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First, the backstory: Growing up, my parents were incredibly strict and overprotective. No sleepovers, no boys, no going anywhere without their explicit approval after taking down who I was with, their phone numbers, their parents' phone numbers, and exactly what time I was expected back. And definitely no dates. I rarely even went out with friends; going to see a movie on a Saturday was a special occasion. The only place I could get around my parents' rigid rules was online, where, because they didn't know how to use the computer, they never monitored me. That's why, in high school, I rebelled the only way I knew how - I started a blog. Yep. I was 17, and I ran an erotic blog.

No, not porn. More like, photos of myself wearing very little clothing, in bed, everything just so covered. For the purpose of anonymity (because as incredibly dumb and naive as I was back then, I had at least an iota of common sense), none of the photos showed my entire face. Just my mouth, or my jawline, the arch of my neck. Never my eyes.

Interspersed with the photos were the blog entries, the life of my amorously blessed alter-ego, Claire. Claire was completely fictional, and therefore, she was a lot of things I wasn't - primarily, social and sexually active. I would fabricate stories of dates, affairs, sexual experimentation, just dumb romance novel type stuff, living vicariously through this confident, beautiful, made-up girl. I fancied myself an alright writer back then, but looking back, it's pretty funny now, because it was probably mostly just drivel. But I enjoyed running it, and my readers seemed to like it. You'd think it would've just been dirty old men, but I had quite a few women readers too, who told me how I was helping them become more confident as well. There was something just so exhilarating about having people be drawn to you online when you're so lonely and cloistered in real life.

Anyway, fast forward three years. By now I was halfway across the country in college, out from under my parents' rule. I had a few good friends, and I was doing pretty well. I still had trouble being very social because I was so unused to it, but at least I wasn't so lonely anymore. I hadn't updated the blog in over two years and, honestly, had mostly forgotten all about it.
I also had a boyfriend! His name was David and we met in a history seminar fall my sophomore year. He was tall, lovely and kind, and had, quite improbably, stuck past our awkward first date when I, shy and still mostly petrified of social interaction, could barely string together ten complete sentences.

But he seemed to like that I was so shy. He was, in contrast, outgoing and forward, making friends wherever we went. He would constantly tell me it was cute that I blushed when people talked to me, or say how I should be glad that he was with me to facilitate conversation with other people. One time he told me I was lucky that he had stuck around because no other guy would've bothered. I was so affection-starved that I was convinced he was right.

One day about three months into the relationship, over Christmas break, I got a call from him at home. When I picked up, the first thing he said was, "Who's Claire?"

It took a second, but when I realized what he must have been referring to, my entire body went cold. How was this possible? How could he have found out? "W-what?" I said.

"Claire. www. Is this you?" (Obviously not the real web address, sorry.)

My heart pounded; my mind raced. I had no idea how he had found the blog. Could I possibly deny it? There was nothing on that entire website that linked back to my real name or real email address, I had made sure of that. None of the photos showed my face. But they showed enough that if you knew me in real life, you could probably be able to tell it was me. Feeling cornered, I told him I would talk to him later, and hung up.

I spent that whole day on the verge of a panic attack. Finally I realized I had to just admit it. (For some reason, at the time it seemed like the end of the world that my boyfriend had found my stupid blog from high school. I mean, nowadays I would be like, yeah, I ran a blog and posted hot pics of myself, so the fuck what? It was all just fiction anyway. But of course I'm older and wiser now, and I was a fucking naive idiot back then.)

So I called him back, told him while crying all over the place about all the reasons I had written and maintained this blog, and eventually, he said, "It's okay, I think I understand." At some point I asked him how he had found it, and he told me that an ex-girlfriend of his had seen posts on Facebook of us together, went on Google to search for me, and somehow turned up this blog, the link to which she then sent to David. "Sorry," he told me, "I don't talk to her anymore, she just still bothers me all the time. She's kind of a psycho."

I was a little upset at that, but I didn't want to annoy him further, so I didn't press the issue. Things went mostly back to normal.
Then the emails started.

I woke up to the first one about a week later. It had been sent at 3:00am, and was from some blatantly fake address, "claire_the_wh0re_6969" or something like that. All it said was, "You're disgusting."

I realized it must've been from David's psycho ex. I was a little unnerved, but I just deleted and ignored it.

