I've known M a long time. Since 1998. He came to my attention because he's a brilliant puzzle-solver, and he was the first to solve a quest in an online game I co-created... a quest that had gone unsolved for 3 years. Technically, he's a brilliant gamer, and truth be told, in my 15+ years of watching over that particular game, I never saw anyone play it better. He was so good people assumed he cheated somehow, myself included, until I checked the logs. I could see his various attempts, the trial and error prior to success, and I recognized in him someone who understood the game on multiple-levels: as a coder, as a puzzle-solver, as a role-player. In was an enviable understanding, one that spawned enmity in some who also played the game.
In 2003, he and my partner had a falling-out in-game, and she was such a royal bitch to him that I felt sorry for him. I took an interest in this person who unwittingly brought upon himself the ire of an often irrational woman -- a woman who rarely interacted with men online long enough to get so upset with them. When I queried him as to what had happened, he impressed me by saying that gentlemen don't kiss-and-tell, so I would have to ask her. When I asked her, she became very upset and defensive. I figured she'd done something she shouldn't have and was worried I'd find out, so I let it be. Our relationship had been over for quite some time -- I was just waiting for her to realize it and break things off, since she had quite a victim complex and I didn't want to play into it by breaking things off with her myself.
Meanwhile, the more I learned about M, the more I liked him, and by mid-2004 we were good friends. He was a rather solitary sort of boy-man who seemed reasonably content with his life. He had moved to the US from Canada and put his wunderkind skills to use in Silicon Valley to great financial and professional success. He liked his online and console games, his weekly Dungeons & Dragons night, played pool regularly, and dated a bit here and there. He sometimes asked for advice with regards to women, and I was honest with him: women want to feel heard, and they want to feel like someone is on their side. If you can convince a woman that you're listening and you're on her side, you're in. I also acknowledged that women play games, that it's socialized into us at a very young age, and that while women often defy logic, we're not completely irrational. The key to understanding us is understanding that we're consistent within a particular moment, as it appears to us, rather than across time. In other words, we're generally unpredictable (or as men prefer to say "crazy") -- our behavior cannot be modeled or systematized reliably, so don't bother.
Over time he realized that I wasn't like most women -- I could program (in whatever limited capacity, especially compared to him) and think critically, I was smart enough to catch him and call him on his shit, and most importantly, I didn't flip out when he called me on mine. He was also fascinated by my lifestyle once S and I went our separate ways and I started dating and living life on my own terms again. We developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other, and supported each other through personal and professional ups and downs. I often described my life using terms like "awesome" and "incredible" and "fulfilling". He used words like "good" and "ok." He was rarely unhappy, I noticed, but he was also rarely truly happy.
Until recently. Fast forward 8 years and it's wonderful to see the changes in him. He's finally chosen where he wants to be (US rather than Canada) which means he's finally put down roots in a place that feels like 'home'. He's happy with how his career is going. But most of all, he's just thrilled to be a daddy. Now that Little Man is more independent of me and becoming more of his own person, it's amazing how the two of them have bonded. It is wonderful to see how much fun M has with him, and how much joy he takes in just being with his son. It helps that Little Man is so transparently joyful around his father.
Earlier today M purred as I massaged his shoulder with one hand and cradled a sleeping Little Man in the other. His face was smooth and a smile hovered on his mouth. I commented to him that the past couple of months he's been happier than I've ever known him. He sighed contentedly in response. It is important to me that the people I love be happy -- their happiness is integral to my own. M is truly, deeply happy, and it feels good knowing my part in it.