllllllooooooowwwww. There was nothing wrong in the way he described his technique in love making! If he put what he told me into practice. I continued to look for the mails each day and I could admit to myself that I was getting some emotional comfort from them. Perhaps I should explain my philosophy at this point however and remind my reader that a disability doesn't have to be apparent and mine isn't. The fact that I am disabled does not make me any different from any one of you able bodied PC users. It could be said therefore that other less fortunate or less educated PC disabled users are just as vulnerable.

I told Rob that my PC had voice recognition just in case I lose the ability to touch type and to say that in my occupation I had been complimented on my tone of speaking voice which someone said was soothing like warm honey. Now I found myself provoking interest. The response I got to that was "Wow".

Rob and I exchanged ideas of our meetings and then suddenly I got a message leaving no room to doubt that he was acting out a sexual encounter with me as he sat at his PC. When I commented on it he agreed that at first it was his intention to have a sexual relationship with someone when he first mailed me, but in truth he took a long time to get to it.

There was a message of clear invitation to involve myself in editing his emotional and sexual fantasies he was having with me. I replied, appropriately and finished by saying that I hoped the message pleased him but that I was not sure it was what he wanted and if not I would understand. My reply was met with something like "if you don't think that you are erotic and sexual." And "you are a natural warm woman".

He suggested that the message should be Chapter 1 in our relationship.

Sitting at home for long periods enabled me to write other Chapters. These were to take on more of a story from me and which I wrote thinking that Rob would enjoy the sensuality of the subject matter. Each time would be more explicit. One time in a mail I was specifically asked to "expand "upon the idea. And in my reply I did. I found myself becoming aroused and then in the reply would receive a request to go and attend to things after I had read the again in which my own comments appeared. In his own time and synchronised with mine he attend to his own needs simultaneously.

Once Rob described his physical arousal whilst writing. You might think it strange that we never met in a Chat Room and here we were synchronising our emotions. Then the mailing stopped for about a week and in returning he told me that he was having to sit an exam and get some assignments done.

We would share experiences of mistakes we had made in the use of our PCs as well as sexual innuendo. Each time I logged in I felt a warm feeling of comfort from the pain that can exist in the background of my sitting ability. In fact I sat for longer periods than I should have done but felt that psychologically it must have had a beneficial effect, therefore the benefits outweighed the discomfort.

I asked Rob in one message where he preferred to make love, it wasn't intended to be an invitation that he and I would enjoy, more as a matter of drawing him out and trying to encourage him to make approaches to his wife. His reply in return was that he contemplated being somewhere with me when we would run the risk of being found by members of the public which he said would add to the excitement. I wrote a "Chapter" including the possibility of being viewed by guys playing softball, in another we had found a spot on a secluded beach and we engaged in love making and had written "I love you" in the sand - all the usual experiences of the passion of a new relationship.

I got messages that would run off the screen and go on and on past themargins when he told me that he could have been overlooked which was adding to his excitement. He lived in an apartment rather than a house where there was a spare bedroom set aside. He would send me maps by attachment of where he lived saying that it helped to know I was closer.

Then Rob announced that he was intending to call me. I had earlier sent him a copy of a flyer I had designed which contained my home address including my telephone number.This was something I had been told I should not do but by that time I thought he was genuine and I did it to indicate and confirm the distance at which I had been mailing. He mailed to say that he had attempted to call but I had not indicated the International dialling code on my flyer and itmeant his having to ask the operator. He showed considerable frustration at what he said "was a comparatively simple exercise which failed". I got a mail on the morning of the intended call. He would be calling me, my time 4 pm. He also referred to my knowing what we both wanted. The time difference was such that it meant an early morning call for him. It was a Sunday. I had had a lunch date and I made arrangements to be at home to receive his call.

I wondered if it was a wise move agreeing but they guy seemed to want to progress things. I returned home in time for the call which arrived 15 minutes late and I wondered if he would be able to get away, perhaps he was working that day and he didn't tell me. I didn't know what to expect.

