My Canadian GirlfriendPlay
Did you have a friend in middle school, high school, or college that claimed they were in a long distance relationship with someone really awesome and super hot...but darn it, you could never meet their girlfriend, boyfriend, or SO, because he/she/they lived in Canada?
Of course you did. And if you suspected your buddy's alleged SO might be imaginary, instead of Canadian, you were in good company. The "Canadian Girlfriend" has been fodder for jokes on TV and John Hughes movies, meme-ified on the internet, and likely, the underlying cause of a lot of wedgies.
But one Redditor we met really and truly did have a girlfriend in Canada; Montreal to be precise. Endless Thread co-hosts Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson chatted with him about the girl he fell for when the internet was new, and a whole lot more wholesome than it is now, eh?
- Nation_State_Tractor's original post on r/CasualConversations
- Girlfriend in Canada, TV Tropes
- "my girlfriend who lives in Canada", Urban dictionary
- "Canadian Girlfriend Unsubstantiated", The Onion
- "Why Fake Girlfriends Are Always From Canada", GQ
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This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text.
Amory Sivertson: Happy Valentine's Day Ben.
Ben Brock Johnson: Happy Valentine's Day.
Amory: We really need to start mixing it up. It doesn't matter what holiday is, if it's like Happy New Year. Happy...
Ben: Happy Valentine's Day. Happy Presidents' Day.
Amory: Yeah, that too. Coming right up.
Ben: Well, listen, we are not huge, you know, Hallmark holiday people at Endless Thread. But, but we love love.
Amory: Mmmm, excuse me. Yeah. No, I'm kidding. I'm not, I couldn't name a Hallmark movie. But yes, we love love.
Ben: Love is love.
Amory: Is love is love.
Ben: No matter who you are, no matter what you’re doing, and no matter who you’re doing it with, love is love.
Amory: That's right. And more of that in the world can't be a bad thing, right?
Ben: As long as it's not illegal in 40 states, I think you're good.
And we found a story about love from the community on Reddit called r/CasualConversations. And, yeah, we just kind of wanted to share with you.
Ben: Can you tell us the title of your post?
Jon Smith: I really did have a girlfriend who lived in Canada.
Amory: That is the person who made that post. Their handle on Reddit is Nation_State_Tractor. Rhymes with nation state actor.
Ben: Ah yes, international relations 101 terminology. And also maybe cybersecurity terminology, which is what Nation State Tractor does for work these days. Long after he was of the age that you might claim to your teenage friends that you really DID have a girlfriend, who just happened to live in Canada.
Amory: And we’re calling said Canadian girlfriend “Miranda”---although, that’s not her real name.
Ben: And why this title? Can you like explain for the uninitiated, if you would, the Canadian girlfriend- what would it be? Is it a meme? Is it a, like it's just a, idea?
Jon: I think it's been around longer than what can be described as a meme. For us nerdy types going through middle school who didn't necessarily have the social skills to be part of the popular group, or have ways of interacting with the opposite sex, the common thing to hear was, ‘Oh yeah, no, I have a girlfriend, but you don't know her. She goes to a different school’. Or the other side of that being, ‘Yeah. You don't know her, she's from Canada’.
Amory: But in his case…
Jon: [Reading from Reddit post] I really did have a girlfriend who lived in Canada. And no, I did not also live in Canada. This was around 1995 or 1996. I was in middle school…
Amory: Nation State Tractor’s real name?
Jon: Jon Smith. I don't think anyone will believe anyone, but that is actually my name. Jon is fine.
Amory: Get out. Really?
Ben: Jon Smith.
Jon: I'm serious. Yeah.
Amory: See? That's perfect.
Ben: Jon Smith had a girlfriend in Canada. Is that what you're telling me?
Jon: Yep. I predicted this exact moment.
Ben: I’m Ben Brock “you wouldn’t know her” Johnson.
Amory: I’m Amory “Canadian Girlfriend” Sivertson.
Ben: And you’re listening to Endless Thread.
Amory: Coming to you from WBUR, Boston’s NPR station.
Ben: Today? A good old fashioned. and maybe a little bit fake-sounding but totally true, we think, love story.
Ben: So what were you like in middle school?
Jon: I have a picture from my eighth grade yearbook where I am holding up a huge, thick hardcover java programing book. That's what I did. So at lunch time, I'd go eat my lunch, inhale it as fast as I could, and then go to the library, and I would write programs on the ancient computers that still could write programs on them. And make them all sound like police sirens or something like that. But that's what I did, basically every day. Almost an exact stereotype of computer nerd.