But the emails didn't stop. They kept coming, at least one, sometimes two a night. Always from a new fake email (clairetheslut72993, claire_cocksucker, etc. etc.), always time stamped exactly 3:00 or 4:00am. The contents of the emails began to increase in the level of vitriol. First it was more of the same, variations of "you are so gross" or "you're fucked up". Then she would send me copies of the photos from my blog (which I had deleted right after David had confronted me about it, so she must have saved the entries somewhere) - with horrible things written across them, like FAT SLUT or DIE WHORE, KILL YOURSELF, etc.

I showed David the emails and asked if he could make her stop, but he just shrugged and said it was out of his control.

It kept escalating. She started mentioning my friends names in the emails. Things like "I showed Rachel and Alex your sick website, they're disgusted by you." Or "I told Evan and James - they act like they're your friends but behind your back they all think you're disgusting." Sometimes she would pretend to be one of my friends, and write things like "I said hi to you on campus yesterday and you think I like hanging out with you but I know what you really are - you're just a whore." Once, she copied and pasted an entire blog entry into the body of an email.

It was nonstop, night after night. I would wake up in the morning terrified of seeing another email from her in my inbox. I stopped opening them. I was constantly stressed. I never knew for sure if she had actually sent my photos around to everyone I knew. I lost sleep; I lost weight. I begged David to make her stop but he kept saying there was nothing he could do.

Things with David were deteriorating as well. He was annoyed that I kept bringing up the emails; he began to make it sound as though it were all my fault. He said it was hard to believe that I hadn't actually done all those sexual things I had written about. This was the kicker: His ex was from my hometown, he said, and she had told him stories that she'd heard from people I went to high school with about all the dirty things I "used to do". Orgies, bondage, hard drugs. How could I lie to him and trick him into believing I was a shy virgin, he wanted to know.

I told him none of those things were true. "She's obviously making it up. Do you really believe her over me?" I asked.

"I don't know what to believe," he said. He told me I had become untrustworthy. As twisted as it was, I started to believe that too. I apologized to him over and over, until finally he forgave me and told me it was alright, that he believed me, that I was lucky he understood and would stay with me, because who else would? I had never been so relieved. I was lucky. I was so lucky. Wasn't I?
We had been taking things really slow, physically, because I actually was a virgin, and regardless of make-believe Claire's make-believe sexcapades, anything sex-related still made me incredibly nervous. But after that, I had sex with David for the first time because I felt like I owed him. He had stayed with me. I was so lucky.

I didn't enjoy it. Afterwards, he whispered, "I believe you. You really have never had sex before." It felt, sickly, like winning.

Eventually, after about two months, the ex must've gotten bored, because the emails slowed, and then they stopped. David broke up with me shortly after, cruelly and unkindly, the day after my 21st birthday. I was a complete wreck for a while, but hey, life goes on.

Three months or so after that, I got another email from "claire-bear-69" at 3:00am: "I can't believe you haven't killed yourself, you should."

For the first time, I responded. "We're not even dating anymore. You're pathetic. Get a fucking life."

That was the last I ever heard from her. To this day, I don't know her name, I don't know how she found my blog, or how she knew the names of my friends, or why she was so hell bent on making me miserable for so long. Even now, when I get Facebook messages or emails from people I don't know, my first reaction is panic.

Of course I have since realized that I was NOT at all lucky in my relationship, nor was David the sweet guy that I thought he was at the time. I understand now that it hadn't been my fault. I owed him nothing. It's been five years - but I haven't been in a relationship since. I don't know if I could.

I think the worst is this. I used to enjoy writing. At one time, I was proud of my blog, because as small and insignificant as it was, it was something I had created. Even though it was make believe, it was still mine. They had taken something I had been proud of and turned it into a source of shame. I don't like to write anymore. Even now I get angry at how they've taken that from me. At how easily I was fooled. How stupid. How naive.

Endnote: Eventually I got the story of their relationship and how they broke up, and why she was so psycho. The details are irrelevant but suffice it to say it turns out he had been even more awful to her than he had been to me. But instead of staying far far away like I have done, all she wanted was for him to take her back.

edit: To clarify, none of those were the real email addresses she used to email me - it was just always something blatantly fake and throw-away like that.




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