The telephone rang and in the bedroom and I picked up the receiver. He called my name "is that Sue" and I confirmed it was. He told me he had bought a phone card for about 3 minutes. I remember thinking about his voice and realising that it confirmed his age. I asked him where he was, remembering that one Sunday when he mailed me his wife had gone out. No, this time he was "in a coffee shop". He asked me whether or not I had been aroused before the call arrived, I said I was excited at the prospect of speaking to him, and before long he was telling me what he would do to me if we were together. Before the 3 minutes were up I was allowing him to hear my satisfaction. The phone rang off, as usual the 3 minutes seemed like 3 seconds when one is enjoying, having fun. I thought it was odd that after such an experience I didn't have any longings. I did wonder how he would be feeling in the coffee shop!

I went to bed that night wondering what sort of message I might receive next day and the answer came in an early morning repeat phone call. It was about 3.40 a.m. on the Monday morning, he had bought another phone card which he told me were quite expensive. He had woken me. In my dazed state I heard the phone ring and when I realised I wasn't dreaming I realised that the answering machine by my bed had worked and that I heard him ask if I was there "are you sleeping", obviously I was. He hadn't checked out the time zones. I picked up the phone and he said "I,m sorry that we can't be together" I told him that I agreed. Perhaps one could ask did he mean that as a longing or as an apology because he was regretting having called, but I didn't He said he just had to ring me after the first call, he said he had never heard anything like it in his life. Once again the call seemed to be ended too soon. It is true that we do not enquire into the meaning of words when we are emotionally involved. It could hav e been either indication that the relationship had to be ended or that there was a confirmation of satisfaction. No matter what form of communication we choose the understanding or misunderstandings are still apparent if we are not precise in our language.

I was able to message Rob and caution him to consider his life in his own time. I told him that our lives were now more sophisticated than ever and were increasingly so and that he might contemplate the possibility that he was looking too far beyond what a marriage could be expected to give him. I reminded him that life would not be the same now he was married, he shouldn,t compare it to his courting days and certainly not now that there was a child of the marriage. I also said that as the child grew older things would probably not improve in that way because she would become more demanding and I told him that he should not miss out on her years of innocence which she would lose once she went to school; I told him also that teenage children were aware of what their parents did and that it would be a good idea to educate her to understand that her parents had to be together at certain times.

Perhaps this would allow Rob and his wife to improve things between them. I also told Rob that if he got too involved with our "love" making it ran the risk of mentioning my name in whatever circumstances. I have an idea that this made him think, because after that his mail stopped for a few days. I remember thinking that I had "blown it" I would miss the closeness that our communicating had given me. At that time I experienced my first big computer crash. My mail became encrypted and despite that I had backed up a great deal of it could not be decoded. I tell you this because I felt devastated at that time that Rob's mail could not be recovered. Perhaps it was something like the intention to tie up letters in a ribbon and keep them to look through at a later date. I reinstalled my connection and made contact with those mailers whose e-mail addresses I could decipher from the Address Book records which seemed to work horizontally and it reminded me of Rob's message which had gone off the page.

Rob's mails did not recommence at that time, I continued to mail him because he told me that he enjoyed getting a message from me no matter where he had been, it was like a welcome home. I was feeling lost just as I would do if I had been dumped, but nothing like that had been said. He eventually mailed and I remember actually having a few tears when I saw his mail. I told him so when I replied. I got a quick reply back to say that it was OK. "don,t cry any more". I wrote two or more Chapters, in between the mails and from him they were becoming less regular. I wondered whether I was prepared to provide him with fuel for his emotions to that extent. I was not getting the same comfort. He told me more than once that he didn,t know what he wanted and he was very confused about what our mailing relationship had done to or for him.