Ben: How would you describe your interaction with the opposite sex? 0%? Just boot shaking terror? Deep interest, but no interest returned? What was your middle school interaction with girls like?
Jon: Yeah. Goodness. It was, it's a combination of everything that you mentioned. To say I had a phobia of rejection is not, that's probably an understatement. I did not talk to any girls at all in person. If they talked to me, I was always under the assumption that it was on a dare, that they were talking to me because that was the truth a lot of the time. So it was a lot easier to assume that was the case all the time. So yeah, there was a lot of fear for sure.
Amory: Hmmm. So how did Miranda come into your life?
Jon: So Miranda came about not in person, which removed a lot of the fear. This was back when I was on when CompuServe was still around. Basically like role playing, DnD role playing, taking the characters that I had in my Lego figures and pretending that I was those people on these CompuServe DnD role play chats.
Ben: And can you just like, give us a quick description of CompuServe?
Jon: CompuServe was the precursor, believe it or not, no one will believe this, but the precursor to America Online, AOL, it was a portal based Internet service provider.
Amory: So you met Miranda in a particular channel in this CompuServe system? Clearly, I don't know what I'm talking about.
Jon: I did.
Ben: You're that rare dream. You really are that rare dream of meeting a girl in the chat room.
Jon: Yes. Yep.
Amory: And how did the conversation start?
Jon: So I was learning, in addition to the other programming languages that I was still learning at the time, I was also learning HTML for how to make web pages. And I forget how I found out about GeoCities, but I ended up with a site on GeoCities. Where I, it was mostly about my favorite video game at the time, which I had never actually played, called Chrono Trigger, and it was like half that. A lot of video game graphics from that. And then the other half of it was all of the programming stuff that I was doing. And someone was asking about something programing related. And I posted a link to my site.
Jon: [Reading from post] A few minutes later, someone else sent me an instant message. ‘You have a GeoCities site and you're into Chrono Trigger? That's so cool. I have one of those, too’. They sent me the link to their GeoCities site, which was all about Scarlet Witch. Yes, the Marvel Comics character on which she based her DnD character.
Amory: And what did you learn about her as a person? Like who she was, where she was, what she was into? What did you actually feel like you knew about her?
Jon: I think one of the first things that anyone asked anyone around that time is, ‘So where are you from? How old are you? And by the way, are you a guy or a girl’? Typically known as ‘ASL’ at that time.
Ben: Yeah. Age. Sex, Location.
Amory: Oh. Okay. I’m learning.
Ben: For you youths out there.
Amory: What was her ASL?
Jon: She was 14. Female. Canada.
Jon: [Reading from post] Over the next few weeks, we would chat almost daily. I learned her real name, Miranda, her age 14, where she was from Montreal, and all the games she liked. Which were also all the games I liked. It was awesome. Here was this girl I had never seen before, but she was into just about everything I was into. And she was nice to me and actually enjoyed talking to me.
Jon: I asked, ‘Hey, I know you don't live anywhere near me, but would you like to be my girlfriend’? And yes, absolutely. She totally went for it, which I was not expecting, but I at least wasn't afraid to ask because she wasn't there in person. It was a lot easier.
Amory: Did you stay open to the possibility the whole time that she might be like a 50 year old guy? Or were you just really overcome with, no, she's exactly who she says she is. I'm in love. This is great.
Jon: Yeah, absolutely the latter. It never once crossed my mind that she was anyone other than who she said she was, because to me, that could not be possible.
Jon: [Reading from post] She sent me a scanned family photo putting herself out even though she was the only teenager in the picture. She was so out of my league, it was ridiculous. League? No, not even the same sport.
Amory: When you said, 'I have a girlfriend in Canada', people thought you were making it up?
Jon: Oh yes.
Ben: Yeah, did people react in the way that you would assume they would react?
Jon: Yeah. Yes, they - well, yeah, a lot of eye rolling, like 'Oh, okay. That's cool'.
Jon: [Reading from post] I spent the better part of two weeks mentioning to anyone who would listen at school that I had a girlfriend who was in high school and she was so hot and smart and you couldn't meet her because she was in Canada. But take a look at this picture of her that I used an entire ink cartridge to print over the course of 20 minutes. But it gets better.
Amory: So when did it, when was the next step taken? You've talked a ton online, you've swapped photos. You're each other's, you know, quote unquote boyfriends and girl girlfriend. When did you did when do you finally see her?
Ben: The answer, right after this shortbread.
After the break, Jon goes to Canada to finally meet his Canadian girlfriend.
