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Mars vs. Venus: When Worlds Collide

December 20, 2009

More than ever before, in 2009 I’ve been contemplating ways to bridge the gap between the digital world and the real world. For example, consider the rise of e-books. I’m a Kindle and an iPhone owner–I enjoy carrying around hundreds of books in the palm of my hand. But you can’t smell the fresh pages of an ebook. You can’t pull it from the smiling Amazon box and feel like you just unveiled a treasure. You can’t fall in love with the pretty author on the back flap. And with both formats, you’re no more connected to other people–people who could be reading the same book at the same time–than before.

That’s just one example out of thousands. The point is that it’s been on my mind. A lot. To compound to those thoughts, this is the first year that I’ve felt like I’ve really connected with people online. My blog audience has grown, and the comment sections are much more active than ever before. Add to that the connections I’ve met with genuine people on Twitter. These relationships feel akin to actual friendships.

And yet I’ve never met any of these people in real life.

Until yesterday.

By now you’re probably familiar with Lauren. She and I have started collaborating on a Mars vs. Venus series of blog entries that contrast male and female perspectives. She’s fantastic, insightful blogger over at my life, incomplete, and her audience is rapidly growing.

Lauren and her boyfriend were visiting St. Louis this weekend for a mini-vacation of sorts (in some circles, St. Louis is called the “Hawaii of the midwest), so she asked if I’d be interested in grabbing a mid-afternoon beer with them. We decided to blog about the experience since it was the first time that either of us had met an online friend in person. Here’s Lauren’s entry. (We haven’t read each other’s entries as of this posting.)

Through our online interactions, I had a pretty good idea of the type of person Lauren would be (i.e., not crazy). I was curious, however, about how she and her boyfriend would interact with a third party in person. After all, someone could be completely socially adept online but not at all in person. Plus, given my long-distance relationship over the past year and recent singledom, I know what it’s like to be a third wheel. Sometimes couples get a little too snuggly or inside-jokey, and that’s when it starts to get awkward.

Fortunately, I found hanging out with Lauren and Doug to be really easy and not awkward at all. I didn’t think about this until right now, but it actually helped the conversation that they didn’t sit right next to each other. We were all spaced out evenly around a booth at Brennan’s. I’m not sure if it was intentional on their part, but it kind of made me feel like an equal in the conversation instead of the third wheel that I was.

I really enjoy Lauren’s frank, to-the-point commentary on her blog, and that’s how she is in person. She’s a very strong woman, and I can see why she’s starting to gain some momentum and clout in the single-parenting niche. I’ve had limited interaction with Doug on the comment boards of Lauren’s blogs, but he was a great guy in person–intelligent, down-to-earth, and really friendly. He was very confident and not over-protective of Lauren–given the scenario of some random dude meeting up with his girlfriend, I can see how some guys would have made it a point to stake claim of their girlfriend. But it’s clear that Doug has a high level of respect and trust for Lauren, and he seemed to grant me that trust as well.

Aside from all these observations, I just had a darn good time. We met up around 3:00 and hung out for a good 3 hours, the two of them drinking me under the table in the process. These are the type of people I’d hang out with if they lived in St. Louis. Funny, engaging, good storytellers, and completely open to any conversation topic.

Also, one interesting thing to note about meeting someone with whom your primary communication has been blog reading and comments is that you know them by their blog posts. This means you can’t presume that you truly know them through and through, but at the same time, you know some fairly personal things about them. I thought that helped conversation–our chat was friendly and fun at times, and in others it was refreshingly deep.

Writing all this, I’m rather curious to see what Lauren says. She and Doug could have had a completely different impression of me–I really don’t know. I just tried to be myself, and after a few beers, it’s not like I had a choice in the matter.

Overall, this makes me want to meet more people that I’ve connected with online. So I’ll put this out there: If you’re ever in St. Louis, let’s meet up for a beer. Seriously. Let’s bridge the gap between the digital and the real. And the same goes for my travels–I’m driving from St. Louis to Richmond and back over the next week and a half, in late March I’ll be going to Vegas for a weekend, and I’ll spend a week this summer in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. If you live near any of those areas, let’s meet up. Hopefully Lauren can assure you over on her blog that I’m just a normal guy.

