Explaining relationships formed through blogging, to people that don’t blog, can be touchy. Many don’t get it – they don’t understand how a complete stranger can become a dear friend.
Even with the boom in online dating and social networking sites, there’s still a stigma attached to internet-born relationships – especially, for some reason, in relation to blogs. It’s oddly more acceptable to jet off to meet a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook, than it is to spend time with a person whose life you’ve been reading and commenting on for years. Blogging, for me, is far more personal than a daily status update and a handful of pouty faced photos.
I’ve trusted a few close friends, that I knew would understand or at least be accepting, with the truth about my online dealings. Some read my blog and some only know about it, but what they all have in common is that they realize the relationships I’ve made here are no less valid than ours. Different, but no less valid. The ones that read it see it first hand – in how comfortable I am being honest and in the way people respond in the comments: relating to my current situation, being compassionate whether they understand or not, laughing with me or simply letting me know they stopped by. The ones that don’t read it simply know that it makes me happy, and that’s good enough for them.
I’ve been writing here for over six years and I’ve made a lot of friends, but up until two weeks ago I’d never physically met any of them. I’d made plans on several occasions, but for one reason or another they always fell apart. This year I was determined to make it happen and with some long overdue luck, a no nonsense attitude and the help of my completely oblivious father’s yearly gift of a plane ticket...I met three amazing people.
The first was Jerrod, who writes the blog Breaking Awkward (some of you may be more familiar with his old blog title, The Yellow Factor).
We’ve been friends for a little over two and a half years now – talking so frequently that he became one of those people I contact immediately when something notably good or bad happens. I don’t remember who found who first, but we began good-naturedly insulting each other and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jerrod just so happens to live in Oklahoma a half hour away from my stepfamily, who I visit every summer. After weeks of planning it was decided that we’d not only hang out while I was in town, but we’d also take a weekend trip to Kansas City to visit another blogger, Paige.
However, just because the plans seemed to make themselves and everything was already arranged, from the hotel to the road trip play list, doesn’t mean the execution was entirely easy.
See, the only person that knew I hadn’t actually met Jerrod was my sister...and she was sworn to secrecy in order to avoid rioting. I knew that none of them, especially dad, would understand or approve. All they were told, before I got there, was that I’d be spending a weekend in Kansas City with friends and bumming around Oklahoma City with them too. And, before I got there, dad was completely fine with it. He didn’t press me for details.
We went straight to sleep when we arrived at their house around 1am Thursday morning. I was supposed to meet Jerrod Thursday night and had arranged for my stepsister to drop me off in the city. But that afternoon my dad suddenly decided that I was 12, not 26, and I wouldn’t be going off for the weekend with someone he didn’t know...especially a man.
We were sitting on the patio glaring and occasionally shouting at each other, neither of us willing to concede defeat, until he pointed out the obvious.
“I’ll be taking you into the city to meet this motherfucker and if you don’t like it, you can stay your ass here...where he’ll have to come get you and then I still meet him. Period.”
Poor Jerrod was going to meet the infamous Jimmy, whether either of us liked it or not.
I was terrified and, knowing Jerrod, I was positive he would be too. I’d long since gathered that he isn’t used to people like Jimmy.
I’ve only ever introduced three men to my dad, with embarrassing results, and though Jerrod wasn’t a boyfriend the scenario actually seemed worse to me because we’d never met before. I didn’t picture my first blogger meeting including my drunk, obnoxious father telling stories about his dick.
But that’s exactly how it went down.
He rushed me out the door that evening, interrupting my makeup routine every few minutes and making me furious in the process, because he had to drop off some air conditioners (don’t ask, I don’t know) at his “brother’s” house. I made my sister come along because she’s usually a calming influence, but he’d been hitting The Crown all afternoon and there was no controlling him.
He spent the ride to his “brother’s” deliberately scaring the shit out of me by telling me the horrible things he was going to ask Jerrod and by insisting that he wouldn’t meet him anywhere but at a biker bar called VictimZ. Yeah, Victims with a fucking Z.
“Tell him to get his ass in there and have me a beer waitin’.”
Of course I didn’t. It was bad enough I actually had to type out the name to that ridiculous biker bar and have Jerrod reply with, “I put VictimZ in and Google maps laughed at me.” I was mortified.
When we pulled up to drop off the stupid air conditioners, he made us get out of the truck to meet the guy. He was about seven feet tall, wearing overalls with no shirt and had a bandana wrapped around his long hair. After unloading the cargo, they immediately started laughing and punching each other in the sides like children.
“C’mon man”, dad said while jabbing at him repeatedly. “Ride with us! My daughter comes down here to visit me, then thinks she’s going to take the off to Kansas City with some motherfucker I haven’t met! Oh hell no. I told her to have him meet us at VictimZ.”
His brother stared at him for a moment and then, to my absolute horror, they both burst out laughing. “Oh shit”, the guy said, looking at me with a mix of pity and amusement.
“Aw, I’m not going to help embarrass your daughter, Jimbo”, he said.