Jon: After eighth grade ended, during the summer, we kept talking. Talking on the phone. Right before school was supposed to start, my mom decided that she wanted me and my sister to kind of spontaneously like, 'let's go to Niagara Falls. I went there when I was little. You guys haven’t'. So it was kind of my mother’s doing. Which, if she had known my plans, never let this happen. Yeah, my mom decided let’s take a family trip to Niagara Falls. And when I found out about that, I let Miranda know. ‘Hey, I'm going to be kind of near there. Is there any chance we can meet up’? She had moved from Montreal to Toronto over the summer, so she was a lot closer at that point. So I figured if there was any chance of this happening, this was going to be it. I had no way of getting myself there otherwise.
Jon: [Reading from post] The timing had to be perfect since Miranda's mom had a two hour drive to get us there and I wouldn't be able to call after they left. At best, I'd have to wait for her to call the hotel room from a payphone after they arrived. I distinctly remember wondering and worrying if Canada even had pay phones. I was not well-educated in the ways of the world at the time. Eventually the day of the trip came and it was the longest six and a half hour drive of my life...Much of that morning was a blur. I just remember trying to convince my mom and my sister that we should eat lunch at a picnic table conveniently near the meeting spot. You know, to enjoy the falls with the meal. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, making sure I could see every face within visible vicinity, just in case one of them was Miranda. But Miranda found me first. She came running up to me from across the adjacent grass and threw her arms around me. I picked her up and spun her around. It felt like a movie. I was beyond thrilled. Then, just as quickly, she backed off with a scared look of concern on her face. 'You are nation state tractor, right'? I confirmed, Yes, indeed, I was me, and it was nobody else. Then she smiled and she kissed me. It was my first kiss. Hell, it was my first everything. First time being hugged by a girl I wasn't related to. First time holding hands. First time a girl put her head on my shoulder. I was so happy...We spent a grand total of about 6 hours together. That was it. That was the only time we would ever see each other in person.
Amory: When you and Miranda left Niagara, who was that Jon? And how did he move differently through middle school, high school, and onward?
Jon: It wasn't an instant change, but yeah, I just - it was an amazing confidence boost. Like, I realized that I could talk to people and people could talk to me. And there weren't necessarily ulterior motives in what girls were saying to me. My, yeah, my, conversations with not just girls, but, you know, everyone in general, they were a lot more genuine and I had a lot less to fear I that that. The the blood pressure lowered a lot in social interactions after that. It made things a lot easier.
Ben: There's so much about this story that feels very like surprisingly wholesome. I just wonder how you think about the internet now and these possibilities for connection. Like, you work in cyber security so you probably see some dark stuff, but this story is so wholesome in the way that it played out. And do you still see that opportunity and that power for goodness in the way that we can connect online? Or is this a nostalgic story from the past for you? And that's it?
Jon: Unfortunately, I do. It really is a nostalgic story. I miss the way the Internet was. I wish it was still the same in most aspects. Communication wise, everyone is always connected all the time. The world is so much smaller now, which I mean, and it felt small then too, just because now I have access to all of these people from all over the world that I can talk to. But now it's constant. Whereas back then, you had to go seek it out.
Jon: [Reading from post] I don't know where Miranda is now, and I'm happily married with a family of my own. So I don't care to go Internet stalking. Last I knew she learned Spanish, in addition to French. And got a masters degree and worked for the Ontario Ministry of Health. That was over a decade ago. Even if she’s done nothing else, that’s still better than anything I’ve done. So I hope she’s happy, and still doing what she loves.
Ben: I know you don't want to go Internet stalking, right? And you have a family, and you're happy. And so, like, I totally get that kind of like, like I'm good. I had this thing, you know, it ended. That's fine, right?
Jon: Mmm hmm.
Ben: But don't you kinda want to know like, wouldn't it be nice if you could just, like, know what she's up to or like, for her to know, for instance, the impact that this had on you and for you to maybe see if she also felt the same? I'm just curious if you have any sort of curiosity there. I imagine you do.
Jon: I think - I mean, I do have curiosity. In Miranda's case, I know what she was like as a teenager, and I know people change, but she was so genuine about everything that she said. I mean, I talk about the confidence boost that I had, the confidence that she just had in general. I know no matter no matter what she did, no matter what she came across after our meeting, I'm sure she's doing great things. She must be. That's just the type of person she was. I guess that's why I don't really have that much curiosity regarding it, because I just know that she's doing great things.
Amory: Well, we ARE into some well intentioned internet stalking, but we haven’t been able to locate Miranda, the Canadian girlfriend, yet.
