In 2013, I was a mere 17 years old. I was also an avid Tumblr user, as were many of many of my peers in those days. This was the halcyon era of Doge meme social media—so many Doge memes.
About four months earlier, when I was 16, I had gotten out of a relationship that ended pretty badly. It was a tale as old as time—the guy was in a band and he thought it was more important than me. Also, we simply weren’t mature enough to be in a relationship. So, we had an awkward six months. When our friends said we started to look like one another—we both had shoulder-length black hair and wore band t-shirts and bad cologne—I decided our relationship had gone a little too far. I ended it with him, even though he told everyone that he broke up with me. High school life continued on as if nothing happened, as it’s wont to be.
For me, high school was pretty rough. I was constantly questioning my sexuality, my gender, my neurodivergence and my personality. I felt like I didn’t know what kind of person I was. Tumblr helped with this. I was able to find fandoms based on media I was interested in and converse with other people on things I couldn’t talk about in school. And, of course, the memes made it hard to stay away.
Enter: the poetry fandom. I stumbled upon the poetry fandom because it related to creative writing, which I loved. At the time, I was in two high school creative writing courses and they were the two classes I cared the most about. Poetry fandom might sound boring—at the risk of sounding pretentious, it is an acquired taste. It appealed to me because it was an outlet; it was a way to convert my angst into something beautiful. Little did I know, I’d soon become a cliche myself—I’d find love through poetry.
The poems my amoureux-to-be and I wrote were not exactly stellar. He and I agree now that they weren’t even good. They were depressing and sad, but we were depressed and sad. Just two depressed teenagers complimenting each others’ depressing poetry.
Back in 2013, Tumblr’s messaging was similar to how Snapchat’s messaging system still is, where your conversation is partly one-sided, and your messages disappear after a while.
“Hi, I saw your poetry,” I messaged him. “I think it’s really nice, you should make more.”
“Oh, thank you,” he replied. “Do you write poetry?”
At the time, I did not. Despite being an active participant in the poetry fandom, actually writing it was not my strong suit. Thankfully, we realized that wasn’t our only common interest. We both liked Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. Then, we started sharing memes back and forth. We even made memes for each other. After about a month of messaging, we finally disclosed our ages: He was two years older than me at 19, but had just recently graduated high school later than his classmates.
Knowing that my mom wouldn’t want me dating a boy long distance from Tumblr who was two years older than me, I settled for the next best thing: Skype. We Skyped almost every day. It kind of became obsessive, actually, at one point. We just wanted to be in the same room, to hug and to kiss. We watched Netflix together by starting and stopping movies at the same time. We even slept together over Skype. Hypothetically, if we had dated through the pandemic, it would have made no difference in our relationship.
We stayed together through my senior year of high school. He moved states, from Missouri to Colorado, and I went to prom with my best friend while confidentially wishing he could come as my date, instead. After I graduated, we did it again for another year—two full years of long distance dating over Skype. The first time we met in person, he was finally able to visit for a weekend in the summer of 2014. We met in Pioneer Courthouse Square at the Starbucks, under my aunt’s supervision. It was worth it.
When I finally hugged him for the first time, my whole body was shaking. It took us a second to get our bearings, but we talked and stayed attached at the hip the whole weekend, not wanting to let go of each other’s hands. We swam in the pool at his hotel, I showed him all of Portland’s sights and then we went back to his room.
He visited Portland again during Christmas in 2014, and by then our plans had solidified. In 2015, we would move in together. By this point, Tumblr had simply been a jumping-off point. We were still on the platform a lot, but it had become background noise to a relationship that was much larger in our lives than a social media platform. We both worked full-time at our jobs to save up enough money to move out of both of our parents’ houses. In the fall of 2015, we moved into a studio apartment together. I brought a cat from my mom’s house and we adopted a kitten together.
As for the poetry fandom and Tumblr, neither of us are on the platform anymore, but we’ll never forget the cursed social media site that facilitated our relationship. As for us, well, we’re engaged—with no money to get married. But, at least we’re no longer depressed teenagers with a penchant for bad poetry.