October 25, 2020
Unsafe

When I was fourteen, my Dad and little brother and I started playing an online game called Final Fantasy XI: Online. It was my first MMORPG and I was super excited! Although, having to share my account with my Dad and brother was a little frustrating — we couldn’t be online at the same time — we had a lot of fun and it fed into a mild addiction.

I didn’t really expect to make any friends online, but the game was designed to require you to group up to proceed with the storyline so it would’ve been inevitable. But when I was around level 8 and on my first major quest that took me into a low-level dungeon — Ghelsba Outpost — I met some older players that would eventually take me in under their wing. And, once I explained to them my situation, they were happy to extend that kindness to my little brother (10) and my Dad, too.

It was genuinely innocent and well-meaning, and I don’t believe any of them — a bunch of 18 to 20-something year-olds — meant any ill will towards me. It was all generally pretty helpful, mentor-y, big sibling kinda stuff.

But I wouldn’t be writing this blog if it stay that way.

Sam was 20, turning 21 at the time, and had been playing the game for longer than the rest of the crew. At least, that’s what I remember, because he was always a couple of missions ahead of everybody else. Sam, Matt (Mark? Was there a Matt and a Mark?), Jody… there was a girl among them, too, but I can’t remember her name.

Anyway, they were the crew I eventually kinda-sorta caught up to. Slowly. Especially as they started to lose interest in the game and leveled up more slowly, and I was still on my MMORPG high. Either way, 90% of the time, if I needed help with something, Sam was the first one to answer. He was so helpful! And let me be clear: He did that for everyone, and it later became a fault, but the point I’m making here was that he was ready to help everyone and anyone at any time. That included my brother and my Dad, too. 3/4 of my family ended up befriending him and getting generally pretty close, if only because he was the reason we got through the tougher parts of the game.

So one day, I was leveling up a lower-lever job in a relatively easy dungeon. I don’t remember if he just dropped by or if I invited him to join me, but I do distinctly remember laughing as he dropped like a whole floor’s worth of enemies in one shot.

I don’t recall the major details. My brain is saying that we headed back to town and were just talking, and I was in my character’s personal little house or something when he wrote the words: One day I’ll tell you how I feel about you.

Let me be clear: I don’t recall there ever being anything prior to that. The statement blindsided me. I was a needy low-level player and there wasn’t a voice chat. I think the most we had done was exchange MySpaces and maybe AIM screen names, but I was always on the game so there wasn’t a major reason to communicate outside of that. And I was 14 and hadn’t ever flirted with a guy my own age, let alone someone online who was 6 years my senior!

But I remember a thought in my head, mostly fueled by curiosity: He’s nice and he’s a good person, so…what does it matter? Isn’t that what I want?

In his picture on said MySpace, he didn’t look too bad, either. He was making a scary face because I think he was in hockey gear, but generally he was okay. So I figured…why not?

I went along with it. I asked him what he meant. He confessed he liked me, although I can’t quite remember the words. What I do remember was that when he more or less confessed, I wrote something really dumb and immature. like. ^O^ /CELEBRATES

It’s so stupid and cringe even now just to write out over fifteen years later, but I remember that part so clearly. From that point on, we were ‘dating’ and god, when I think about it… it was so weird.

He was in Virginia and I was in Florida. I think we talked on the phone twice? Otherwise, if I wasn’t on the game I was on AIM talking to him a lot. I might’ve sent him 2-3 cute pictures that had a good amount cleavage in it (I’ve been busty since I was thirteen, RIP) but that it was it. We said we loved each other, and I know exactly what happened in my tiny, dumb, fourteen-year-old brain.

Baby Lanna didn’t feel anything for this guy. She thought she did. She was in love with the idea of being in love, of being in a relationship. She felt special because ooo, I must be sooo mature to be with a guy six years older than me! And I know I didn’t feel anything because 3 days after we broke up (more on that later), I didn’t care. I was indignant at most and otherwise, shrugged and moved on. Either that or I was a cold-ass bitch, which is totally an option, but I’m gonna go with the no real feelings part because it made sense.

Anyway. Let’s talk more about hiding a relationship with your parents.

