When is a good time to tell your new online girlfriend you robbed dozens of banks and did time in prison? Depends on the girl.
In 1987, as a senior at the University of Washington I suffered a severe knee injury playing basketball. And soon after was injured again in a serious car accident. Within a few months I was addicted to prescription pain medication. During five years of intense addiction I graduated, entered the workforce, and got married without anyone knowing I was getting high all day every day on pills. Eventually the habit was so expensive and addled my brain to the point that I turned to crime. By late 1993 I was divorced and living alone as a fugitive in San Diego. It was then I decided to put things back together. I kicked the drugs and drove back to Seattle to turn myself in to the FBI.
In 1998, at age 32, I was released from Federal prison after serving a 71 month sentence for bank robbery. I still faced three years of probation, constant drug testing and mountains of fines and restitution. Not exactly any woman’s idea of a “catch”, I did not pursue any serious dating.
My big break in finding the right woman happened in 2008. My friend Luke Burbank landed a radio gig doing nights on a local news station in Seattle. I was dating a little bit then but not enough to stop me from listening to Luke’s show almost every night. He and his co-host Jennifer helped while away the lonely hours while I watched the Mariners games with the sound muted.
The show’s blog provided a forum for hardcore listeners to comment on show posts and interact with each other. Also, if you were at a computer you could chat with other fans on the web. It was on these sites that I started to notice a woman who called herself ‘eeMuli’. She had a wicked sense of humor and seemed very playful but she lived in Austin so I didn’t think it could ever be more than an online crush.
It was early May and the radio show announced a book club event for mid-June. I was chatting online with Emily (by now I knew her name) about the book and she asked me if I was going to the event. I said I wasn’t sure and she offered to mail me the book as Amazon had sent her two copies. Then she said she was coming to Seattle for the book club and I got lightheaded. My online crush was coming to town.
Emily mailed me the book and I read it immediately. Then I reread it and made notes. I wasn’t going to be the dumbest guy at the book club. Or at least I would fake my way through it. I talked my friend Barb into joining the book club so I wouldn’t look like the desperate nerd I really was. By the evening of the book club I was really nervous and had built up my meeting with Emily in my mind.
When Barb and I entered the wine bar I thought Emily would run across the room and into my arms as the music swelled. Then cue the lover’s montage of me showing her all the Seattle landmarks. In reality we shook hands, I thanked her for the book, and watched her mingle with other people for three hours. I left, heartbroken. I never told Barb any of it. The crush, the being crushed. My spirit rallied in the morning so I sent Emily a Facebook message asking her out the next day to see some Seattle sights, but she said she had to work from her hotel room and then fly out. It might have been a lie just to avoid me. But there was some comfort in knowing I tried to hook up with her.
The following week we went right back to our online chatting. I figured I had crossed the goal line into the friendzone. I wasn’t doing any celebration dance but I really liked Emily so I kept it up. One weekend we were messaging on Facebook and something I said spurred her to ask for my phone number and she called me. I think we talked on the phone for three weeks straight early that summer. I could sense that things were tilting my way. Obviously I didn’t make a great impression on her in person the first time – in fact almost every detail she recounted remembering about me was wrong. But here was a second chance.
It began to feel like a matter of time and an airplane ticket before we would meet again. Before I invested in either, I had to let her know what kind of ex-con she was getting involved with. At the time I was working on a memoir, which included all the details of my criminal history and incarceration. Because I am a coward I just emailed her the pertinent chapters and prefaced it with “I understand if you don’t want to talk anymore.” The next day I got a reply saying “call me.” I did, and she was cool. Luckily, spending hundreds of hours talking on the phone and writing to her had laid a foundation of trust. She knew me fairly well before I trotted out the dark past. She saw it truly was the past and I had made amends and moved on.
Soon after I bought her that plane ticket to visit Seattle at the end of July. There’s no better time to show off Seattle than mid-summer. But would she like me? There was no spark on her end when we first met six weeks earlier. Now that she was all in on me, what if there was no chemistry again? Later she told me that she was so “in” at that point that if she didn’t vomit at the sight of me she was going through with the relationship. Romantic, huh?
So we drove away from the airport with no vomit, had a great weekend, and were soon going back and forth monthly from Seattle to Austin. By November I had proposed and two years later I had moved to Austin to be with her and her son. We were married in July 2010 on the ‘Too Beautiful To Live Podcast’ with Luke Burbank officiating and have existed in wedded bliss ever since.
Two things I learned in the journey to this happiness: Find something you love and you might find someone to love. And it’s fine to keep your secrets until it’s time to share your life.
Mike Frizzell lives in Austin with his wife Emily, stepson Cullen, and three dogs. He is the co-host of takedownpodcast.com.