Friday, June 10, 2011

Imaginary Friends

I'm on vacation right now, spending the weekend with a bunch of friends. This morning I met two of them in the lobby of my hotel, and we all rode in my car down to brunch with another two women and their children. After that, one friend took Small back to her house, so that MC and I could do some shopping. The two friends with whom I'd carpooled to breakfast came along. We had fun, browsing in boutiques, giggling in the vintage store, singing along with radio. Then we returned to the home of the friend who'd had Lily all afternoon, and were joined by several other friends, and some accompanying husbands and children, for pizza. Everyone had fun, the kids played, the grownups conversed, and everyone stayed for quite a long time. Tonight, the girls and I are forgoing the hotel, in favor of staying at our friend's house. Tomorrow, we're all going to the zoo.

This doesn't sound unusual, I realize, but what makes it a bit strange is this: we all met on the internet. A little over four years ago, we formed a group based around the commonality of having children born in the same two weeks, in 2006. On this basis, we became friends. If that sounds like an incredibly sharp focus, well, yeah, it is. But somewhere along the way, between the discussions of diaper rash and potty training, milestones and meltdowns, we became close. We started talking about all the other aspects of our lives too, our likes and dislikes, personal comedies and tragedies, and we came to care deeply about each other. When one of us has a problem, the others find a way to support her. When something wonderful happens, we celebrate together. And when nothing happens, we're still there. Every day, several times a day. we pop online and chat with each other. We also talk on the phone. Some of us Skype, most of us are Facebook friends. And once in a while, we do something like we're doing this weekend- travel to a new place just to hang out.

We crack jokes, about it all being a con. Before this meetup, some husbands were worried that some of us might not be who we claim to be. We refer to our imaginary friends, who live in our computers. We take pictures, half-jokingly, as proof that we're not pervy middle aged men, posing as mommies. And of course, we also take pictures to commemorate the time together, because it's fun.

It seems strange to most people, I think, because it is a relatively new phenomenon. But I think this sort of thing will become more and more commonplace as years go by. The truly interesting thing about meeting someone on the internet- (and before I say this, let me say I know con artists abuse the web, and take advantage of the naive, but that's not what I'm talking about here, I'm talking about sincere people who sincerely communicate)- is that online, you meet people from the inside out. Four years later, I know what these people look like, and their approximate social status, and what they do for a living, and their true religious beliefs. But at the start, I didn't know anything except that we all had babies exactly the same age. It is a truly beautiful thing to learn what someone really thinks, and if you share a sense of humor, or a sensibility, or a faith, before you are influenced by looks or other surface concerns. It's a very interesting phenomenon, I think, to understand who someone is before you actually meet.

I am a person who is blessed in many ways, with a close-knit family, and many friends. I can't help but feel even further blessed by living in this age, where I can meet someone who lives on the other side of the country, or world, or a even just a few states away, and feel connected in a really meaningful way. What a really strange but really wonderful byproduct of technology!

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