I think back then I figured I was pretty slick, but whenever my Dad came in I’d clear my windows and close out of everything. He knew I was hiding something, and later I learned from my little brother that they had guessed what was going on.

My father had guessed what was going on. This is the thought that drove me to write this blog. I was unsafe, I was in a relationship with an older guy, and if my Dad really did know about it — which I believe he did — he let it continue. Or, at least, he never thought to bring it up with me.

Sam was a creep. He introduced me to cybering, he told me what various sex acts were (I was a curious 14 year old. What was a 69? His response: “You suck me while I eat you.” That’s another line that stuck with me, thanks.), and when my dad said it was okay for him to maybe visit us and stay in our house one day, Sam predicted that I would definitely go to the guest room and do shit with him.

I was like lmao no, not with my family in the house? My baby brother down the hall? No. No way. Never. I am confident that even if I was super into him, my paranoia and fear of getting in trouble wouldn’t allow it. And like, gross? Ew? GROSS?

I remember he sent me another photo of him a few months into the relationship, and my heart SANK because he was not cute. That photo from MySpace was closer to when he was in high school, and instead there sat an overweight (built like a defensive lineman, he said!), gap-toothed, bowl-cut dude and I just DIED. I tried SO HARD to tell myself that looks don’t matter because he’s nice to me!

He also got me an in-game ring and we were officially engaged.

I’m gagging as I write this. Seriously.

Let’s go back to my Dad for a minute, because the only time he seemed suspicious and angry about me and Sam’s “friendship” was the following situation:

Dad’s character, in-game, had to do x, y, and z for a huge quest. He spent hours on it, and Sam helped him part of the way, but in the end, Dad failed the quest, de-leveled due to dying, and threw a fucking temper tantrum at everyone in the household.

And then he blamed Sam, for not handholding him the entire way. Dad came in to find me IMing Sam (I was telling him to appear offline for a bit so my Dad wouldn’t fucking harrass him, because he probably would), and he told me: “I DON’T WANT YOU TALKING TO SAM ANYMORE.”

Yes, ladies and gents. Not because he suspected that we were romantically involved, but because wahhh, I lost in a video game!

I sat there, begging and crying and telling him it wasn’t Sam’s fault. Only THEN did Dad start to say, YOU’RE TOO CLOSE TO HIM. And I’m like No, no I’m not! We’re just friends! I don’t want to lose my friend!

Eventually, Dad cooled down. But Sam obviously didn’t offer any more help to him for awhile after that. I mean, could you blame him? Nope. But that led into another statement that’s like CLASSIC pedophile: I’ll take you away from all that one day.

Like damn! Textbook. The more I think back and write all this out, it’s like all the signs were there and I was in legitimate danger. Like. I don’t think we ever would’ve met in person, but let’s set aside physical danger and talk about the emotional shit. The mental shit. The trusting men shit.

And somehow I’m still more upset with my Dad than the pedophile.

Anyway, let’s talk the ~bumps~ in the road in our relationship:

Remember when I said he was always available to save and help anyone, everywhere, at any time? Fucking. Hell. He had a hero complex. You’d think that having a partner who wants to help others would be great, but goddamn it just ended up being excessive, annoying, and ultimately compensating for something.

In-Game: We’d only have about an hour or two to hang out. I didn’t mind playing the game, but sometimes I just wanted us to run around a town and talk and just kind of virtually be with each other. I remember someone doing a general shout-out for help in a city when he and I were both high levels, and without even asking me, he added the random person to our group and said: We’ll help you!

And out of game? When we talked about his offline life, everything was dramatic. How he’d sometimes sign up for street fights to make money on the side. How he had this one coworker woman who, in his words, clearly wanted to sleep with him, kept being in peril and he kept saving her and letting her take him out for dinner as thanks. And I’m sitting here, a child, just like: Um. Do you have to accept the dinner date out with this woman who’s after you as thanks? Can’t you just… say no problem?

And by ‘saving’ her I mean she had an abusive ex-boyfriend who reportedly came to their workplace and Sam had to beat him up. And goddamn, as a kid I was like: I mean why would he lie? He has no reason to. And as I write this it’s like, fuck, he lived in a fantasy land!

