The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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My Virtual Girlfriend Got Real

Names have been changed.

In junior high and high school, I had plenty of friends—most of them girls. I wasn’t ready for sex, and I saw a pattern of nice girls dating guys who were jerks to them. I figured I’d stay single for the rest of my life because I didn’t want to be an a--hole just to have a girlfriend.

Then I discovered social networking. When I was 15 years old I joined a website they had back then for high school kids called A girl named Debra from North Carolina asked to be my friend. We both liked rock and metal music and professional wrestling. I liked that Debra didn’t lace her talk with ghetto language when she messaged me and that she didn’t smoke or drink. I added her to my list.

She started to tell me about her problems at school. Kids at her school teased her because she was bisexual (which I already knew from her profile). I had never known anyone who was gay or bi before, but I told her that I could relate to her problems because of the way kids at school teased me about my disability. I could tell she was surprised when I said “disability” by the way she said, “…oh.” I explained that one of my legs doesn’t function as well as the other because I have cerebral palsy.

Virtual Love

She didn’t seem bothered by it; she told me she understood. We moved from Sconex to IM, and IMed each other a lot, mostly about movies and music. After a few weeks, she asked, “Would you date me?” I didn’t know what “dating” meant from hundreds of miles away, but I let her take the lead.

We messaged back and forth every day, just talking about our day. Soon, we went from talking online to talking on the phone, which led to new discoveries about each other: Debra had a strong Southern accent. And she was surprised that I didn’t talk street like most kids my age.

We could say anything on the computer, but hearing her speak felt more real. We would listen to the same music at the same time, and even sing along to a song together on speaker phone. It felt like I was actually there with her. We had the same dark sense of humor, and that brought us closer. She asked if I was a virgin and I said I was. Soon after that she said “I love you” and I said it back, meaning it.

Then she introduced phone sex. I didn’t like it; it felt awkward and we never tried it again, but our conversations did get more lovey-dovey after that. We talked for hours every day, and it felt like I’d known her my whole life. I felt happier than I had since I was a little kid.

A year into the relationship, though, she called me less and less. I looked on her Sconex profile and saw she was listed as “Single.” After all the phone calls and messages and talk of a future with me, she renounced our relationship without even talking to me?! (Looking back, I think it was probably because she was more interested in sex than I was then.)

Of course I was angry, but mostly I was hurt. It wasn’t fair. She could’ve at least told me that she was breaking up with me. I wrote a poem about burning her house down but stopped short of posting it on the Sconex site.

After that, I stayed single for five years—until I met Valencia.

‘*Likes Valencia*’

I added Valencia on Facebook from my friend Alphonse’s friend list. She was already in a relationship so we just “talked” on Facebook about our favorite bands and TV shows.

She told me that her relationship with her boyfriend Ethan wasn’t going so well because he had an obsession with Alyssa Milano. Ethan started paying less attention to Valencia. I liked her a lot and was developing feelings beyond friends for her. I told her she deserved better than Ethan.

One day, after she’d been complaining to me about Ethan, her Facebook status update was

I am a princess, searching for my knight

Other guys added comments like “I’m your knight in shining armor.” Valencia didn’t respond to any of them, so I commented:,

image by YC-Art Dept

*stabs this guy with a sword, chops this other guy’s head off, gets down on one knee and says “I’m here”*

Valencia commented back with a kitten smile — ^_^

Then Valencia sent me a private message asking me: “How did you know that you were my knight? ^_^”

“I just guessed J,” I told her. I was afraid to tell her how I felt about her yet. Then I found out she had broken up with Ethan. We talked a lot after that and I noticed that she put smiley faces when she was messaging me.

One night, I took a big risk in our chat:

Valencia: You make me happy. J
Paul: J Do you think I’m worthy?
Valencia: Yes ^_^
Paul: I’m glad ^.^

Around Christmas she changed her Facebook status to “I Love You, Paul.” When I saw that, I smiled at the computer screen and I changed my status update to “I Love You Too, Valencia.”

At that point, we started asking each other questions through IM about how we felt about our relationship, and we both agreed that it was a long time coming. We also wrote honestly about how we felt about sex. I was in no rush, and neither was she.

By the time I finally met Valencia, I was in love. It’s hard to say exactly why. Maybe it was her kindness. We arranged to meet at the library where she went to use the computer.

I was nervous because it was the first time I had dated someone in person. When I got into the library, she ran over and gave me a huge hug, which made me feel good. I was surprised when I saw her with glasses because she didn’t wear them in her photos. She just looked like a regular girl; hoodie, jeans, sneakers—pretty casual.

The feelings I’d developed for her online were the same feelings I had in real life. She was sweet and kind and she accepted me despite my disability.

In Person

It’s now been nine months, two weeks, and three days. Valencia is pretty quiet and shy, so I gave her some time to come out of her shell and trust me. The Internet works well for people like us: She still tells me more personal stuff online than in person. I told her I wouldn’t ever pressure her to talk about things that make her uncomfortable.

We also got closer by working through a problem. There have been times when she wouldn’t let me come see her when we both had time to kill. She would avoid telling me when she was upset about something, and when we did meet up she felt distant.

I told her that these things made me feel neglected, worried, upset, and angry. She started to cry and said, “I didn’t know I was mistreating you so badly!” Her tears made me cry, and it was the first time I ever cried in front of someone I loved. We held each other as we cried, and she told me she would try not to make me feel that way again.

I put my all into the relationship. We share trust and good communication. Valencia and I keep each other’s secrets. And we have never disagreed on something to the point where we wouldn’t talk to each other. She’s easy to get along with and, when we disagree, I find a calm way to talk about it without blowing a fuse.

We know each other so well that we can tell when the other’s unhappy and are able to cheer each other up.

Having a girlfriend in the real world is so much better because I can physically be with her instead of just talking to her online. I can actually hold the girl in my arms as we look at each other and smile, and that creates a closeness that isn’t available in online relationships.

She’s made me think about the way I say things and how it affects people. I can tell when she’s unhappy about what I said when she doesn’t answer or turns her head away from me and pouts. Just by being silent, Valencia shows me that words can hurt.

I’m critical online, but I see that being supportive and positive works better than criticizing her. When I tell Valencia that I’m proud of her or how creative I think she is, I get to see her smile.

When I’m more encouraging toward her, it also becomes easier for her to tell me how she feels. Holding in my criticism makes the relationship safer for the both of us because Valencia can take her time expressing herself and I learn to consider her feelings and thoughts.

With Valencia, in real life, I’m straightforward about my feelings, I show vulnerability instead of being an a--hole, and I can be myself. Valencia and I show each other who we really are instead of pretending to be people we’re not.

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