The Hook Up: “Can I be in love with a person I’ve never seen?”

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I’ve been speaking to another girl I met in a fandom online for well over a year now. I didn’t go into our friendship looking for anything more, having previously been fairly skeptical about how much you can really fall for someone without having met them in person, but I am now quite certain I like her in a more-than-friendly way. I don’t know if she feels the same. She has certainly never made any overt suggestion that she does, although I am fairly sure she flirts with me quite a bit. There is currently a massive geographical distance between us. Coincidentally, however, I will be moving next year for work and will be living much nearer. I haven’t told her this yet.

The issue I have is, I have almost no idea what she looks like. I know that there are more important things than looks when it comes to relationships, and I like so much about her personality; she has so many extremely attractive qualities. Is it awful of me that I want to know if I am physically attracted to her as well as emotionally? I don’t think I should be telling her I having feelings for her until I know for sure, right? I’ve been feeling a bit of guilt for being so shallow recently, but honestly I don’t know what to do about it?—A Confused And Conflicted Internet User

Dear ACACIU,

It’s not awful at all. Attraction is important to romantic relationships. Anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something “inspirational” on Pinterest. I have to wonder, though, in this day and age of social media, how you have yet to see a picture of your crush in an entire year. Are you not Facebook friends? Do you not tweet or snap or tumbl in addition to writing to each other in the online fandom community? And if not, then why? I suppose it’s possible that she has zero pictures of herself floating around on the internet, but that is a statistical anomaly, and one that’s easily remedied by simply emailing her or texting and asking for one.

Which brings me to, YES. By all means, yes, swap pictures. You do not have to tie this to a love confession. In fact, I strongly urge you NOT to. Simply write to her, attach a pic of yourself, and tell her you’d love to put a face to the “so many extremely attractive qualities” of her personality.  It’s that simple.

And while you’re at it, why are you hiding the fact that you’re going to be moving nearer to her for work next year? Won’t she be excited about this, even purely from a friendship standpoint?

My big pondering for you is to really ask yourself how well you both know each other. Until you’re comfortable sharing basic aspects of your non-fandom, day-to-day life with her, you shouldn’t jump the gun on the gushy romance stuff. Attraction is important, but a solid foundation of trust and friendship are also key, and I wonder if the distance and internet communication have allowed you to properly lay that foundation.  

Can you name two of her closest friends? Do you know what her fondest unrealized dream is? Do you know what stresses she’s currently facing in her life?

It’s perfectly understandable to admire and crush on someone from afar, but that distance can also really muddle and confuse things. When you meet her in person, you might find that you have zero chemistry, and if you had previously told her about your wild attraction, the shit might really hit the fandom.

I’m not exactly telling you not to tell her how you feel, but I would encourage you to expand and deepen your knowledge of each other before you do so.

Good luck!

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Does she miss me at all?—Presumptuous, Lifeless, And Too Hopeful

Dear PLATH,

^ (WHOA). Probably a little bit, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s over. It also doesn’t change the fact that you shouldn’t care if she misses you, and it definitely doesn’t change the fact that you should not devote another minute of your time to wallowing over her.

Say it out loud with me: “It’s over.” And that’s OK. You’ll be fine. Your relationship may be over but your life is not. You are expansive and glorious and deserving of every happiness. Your ex was not the right person for you, and that is not your fault, nor does it “mean” anything about your life in the long-term.

If you need a more concrete plan for dealing with grief, read this column from a few week’s ago.

Also, I’m probably reading too much into that acronym, but if you are at all pondering suicide, please please reach out to someone and get help. You don’t have to go through this alone. If you live in the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 or go here: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

You’re gonna be OK, PLATH. Better than OK. You’re gonna soar. You’re going to reach into the dim spaces of your sorrow and marvel at all the light you’ve let in.

As the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke put it, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

Anna is a freelance writer in Oakland. Get overly personal emails and haiku from her at tinyletter.com/annapulley. Or Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com 

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