This wasn’t the first occasion of this sort of thing, either. He would tell me about girl friends of his who would jokingly grab his dick. He would tell me of a girl character in-game who, haha, we died in the town square and positioned our dead bodies so it looked like I was giving her oral!

And then when I tried to express how this made me feel, he gaslit me for not trusting him. So I always felt like the one who was wrong for ever doubting him.

Then I went on vacation in the summer and when I came back, he ghosted me. Not only was he never online, he didn’t answer my messages. Knowing this dumbass schmuck who, as far as I knew, would jump into a fire to save someone before he reached for the extinguisher, I got worried. I probably sent him like 5 messages a day, every day, because I was afraid he was fucking dead.

Eventually, I reached out to his friend Jody and was just like: Can you just tell me if he’s alive?

Then Sam came online, and I was like. Look I’m just glad you’re OK, but what happened? Why were you ignoring me? He said he just needed space, but then proceeded to break up with me. I was distraught, like I said, for three solid days.

And then I got indignant, reminded myself what he looked like via that second picture, changed my MySpace to look a little more edgy/gothic, and I was fine.

BUT WE’RE NOT DONE, VIEWERS!

Jody and I started talking a bit after that; I think he heard what happened and just felt bad so he decided to keep chatting with me. Jody was a little closer to my age, I think he was 18 and at this point I was 15. About three months into talking to him regularly, he informed me that Sam had actually gotten a girl pregnant and the baby was due in December.

And I’m like. HM. December minus 9 months? That’s March. So at the very minimum, I was being cheated on even before I left on that trip. I remember hearing this and just being like. WHELP, DODGED EVEN MORE OF A BULLET! It really didn’t bother me, and I expressed as much to Jody.

Which led eventually to Jody confessing he was into me, and I was like. I’m sorry dude, but we’re not in the same state and it’s my policy to never date exes of friends or friends of exes. I think he took it well, but then we eventually stopped talking and I didn’t really get back on the game that much once I hit a certain difficulty point and had no friends to help me out.

I feel bad for Sam’s kid because apparently he was going to name him ZIEG or something after the Dark Knight NPC from Final Fantasy XI, and really hope that he didn’t.

Anyway, because of that whole situation I decided not to even think about dating until college. I also learned that looks DO matter and I am never, never, NEVER going to have such minimal bare standards ever again. So, all’s well that ends well, I guess.

Oh: So back to how I found out that my Dad/brother knew what was up. My brother was going through something rough. This was later when he was in high school and I was in college, and I decided that I could make him feel better by letting him on a secret of mine? (I don’t even understand the logic there, College Lanna wasn’t much smarter than High School Lanna if I’m being honest.) I confessed that I was dating Sam for a bit, and my brother was like: Yeah, no, we knew. Dad told me he had guessed it a long time ago.

And I remember being so goddamn insulted that he brushed off my confession at the time, but what I really should have focused on — and did so tonight — was that he knew. This is the man that told me before I went to middle school (making me 12) that if he found out I was having sex, he would sew me shut with a needle and thread.

But this was also the man who stood and watched as a creepy old man at a Renaissance Fair measured me for a cloak in front of him, but did so from the front, wrapping his arms around me with the measuring tape. And then Dad laughed as we walked away — I was sixteen here — “Did he cop a feel?”

I sit here with myself at thirty and my skin crawls thinking back to these scenarios. Scenarios that my father was aware of, if not during then after the fact, and yet did nothing to make sure I was okay.

I think about how my mother stood by during the ‘measuring’ too in that scenario. She might have been oblivious to what was going on, which isn’t great either, but then I think about how she would’ve reacted if she knew about Sam.

She would have taken everything away from me. Rather than show me sympathy or empathy, rather than walk me through what was a damaging experience to her child, she would have punished ME — the victim — and taken the entire game away from me, rather than walked me through how to fend off a pedophile. I would’ve been penalized, not protected. I would’ve been made out to be the bad person.

Part of the reason why I want to be a Mom so badly is because I want to take all the lessons I’ve learned and employ them, and raise and nurture a child in a way makes them feel free and safe. I want to be a good girlfriend and wife to my future partner, I want to be a dependable mother to her children, and I just… I want the chance to shape the family that I would have wanted to be a part of.

Maybe that’ll make me feel like the childhood I went through was at least worth something.

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