Now go on over to Lauren’s blog and read her post. And let me know your take on meeting online friends in person below. Have you ever done it?

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2009 8:03 pm

    Great post, Jamey. And thank you so much for all of the kind words! I really focused more on the experience of meeting an online friend than my impression of you, personally.

    Doug and I had such a great time. It’s funny that you mention how we sat. I had sat down first, and Doug second. And I thought to myself at the time “that was so nice of him to sit there so Jamey doesn’t feel like a third wheel,” but we never spoke about it. I’m glad it worked! 🙂

    I’ll be in touch next time we’re in town. We should definitely do that again!

    And for the record — we only had four beers!!

    • December 20, 2009 8:07 pm

      Lauren speaks the truth–I didn’t mean to make it sound like they were lushes. As Doug mentioned during our conversation, Lauren’s just a fast drinker.

      I guess I did focus quite a bit about Lauren and Doug. I hope you readers can feel like you got to meet the two of them through me–especially Lauren, since she’s the blogger of the two. She’s the real deal, and I hope by now you’ve subscribed to her blog.

  2. kara permalink
    December 20, 2009 8:32 pm

    it sounds like you, lauren, & doug had a very NON-AWKWARD meeting in person! yay! I read her blog too! meeting in person can go two ways: great or awkward! ugh…awkward, not so fun! haha!

    • December 20, 2009 8:34 pm

      Oh yeah–I’m sure plenty of awkward first-time meetings happen too. Have you had that happen?

  3. kara permalink
    December 20, 2009 8:55 pm

    I have actually had that happen! a friend of a friend wanted to set me up with one of his friends. we became fb friends, and then we decided to meet…it turned out very awkward. I felt like I was carrying the conversation & when he said something (trying to be funny I assume) it was more insulting than anything else!

    • December 20, 2009 9:18 pm

      Ah…I could do an entire entry on the art of conversation. It never feels good to carry it and it never feels good to just have someone talk AT you the entire time. The key is a good balance of stories, questions, and some level of vulnerability. Also, reasonable pauses in conversation let the other person have a chance to throw in their two cents.

      In all of those regards, Doug and Lauren were great at conversation.

  4. Doug permalink
    December 20, 2009 8:58 pm

    I’ve been reading Jamey’s blog since Lauren introduced me to it, and I’m a fan. Although I’m not the jealous type, I have to admit I was a little uncomfortable going into yestderday due to the fact I was meeting some stranger who had developed a friendship with my girlfriend online. But just a few minutes in, I could already tell that he was a respectful, genuine guy. We had good conversation and a good time. If my girlfriend has to be talking to some guy other than me, I’m glad he works for a priest.

    • December 20, 2009 9:16 pm

      Thanks, Doug–I can understand your apprehension. But I’m glad you were willing to give it a try. I was really glad to meet the both of you. As I told Lauren, my only disappointment is that you two don’t live in St. Louis!

  5. Dionne permalink
    December 20, 2009 11:08 pm

    Let me know whenever you are in Texas! Maybe you should make a special trip! San Antonio holds a 10 day party in April called “Fiesta” and you haven’t lived until you have gone to the parades, Night In Old San Antonio (NIOSA), Oyster Bake, Taste of New Orleans, and the King William fair. Let me know if you are up for it!

    • December 20, 2009 11:22 pm

      In April, huh? That sounds pretty awesome. I think one of my other Twitter friends is in San Antonio, so maybe that would be a worthwhile trip!

  6. December 21, 2009 10:01 am

    Lauren lived across the street from me in highschool and we were best friends. Now I live in St. Louis. I wish I would have been able to have cocktails with her at Brennans!

    • December 21, 2009 10:14 am

      Livvie! We talked about it a while back and then it fell off the radar. I think because I changed the date I was going. I’m sorry!!! Will you be home for the holidays?

      xoxo

    • December 21, 2009 10:54 am

      What’s your favorite bar in St. Louis? Where would you have recommended that we went? I would have preferred to go to Barristers in Clayton or the bar at Pi, but I thought they would have been harder to find.

  7. December 21, 2009 10:31 am

    I forgot to mention that in our short time together, I couldn’t help but notice how much truth there is in Jamey’s blog. Here’s what I mean:

    1. He avoided the possible element of surprise by setting a meeting time days in advance and asking for some basic info on Doug ahead of time.
    2. He held his beer in his left hand the whole time.
    3. He didn’t eat anything.
    4. He offered a firm handshake.
    5. He didn’t bite his nails once.
    6. He did not go out of his way (we met at a place 2 minutes away from his home).