But dad talked him into getting in the truck anyway. I sat in the backseat with my sister, silently panicking.
When we pulled into the parking lot fifteen minutes later, I saw Jerrod’s car across the street. Dad didn’t even look around – when I hopped out he locked my things in the car so I couldn’t leave until he allowed it, and they immediately disappeared around back into the “beer garden”.
I waved at Jerrod, who was still hiding in his car across the street (not that I blame him), and he drove over. I walked around to the driver’s side, he got out and that’s how we first set eyes on each other. In the parking lot of a rundown biker bar with my father waiting for him in a beer garden, which was actually nothing more than a dirt-packed backyard with big wooden spool tables and rusted chairs made of scrap metal.
He looked worried, but accepted my apology for the oddness of our first meeting and followed me around the corner. Dad’s brother had parked himself at a table a respectable distance away with my sister, who wasn’t allowed in the bar.
“Where’s dad”, I asked.
“He went in for beer.”
A moment later he came wandering out the door with an evil grin on his face, clutching a bucket of beer. I introduced them, watching as my 5’7 father looked up at Jerrod and shook his hand...and it was apparent by the flash of tendons that he was squeezing the shit out of him.
“Drink a beer with me”, he said, shoving one into his hands.
I reached for one myself, twisted off the top and turned it straight up.
Then other than a few “motherfuckers” (in reference to other people this time, not Jerrod), a few embarrassing remarks and a demand to know if Jerrod could “fight”, they proceeded to have a relatively normal conversation. They talked about what they did for a living and where they lived and how long they’d been there. But even so, I knew my dad and I was going to be keyed up until we got out of there.
Jerrod, who was apparently no longer worried, laughed at me for being so visibly nervous, sucking down the beer and lighting a cigarette when I’d planned on not smoking at all. “Relax”, he said.
And I’d just about managed it because we’d finished our beers and I felt as though escape was just around the corner.
But no – dad insisted that we weren’t going anywhere until we went inside and met his other “brothers”. Apparently they’re all in the same biker gang or something – they wear one spur on one boot or some such nonsense so they recognize that they’re “related”.
As we both trailed reluctantly behind dad Jerrod said, “I thought you said we didn’t have to go in...”
“Sorry”, I mumbled, “I didn’t think we would.”
The ceiling was completely covered in bras, except for a small square of removable tile where a stripper pole was shoved inexpertly through a jagged hole.
“I put the pole in”, dad told Jerrod proudly. I shook my head and sighed.
He tried to call over a long haired old man that was absorbed in some sort of game, but the guy was taking his time. There were a few tables of degenerates (mostly really ugly women) that were giving us the stink eye. I wasn’t sure if they were simply unfriendly or plotting to kill me and take off with my Coach bag.
While we waited for the old guy to grace us with his presence, dad decided to tell Jerrod a lovely little story.
“This is my hangout, man. One time I got so drunk that this woman drew a smiley face on the head of my dick and I didn’t even know it. She called my wife and told her she did it, so when I got home she said, ‘You’re not getting in this bed like that with a smiley face on your dick!’ I woke up the next morning and was like, shit, man!”
“Dad! That’s enough! Don’t ever talk about your dick in front of me again. Ever.”
They both laughed and I glared at Jerrod. “Don’t encourage him.”
The old guy chose that moment to make his way over and we were introduced, though I can’t remember his name, and he hugged me uninvited...as all dad’s weirdo friends seem to do.
“This is my daughter’s boyfriend”, dad said, launching into his complaint about me taking off for the weekend again.
“He’s not my boyfriend”, I interjected, feeling a fresh wave of embarrassment.
They all ignored me and dad launched into his dick story again for the benefit of our new companion. “Hey remember the time...”
“Yep”, old guy said, “it was my old lady that did it.”
I was close to hyperventilating at that point and, thankfully, none of dad’s other friends seemed to be there so he was ready to go. We were finally off the hook.
We said our goodbyes at the truck, with Leigha sitting unhappily in the driver’s seat ready to cart dad and his friend off to “church”, which is what his biker group calls sitting around drinking and talking about their penises.
As I climbed in the passenger side of Jerrod’s car, dad may have said something to him like “take care of my girl”, but I was so relieved to be getting away that I wasn’t really paying attention.
He got in a moment later, looked at me and smiled. “It’s ok”, I think he said. My nerves were still jangling a bit as we drove away, sure that any moment he would turn around and take me back, wondering what in the hell he was doing taking off with a relative stranger whose father was a drunken biker not above breaking his kneecaps just for lifting an eyebrow the wrong way.
Instead he seemed amused by how unsettled the whole thing had made me. “I think that helped make it less awkward, don’t you?”
I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Yeah, I guess it did.”
I wasn’t entirely sure if I felt that way or not, but later, when I could laugh about it, I realized he was right. It had.
What I was sure about at that moment, though, was that there had never been a first blogger meeting even remotely similar to ours.
But maybe that was a good thing because, after all, our friendship began unconventionally. And there was absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Sunny Side of the Street
3 days ago