The Importance of Being an Internet Friend

The kindness of strangers is sometimes the only source of support I can hope for.  And as I’ve come to realize, the physical and emotional distance between us is why we can give each other unconditional support. Strangely, sometimes the road to deep understanding requires me to drive backwards, away from people until I am standing on a remote boundary, peering at the wide distances in search of a soul that recognizes itself in mine. I can’t see you, I don’t know your real name. You only exist for me in what is imprinted within a two-dimensional frame. Like an Andy Warhol silk screen. Or a video. A representational image of a tangible truth.

A leap of faith

I have to take a leap of faith that you are what you say you are. Kind of like embracing Jesus or Krishna or Yogananda and pouring my troubles into the nurturing space I believe you’ve provided for that purpose. But instead of claiming to be a prophet, a guru, or the Son of the Almighty, you claim to be a person with multiple sclerosis. Male, female, the age you declare, parent or not, from the region you say. I put my faith in your honesty. It blows my mind how very trusting I can be. As skeptical as I am in any other faith scenario, this one particular situation makes me as naively open as a toddler. Why do I do that?

Assuming everybody must be like me

Considering how many times I’ve been betrayed by parents, siblings, teachers, lovers, employers, co-workers, and friends, one thing has become very clear. Since I am a very open, straightforward, direct, trusting, trustworthy person, I project that onto everyone else. Everybody must be like me, I mean, I’m not unique. Am I?

A male colleague once told me I’m not special. He told me that right after he expressed a desire to feel me up as I was only wearing a one-piece bathing suit and shorts. No, no, this isn’t a case of sexual harassment. I would have been thrilled if he’d done it, I cared deeply for him and wanted a passionate affair. We were terribly attracted to each other and had talked about why it couldn't happen. He had rules. He wouldn’t cheat on his girlfriend. I admired him for that. Unfortunately, his remark about my not-specialness was meant to make me feel better. It did not and I chastised him for his tone deafness. It wasn’t so much that I was indignant that he stared at my tits with the single-minded hunger of a nursing puppy and then had the gall to tell me I’m not special, as that is so obviously not what he was feeling at the moment. Tits have a specific allure, and not all tits have the same allure. Mine were special, and still are according to my boyfriend and my unflappable ego. It was that I didn’t believe him when he said I’m not special. That one really burned me. Spurn my tits if you must, but do not gaslight me about my specialness.

We know we're special

We anonymous souls with MS spend hours online telling each other how special the other is, how underappreciated, how neglected, misjudged and abused. It’s the most important thing we can say. Because we know we’re special. When we’re told we’re not, it sounds like fingernails scratching across a blackboard. The harsh, screeching sound that only a lie can produce. That lie is the worst one of all.

You are special. And when you are there for me for a few minutes out of your day, your specialness only grows. Whenever I’m in an expansive mood, I’m there for you, too.

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