Letter to Dear Abby this morning:
DEAR ABBY: I am part of a group of people who read our local newspaper online and comment on the news of the day in the public forums provided. It's great fun and offers an excellent place to interact with others.
Some of us have become close, exchanging e-mails and chat messages. One of the women has suggested we all get together at a local watering hole and meet each other, and the gang has agreed.
I would love to join in, but the problem is that the persona I built online is that of a hunky, handsome young man -- including a pilfered photo I posted as "me" on my profile. Needless to say, he is NOT me. I am a 54-year-old, chubby, graying man who wears glasses.
I thought this kind of thing went out with AOL chat rooms.
This guy, who signs himself Abs of Sponge, is old enough to know better. How many TV sitcoms have had stories about a character who'd lied to a pen-pal about what he or she looked like and did for a living and now had to fess up. Radar sent one of his pen-pals a picture of Hawkeye and told her he was an officer and a doctor.
I sympathize with him though. Although I've never hidden the fact that I am a stooped and wizened old man, in the early days of blogging I became convinced that the only reason I was enjoying any popularity at all is that people had developed all kinds of wild fantasies about who and what I was based on my ridiculously macho name. It was James Wolcott's fault. "Manly name, manly blog," he wrote one of the first times he linked to me. Inquiring emails from curious readers and gossip passed along by internet pals confirmed my fears. I became terrified of meeting any of my readers or blogging buddies in person. "If they find out what I really am, they'll drop me from their blog rolls and delete me from their bookmarks in a heartbeat!" I told the blonde.
Who scoffed, of course. "Nobody's staying up late, dreaming of what Lance Mannion looks like," she assured me.
That's why men get married. For the ego boost.
But eventually I started attending some events where I was bound to bump into other bloggers and you know what?
It turned out the blonde was right. Nobody had spent a whole lot of time thinking about me. No women looked particularly disappointed (or thrilled). No truly manly man blogger sniggered, except Neddie Jingo, who has a right to feel mas macho---he owns both a motorcycle and a chainsaw. I just wasn't the legend in anybody's mind I'd fooled myself into thinking I was.
So, you might think my advice to Abs of Sponge would be, Go and don't worry about it. No one will care. They probably won't even notice you're not what you think they think you are.
Abs of Sponge has been flirting with some of the women he's met online and the flirtation is clearly based on their thinking he is "a hunky, handsome young man."
By the way, I'm just pretending to believe this guy exists at all. I've heard that advice columnists have a habit of mashing together letters and conflating three or four or ten advice-seekers into one "person," as a way of addressing a common problem with a single column. If Abs of Sponge writes to his online friends in the same style as he writes to Abby, they're not fooled.
Abs tries to make it sound as though these women have all taken the initiative and flirted with him without his encouragement, as if he's been a perfect gentleman, except for, you know, the lying, but of course that's a crock.
I'm sure Abby knows it too, and I think her advice to him is malicious.
She's sending him out to meet these women! She wants him humiliated.
She assures him he won't be, that it will probably turn out he isn't the only fraud in the group and everyone will have a good laugh.
Abs! Don't listen! Stay home! Sign up for AOL and find a nice safe chat room.
By the way. I'm not 54. I'm not chubby. But I'm graying and I wear glasses. Wanna chat?