I decided the only way to help myself out of the disappointment and loss in the situation was to tell him again something to make him think. I told him that he should understand that despite any fondness I had for him I had a relationship going here at home. I explained the details and reminded him of the circumstances of my disability - that I was unable to socialise because my spine would not sustain unknown places where I could not sit and I felt that sitting out meant missing out. My relationship allowed me a closeness that I would miss. I was surprised at Rob's response in a mail I received early one morning when he told me he was devastated to hear of "the other guy" and it didn't make him feel good about me! He closed that message very short and said he would have to think about it. I was so disappointed in his reaction but after all I had initiated the response. It seemed a hypocritical attitude.

When he replied he asked me how many affairs I had. He told me it was OK but he was just interested and he showed some remorse about how he reacted. He told me he was upset at seeing that there was someone else but wanted to know more about affairs that married people had from my professinal knowledge. He asked whether the relationship I was having was with someone who was married and if so was it the first? He gave no consideration of my situation but nevertheless despite his unreasonableness I was both hurt and surprised at his reaction which I had sponsored by giving him the openness and honest approach that mailing allows.

I have this opinion probably because we are not face to face with the other person, we cannot be interrupted unless of course we are in a chat room, and then interruption is not always noticed as quickly as it would be recognised were we face to face.

I gave Rob some more detail of how my relationship was conducted and I reasoned that after all he was married. This mail stood alone for a couple of days and then I got a mail through to say that he didn't know how to deal with the feeling that he could have been my lover and he didn't like the other guy being around. In short he said that he thought it was jealousy." I replied telling Rob that I felt he was being unreasonable and I was sorry he felt like that. His mailing stopped again and then a few days later a reply that was subject headed "I'm a jerk" - he had admitted that he had hoped I would stop mailing; he couldn't work a way out of it for himself, it seemed he didn,t know how to.

I took the view that he wanted an easy way out of a problem he could not resolve for himself and probably still hasn't." He recommenced mailing about a week or so later and told me that he didn,t know what he wanted. In the meantime I had joined a group and discussed the feelings "When the mailing stops". All were of the opinion that even though it was an e-mail relationship a "friendship" would have given an explanation.

We kept in touch and the mails were a good deal cooler and then he had problems with his own Connection. Suddenly I got a message to say that he was running again and would I reply to make sure that he could receive mails. I wondered why he had asked me, instead of any number of mailers he must have.

Now Rob and I rarely communicate. I mailed him to say that I had "let him go" because I freely admit I had become used to his mail and had felt almost addicted to its receipt each day. In a way this helped me to be positive with myself. I did tell him that I would be here for him if he had problems or wished to talk about any subject, reminding him that this was one of the reasons he first communicated.

Overall I think I am fortunate in being able to write as a means of communication, I was allowed to acquire those skills before my disability interrupted and I am receptive to relationships. I can now admit that I had the benefit of being psycho analysed when my spine problem was thought to be psychosomatic and I can reflect on that experience and learn from its teaching that we must all admit the same senses, and suppression of a seemingly unattractive sense can cause problems in later life.

As far as relationships are concerned I mentioned the point in a marriage that sophistication in life can make one look for things which might be beyond expectation. I think this media of communication will prove the point. I have since learned of two marriages that have actually been broken through a relationship on The Net, practices involving multiple recipients and mails between two people each on PCs but with one in the company of a permanent partner.I still hold the view that these relatinships must have been in trouble to start with; the definition of an affair so far can only mean skin to skin contact. Who knows whether case law will alter that precedent, perhaps it is more to the point that the marriage has irretri evably broken down and the evidence is in unreasonable behavior.

Rob's mails recommenced in the fall, and in the meantime I found another mailer, an educated single man of a few years older than Rob who has been married, and now divorced remaining single with a long term relationship with a lady six or so years older than he. His background seems to have been sad in physic al and mental terms which have had a profound effect on his own outlook. This relationship has a more settled friendship feeling, though there is more than a friendly interest in my "experiences and passions"..It still provides something which he lacks being able to do in his permanent relationship.

In the meantime I still get mail from a group which and in most I cannot identify and sometimes I am glad that I cannot for there is evidence of some sad lives. In others its a question of how to get over a broken heart, some with obsessions, some people just not talking to one another, others in co-dependence. I may be able to write more about my relationships in the future.

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