Romance in the age of dial-up: Finding Mr. (or Ms.) Right online nothing new

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 11:22 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 14 at 11:22 PM

DALLAS -- There's an entire generation that doesn't recognize a sound so familiar to the rest of us.

A high pitched beep, screech, and fax-machine-like racket used to accompany every attempt at getting to the Internet. It required a phone connection, and a CD installed on your computer.

It was dial-up. And dial-up didn't work that well.

"You had to hope to God nobody's trying to call you when you're trying to get online, because you're going to get interrupted," said Alisha Beal of Wilmer, who met her boyfriend of almost 14 years, Donald Seagroves, in an AOL chat room. Even with no pictures and no "profiles," they forged an instant, oh-so-Texas connection.

"I was in just a regular old chat room and there was an argument, and being a woman, I had to get in the middle of it!" she said, laughing.

What was the argument about? "Ford versus Chevy!" she said, laughing again.

That was back in 2000.

Native Texan Sharren Jermyn and her husband, Jim, have them beat. They met in 1995 and they married in 1997.

"It'll be 17 years in July," Sharren said.

"17 glorious years," added Jim with a smile.

The Jermyns sat in front of a computer and used Skype to talk with us from their home in upstate New York. Skype was eight years away from even being created when they met.

"[Skype] would have scared the bejeebies out of me," she said. "It wasn't until months, months later that we saw pictures of each other. People actually took pictures, printed a picture, and put it in an envelope and mailed it at the post office!"

They got to know each other, and grew to love each other, through words alone.

First, they began talking in a chat room, "a G-rated room," Sharren stressed. Then, they exchanged phone numbers and began to talk.

"It was just fun. It was fun to have a new friend," she said.

Both had been divorced and shared stories about raising teenagers. "And we were honest with each other," she said. "I told him, 'I'm not 21, I'm not blonde, and I don't weigh 100 pounds.'"

"I think that was probably the true to key our relationship," Sharren said. "You could be totally fake or you had to be 100-percent honest."

She eventually moved to New York, they married, and they now have a blended family with grown kids and grand kids.

"Nothing's changed, we still communicate via message -- we text!" Sharren said. "He sends me a text when he gets to work and I do the same."

"We're probably the exception to the rule from back then," she said, about the success of their internet romance. "We may still be the exception to the rule. But I'd like to think romance still blooms no matter where you are supposed to meet. You do, and you find that connection."

Alisha and Donald have their own kids, too. Ryilee is nine and Chastity is six. The couple has not married, but say they plan to this spring.

"And we still argue about Ford versus Chevy. I converted him once, and every time he buys a Ford, it only lasts six months because he sells it because it breaks down on him," she said laughing.

There are no reliable numbers that prove how many modern day marriages started online, or how many of them worked or didn't.

There will never be a formula to finding love, but some get lucky enough to find it and keep it.

"This is the biggest blessing, beside my children," Sharren said, with tears in her eyes.

Jim leaned over and gave her a kiss.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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