    So, to steal his words: Make no mistake — Stegmaier is “the real deal.”

  8. December 21, 2009 10:53 am

    Man, #6 makes me sound like such a jerk. I’m embarrassed for myself. Granted, in this situation, I actually really like the bars in my area (and not the bars downtown). I would have suggested another bar I really like (it’s non-smoking), but I thought it would have been harder for Lauren and Doug to find.

    It looks like I have a good New Year’s Resolution for 2010: Learn to go out of my way.

    • December 21, 2009 12:16 pm

      I DID NOT mean for #6 to make you sound like a jerk. We were happy to meet where ever you suggested. I just thought it would be funny to list, as you so candidly confessed your aversion to going out of your way. If it makes you feel better, I can tell everyone that I sprung meeting up an hour earlier than planned at the last minute and you obliged, willingly and cheerfully! 😉

      • December 21, 2009 12:19 pm

        Oh, I know YOU weren’t trying to make me sound like a jerk. I think I just read that and realized how pitiful it is that I won’t go out of my way for people (for those of you out of the loop, you can read about it here: http://jameystegmaier.com/2009/11/04/confession-1/). It’s something I need to work on.

        It is true that Lauren bumped up the time, but I was so excited to meet her and Doug, it didn’t matter! I was actually napping at the time. Fortunately I have the cat-like ability of going from fully asleep to fully awake in a matter of seconds.

  9. Colleen permalink
    December 21, 2009 11:59 am

    Jamey and Lauren –

    I think it’s really cool that you got a chance to meet, and I enjoyed hearing about your experience! I can totally see how developing an online friendship through your blogs would make you want to carry that over into real life and meet up. I don’t have a blog, but I enjoy reading other people’s blogs, as well as the comments they receive. Jamey, you actually got me hooked on leaving comments. 🙂 Can you tell? lol. So anyway – now I understand a little more how friendships really can develop, and that it’s fun and enjoyable to interact online. And all I do is leave comments! So I can imagine how cool it must be for the both of you to have connected as fellow bloggers. By the way, I clicked over to your blog, Lauren, and I enjoyed reading your post about this as well! I’ll have to check out some more of your blogs! 🙂

    • December 21, 2009 12:16 pm

      Thanks, Colleen! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I look forward to more interaction with you in the future, here and on MLI! 🙂

      • Colleen permalink
        December 21, 2009 3:24 pm

        Looking forward to it!

    • December 21, 2009 12:20 pm

      I’m glad you’ve gotten into the commenting! It makes all this digital stuff feel like more of a conversation.

      Definitely take some time to explore Lauren’s blog–it’s awesome. And inspiring.

      • Colleen permalink
        December 21, 2009 3:37 pm

        That’s very true, it is like a conversation. I could probably post comments that are 2, 3, and 4 paragraphs long b/c reading blogs often tends to make me reflect on my own experiences … but I will try and refrain from such lengthy commentary all the time! lol.

  10. December 22, 2009 9:52 pm

    Well, since no one else has asked, I will. Jamey, when you said: “some guys would have made it a point to stake claim of their girlfriend. ” What do you mean? I’m envisioning a woman being thrown over the man’s shoulders, which I don’t see many women appreciating. So in today’s world, how does a man “stake his claim?”

    I’m also trying not to laugh at that phrase. It makes me feel like an object instead of a person, although I know that’s not how you intended it.

    • December 22, 2009 11:20 pm

      You hit on exactly what I was trying to say by “staking claim”–when men treat women as objects to be guarded or kept for themselves. I think there are many verbal and nonverbal ways to do this, but the most overt ways are physical. It’s one thing to hold hands or have some physical contact in the presences of others (in this case, in the presence of me), but it’s quite another to have your arm around your girlfriend or be really kissy or touchy-feely. That has the effect of excluding the third party, which has the effect of saying, “She’s mine.” I thought it was awesome that Doug didn’t sit right next to Lauren–it made us all equals in the conversation and allowed Lauren to be just Lauren, instead of just “Doug’s girlfriend.”

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