Listen to this: A few months ago I met Toby online. Sure, it was through a personal ad and I'd never done that sort of thing before, but we started "chatting" regularly and really seemed to connect with each other. After a few chat sessions things started heating up and pretty soon we were having virtual sex (you know like phone sex, but with a keyboard instead of a receiver). I have never met anyone that turned me on like he could just using words. After several months of this, I began pressuring him to meet me in person. The problem is, he lives in Cincinnati and I live in Memphis -- not a huge distance, but definitely a long-distance relationship. So I volunteered to drive up there to meet him, but he still seemed hesitant. Eventually he agreed and gave me the name of a restaurant where we could meet. When I got to the restaurant I looked around for half an hour before I found him. I had a hard time recognizing him from the picture he sent because he never told me that "he" was actually a she; a masculine she, but a she nonetheless. I feel very betrayed by Toby. I feel like he/she should have told me from the start that he was a girl, but in all honesty I never would have considered a relationship with a woman if he/she had. I mean, I'm totally heterosexual! But, I can't forget or deny the feelings that I developed for Toby when I thought she was a he. What do I do? Signed, Torn Okay: It would be incredibly easy for me to say: "Toby lied to you, you cannot trust someone who lies to you. It doesn't matter if it's a girl or a boy, you shouldn't be with someone you can't trust. End of story." It would be easy for me to say that, and it's my gut reaction, but I'm not going to. Instead I'm going to say this: I think you should give Toby a chance. Now I understand you're strictly dickly, Torn. I get it, believe me. What I'm sitting here wondering is why you went online for a little loving and what you were looking for when you did so (friendship, dating, long term relationship, play?). I think I know why Toby did. Because the beauty of meeting someone on the Internet is not having to worry about appearances. If you're ugly (we can't all be Gwyneth), it doesn't matter, you can use that killer personality that no one ever gives you a chance to use. If you're shy, you can hide behind your screen. If you're a girl who wants to be a boy, no one has to be any the wiser. Until the person you met online is totally into you and wants to meet in a Cincinnati Applebee's. And then what are you going to do? Here's my guess: Toby knew she wasn't really what you had in mind. So she tries to put you off and not meet, hoping you can continue your relationship. But you're persistent and that's no good, so she hopes for the best (that you'll see beyond her physical appearance) and goes to the restaurant. As for you, you meet this person who you really like who just happens to be a girl. That's the breaks. She's a girl. But she's also still the person you really connected with as well. Now I do think that Toby should have mentioned that he didn't have a penis (I assume it came up during virtual sex, no pun intended), but I think you have to deal. I'm not saying you have to change your entire lifestyle and get the free toaster (unless, of course, the toaster is starting to appeal to you and that's fine, too), I just think you should try to get to know Toby as the woman she really is. Most people in your situation would have already wiped their feelings clean. The fact that you can't "forget or deny" yours makes me think they're even stronger than you let on and it's what makes me think you should get to know the real Toby. In all honesty, you and Toby probably won't ever connect on the same level again, but it's not as if she lives across the street. She lives thousands of miles of underground cable away. What's the harm in shooting her a friendly e-mail? You might not have been exactly what she expected in that Applebee's, either. But next time you looking lonely, remember there are no guarantees on the 'Net; you're just lucky Toby was a girl and not a card-carrying serial murderer. (Gotta problem? Wanna make it my business? Write cashiola@memphisflyer.com.)

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