I am so horrified by this thing I said that I recently mentioned it in therapy. Couples therapy.
So, I am an introvert. In the real, physical world, this means that I generally don't want to go out and be around a lot of people. Even the idea of meeting new people gives me a tension headache. When I do find myself out among people where I have to be sociable, I go from gracious and game to exhausted and overcome by self-loathing in a matter of minutes. It's really quite pathetic. I would choose to be another way if given the option.
Even on the internet this has manifested itself in a number of stupid ways, chief among them that I have only ever published any written work under a pseudonym. And I've gone to fairly extraordinary lengths to keep my various pseudonyms from being linked together. It's ridiculous. My need to create a barrier between my private self and a world full of strangers who, frankly, don't give even a tiny damn about my existence is, well, it's outrageous. If you are reading this and wondering at my loserdom, well, yeah.
That said, I've had opportunities over the last few years to meet, in the real world, like actual humans do, some of the various internet acquaintances I've made through Deadspin and Twitter and elsewhere. Surprisingly, in most cases I've genuinely felt downright eager to meet and shake hands and put faces and voices and stories to handles and avatars. Anyway, most of you assholes live far away, so there's not much at stake—we could meet, have a few beers, shoot the shit, and then go back to living hundreds or thousands of miles apart, such that I will bear no responsibility for maintaining a relationship. It's a workable situation.
IronMikeGallego, fancy and well-adjusted man of the world, has been in town a few times since we first iMet via the comments on MBA and a few emails here and there, years and years ago. For various annoying reasons, we hadn't ever been able to get together during these trips, and this inability to arrange our schedules had turned into sort of a running joke. At any rate, a couple months ago he was back in town and we finally made it happen. We met at a nice seafood place near the Kennedy Center in DC for a late dinner.
There wasn't much awkwardness! It turns out we had plenty to talk about, which was cool. So much, in fact, that we closed the place down and were the last people out of there by at least half an hour. I had a blast. IMG is good company, you guys.
At some point in the course of things, and I think it was fairly early in the evening, right around the time we left the bar and took a table, the conversation briefly touched on my ridiculous unwillingness to share any specific details of my identity online, and maybe my general aversion to being in the company of humans who aren't somehow related to me. IMG, because he is a nice and generous and good-natured person, expressed, in one way or another, flattery at being given the opportunity to meet in person and learn some things about one another, as if meeting me is some kind of prize or reward. It is neither of those things. Not even close. As we will soon see.
What I wanted to say to him, then, was that my eagerness to meet him in person was a reflection of my sincere interest in this interaction, and that his obvious sense of humor and spiritual generosity were sufficient to overcome my losery fear and awkwardness. I wanted to say that meeting him in person was very much my pleasure, and that I was enormously grateful that he'd initiated the process of getting together in the human world like grownups instead of confining our experience of one another to the bizarre post-human branded persona world of internet interaction.
Here's a thing that happens, though, when you don't normally meet people and aren't any good at it and are also wildly out of practice at even bluffing your way through it: you lose your ability to articulate things cleanly and clearly and concisely without needing whole minutes to compose your thoughts. A more socialized human has key words and phrases at their disposal, things like "it's my pleasure" or whatever. A dipshit moron clown loser like me is left creating anew the simple-seeming phrasing with which these kinds of interactions are transacted, and that's a bad, bad setup. You don't want to take whole minutes to respond to someone saying "I'm flattered to have the opportunity to meet you in person," but if you don't, you will say something very, very stupid.
And, if you've already had two cocktails on an empty stomach after going more than a year without consuming alcohol, you are not likely to realize you've said something very, very stupid until some later point in the conversation, when the echo of what you said finally makes its way back to your frontal lobe and the mysterious and growing sense of dread suddenly takes awful shape all at once in all the panic centers of your brain, but it is too late to alter or otherwise clarify your meaning, and you are just a fucking idiot forever.
IMG told me he was flattered to meet me in person, and I said (God help me)...I said "you should be!"
Fuck my life.