True story. I actually did. It’s time to tell how my online stalking prowess nabbed me the boy of my dreams without scaring the beejeebus out of him.
I’d been reading Ben Groundwater’s travel blog on the ‘The Age’ every goddamn miserable London day as it was my little connection to home – Melbourne.
His beaming smile of a headshot and his surly, sarcastic take on ‘not another bloody temple’ travel stories had me wondering what was this guy like in real life and gosh he complains a lot for someone who travels the world as his job. But let’s be honest, I’ve sat at Istanbul airport for eleven hours and slept on beds I thought would digest my skin by morning and know traveling isn’t all what Facebook pics make it out to be – at least he was telling it like it is. And I liked that. A lot. Well I liked his writing a lot. Cue: reading his last 4823 blog entries. Just kidding it was like 278 or something like that but who’s counting.
I tweeted at him a few times in July last year and got a reply. This guy probably polite tweets back at everyone though right? He works for a newspaper – it’s his job. I started following him on Instagram in November and at some point between my twitter admiring and four months of solo travel I noticed he appeared to be almost following me around Europe and made a few comments to that effect on his Instagram photos. Ok, so maybe some of the comments got out of flirting hand. And I’ll mention I was pre morning coffee and not really thinking when I wrote the ‘grandkids’ comment below:
Right. So that happened. I added him on Facebook while unpacking boxes and settling into Melbourne in December thinking he can only say no, and he’ll probably say yes, because he looks like a FB friend collector with his 700+ friends already. He accepted (Yay!) and we chatted ‘Hi’ and ‘Hi’ and boring stuff like that.
Meanwhile I was still reading his blog on ‘The Age’ and he wrote about being in Barcelona with his GIRLFRIEND. I think I read that article sixteen times staring at the word ‘girlfriend’ over and over wanting my iPhone screen to crack and it to not be true. I told myself maybe the editor ran a really old story or something and besides what was he doing Insta-flirting with me if he had a girlfriend? Hrumpf.
I’d purchased his book by this point “5 Ways to carry a Goat” after numerous Google searches of… ‘Ben Groundwater’, what else were you thinking? And had a thorough poke around his personal website which seemed to be all about his book and putting together Ikea furniture with… his girlfriend. Hmm. There’s that girlfriend again. The site looked a little out of date anyway so I pretended I didn’t see that either. Head in the sand Lorenza.
I was at my parents house for Christmas and Dad picked up the book loudly reading out the name on the cover “B E N G R O U N D W A T E R – Who’s that?” I told dad – He was a writer for ‘The Age’ and I’d added him on Facebook and we’d been messaging ever since. “Why on earth would he talk to you?” pondered Dad with a big smile. Geez thanks Dad. But I guess he had a point.
New Years day I woke up stupidly hungover and spent most the day in bed when a ridiculous, flirtatious, maybe bad taste Instagram idea struck:
Well he didn’t seem scared off by that and the Facebook messaging was continuing in short bursts back and forth arriving painfully three to four days apart. Staring at my inbox each day waiting to see when he’d get bored and just stop messaging. Because he was in places like Berlin and the South of France so why on earth would a girl he’s never met message replies be at the top of his list of things to do? But slowly, they still rolled in. The hardest part for me was replying then waiting four days to press send.
It’s was the New Year and a few flirting fat cat comments later and my friend suggested after seeing the photo comments below to just hurry up and ask the guy out for coffee:
So I finally thought Ok, fine. It’s time to break the most important rule EVER and ask the guy out. Because what else was I doing with 88.6% of my spare time other than being infatuated with Ben Groundwater? Plus there was still that girlfriend matter to clear up. It took a few wines of courage followed by constant phone checking with hands half covering eyes too scared to see a response for the remainder of the night:
Me: If you’re single and we’re ever in the same city we should meet up for coffee, that would make my day.
Hours I tell you, hours till he replied. I don’t care he was on the other side of the world in a different timezone most likely asleep, I stayed up till the wine couldn’t carry me anymore and finally awoke to:
Ben Groundwater: Got the first bit sorted. How’s your March looking and can we swap the coffee for wine?
JESUS CHRIST FENTON – Ben Groundwater is single and he wants to DRINK WINE WITH ME! Screen grab – send to 17 friends immediately. This girl’s got a date. Yay!
We continued to message on Facebook and it was freelance time for me followed by fark loads of spare time so the messages were turning into 600+ word essays. I was learning more about this guy than I learned in high-school and he still sounded pretty awesome. What on earth were these messages about? Everything, anything. Obsessions, confessions. It’s easy to ask questions when you can’t see someone’s face. Though you can’t gauge a reaction whether you’re insulting or upsetting them – which I did neither of, of course. Cough.
Worried about meeting him was an understatement – what if he was a foot shorter than me? Or he smelt funny? Yes, these were the things I was actually worried about. And don’t worry I was loudly telling him all my fears along with playing down everything possible about me with statements like “I actually look a lot better in photos than real life, so don’t get too excited.” And “When I drink wine I’m really loud – like obnoxiously loud and flail my arms around”. Uh huh.
We were still messaging on Facebook and by now had started Facebook chatting when our timezones crossed. The best and utterly worst thing about this was one of us was nearly always drunk and the other… wasn’t. I had a friend forward one of Ben’s tweets to me one morning saying “Think that’s about you?” Err… totally:
I also let him follow my private twitter which is only for 22 very special individuals to hear my rants, anxieties, swearing and very knowledgeable facts about men, coffee and Melbourne. Oh and also whoever I’ve got a raging crush on at the moment. So yeah he read that too. Not too awkward at all. Hey, he was the one reading back to my December tweets not me:
He was traveling with his brother by late January and I was still doing my best to keep his attention (March is still months away people) by insulting his brother’s Instagram for too many dead trees and not enough centering. But after a few days I felt I was overstepping some brotherly mark and should make peace with Little Groundy. Of course I’d named him this by now. (I still don’t think he likes it):
Then the dead tree jokes got out of hand:
So now his brother and I were on first name Instagram basis I could ask for Ben’s London address. To send a letter to silly – not to peep through his window. Stalk, stalk. What do you think I am?
Hearing Ben bang on about being the third wheel with the friends he was travelling with here and there I thought it would be nice and totally not creepy to send him a ‘non-valentine’s day’ card – You know the type you give on Valentine’s day but loudly declare it’s not a valentine’s day card? Nope, me either – but it’s a little less desperate than red hearts that scream ‘I have a mega crush on you’. Anyway, three wheels – get it? Yeah I hope he did too. Well he Instagrammed it. Double tap to like:
Don’t worry by this point most of my friends were up to speed with the story or watching the horror unfold on Instagram and were fearing for my safety and man damaged head and heart; ‘WHAT?!’, ‘You’re crazy!!’, ‘Does he know you stalked him?!’, ‘Of course, because you’re Lorenza – only you do completely crazy things like this’. Were some of the nicer comments I received.
By now he was in Iran and communication was off and on. Sad face. We managed a Skype voice call of hearing each other say “hello, HELLO?!” 127 times in 18 minutes. Least we got that part down pat.
Our date was fast approaching and I was bored and owed him for some editing of my blog he’d done. He had requested a lion:
Come March, even Dad was getting pretty excited:
March 21st the weather was gale force, thunder stormed, Melbourne-esque and I was completely freaking out, having downed a hand wringing vodka soda at home, I walked up Bourke Street and spotted Ben Groundwater for the very first time with his huge lovely smile and he said “Hi, you look just like your photos.” and I blurted back “OH MY GOD! You’re a real person!”.