B: I mean, I looked for her. Our producer Dean Russell looked for her. Jon gave us her real name, but it was a maiden name, of course. And we’ve poked around, but no dice.
A: So maybe this story is FAKE! Jon! You scoundrel! No, we believe you. We want to believe.
Ben: We totally believe you Jon, totally. Totally. No, we really do believe you. And we’re gonna keep looking. And we’ll keep dreaming.
Amory: What if you and your families met up? I'm imposing a family on her. I don't know what her situation is, but, like, I'm picturing your family and her family meeting up at Niagara…
Ben: Oh, man, that sounds great!
Amory: Going on the Maid of the Mist and talking about...
Ben: The kids hanging out.
Jon: Yeah. So I don't know if my wife would be cool with that.
Amory: You're right. This story already has a happy enough ending. I'm pushing it. I’m asking for trouble.
Ben: So Miranda if you’re out there, please get in touch.
But then Jon told us how he met his wife. He had failed out of college, and was in the military trying to get his life back on track. He was stationed in Japan, and had gotten really into this band, Sushi Cabaret Club, which didn’t have Japanese band members, and didn’t sing in Japanese.
Jon: So I went to their MySpace page, and MySpace, you know, they had like your top friends or whatever. And I was just, you know, just happened to snapshot in my mind of their top friends. And so I went to go see them in in Tokyo. Afterwards, like when the lights come up and everything and I notice to the right of me is there's this girl who she looks really familiar. She's on the band's top friends list. And so I kind of turn to her and I go, Are you Miyuki? I didn't even know if she spoke English. And she turns to me and she goes, How do you know my name? Yeah, I'm Jon Smith. And like, as the words came out of my mouth, like, well, that's super helpful. And she goes - from MySpace. That's how I met my wife. It was kind of also from the Internet.
Amory: Do you think, do you think pre-Miranda Jon would have had the guts to go up to Miyuki and say 'hey'?
Ben: Great question.
Amory: I'm Jon...you're shaking your head no.
Jon: Absolutely not. No, not at all. Not at all.
Ben: Wow. This is the best timeline. You live in the best timeline.
Jon: Yes. Well. Yeah. I consider myself probably one of the luckiest people on earth because there is no skill involved in this at all. It just sort of happened.
Amory: Wow. Well, you tell, you tell Miyuki that Miranda doesn't mean anything to you in that way now. But she gave you the gift of confidence that allowed…
Ben: There would be no Miyuki without Miranda.
Amory: That's right. You can't have Miyuki without Miranda. That's really what life is, isn't it? You look back and you're like, wow, all of the various Mirandas that happened lead up to our Mikyukis, and hopefully it all works out for the best.
Ben: You know, Amory, I almost never say this, but, you know, this set of stories, really, it almost makes you want to say all's well that ends well on the Internet, you know?
Amory: Yeah. And it's a good reminder that, you know, middle school is a phase. It too shall pass. It will prepare you for better, brighter, more love filled days.
Ben: Yeah. And I feel like once someone told me ‘cool is not something you're better than, it's something you're into’. If that makes sense.
Amory: Cool is not something you're better than…
Ben: It's what you're into. So it's like...
Amory: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: And I feel like love is that way too. You know? And like, Jon found his fellow gaming nerd on the Internet, even though he had never played the video game, he found his fellow gaming nerd. And that's beautiful, you know?
Amory: Yeah. Find your people and hold on to them.
Ben: Yeah. So with that, we wish you all the chocolate strawberries and chalky candy with tiny messages on them that your heart could desire.
Amory: And a donut. Just for good measure.
Ben: A love donut.
Amory: I love donut.
Ben: I like that I said a love donut. And you started to say I love donuts.
Ben: Oh, boy, she's done it again.
Amory: Classic. Classic.
Amory: I thought you were saying like, I love donut. As if it were hamburger. You know how people are like, mmm I could really go for some hamburg…
Ben: Where are you talking about right now? I think you better take a shortbread.
Amory: I'm high on love.
Ben: You better take a shortbread, you know?
Amory: Happy Valentine's Day.
Ben: Happy Valentine's Day y’all. We'll see you in a week.
Amory: Endless Thread is a production of WBUR in Boston.
This episode was produced by Nora Saks. And co-hosted by me, Amory Sivertson. And Ben Brock Johnson, who said he had to go see about a girl…in Canada.
Mix and sound design by Emily Jankowski. The rest of our team is Dean Russell, Quincy Walters, Grace Tatter, Amy Gorel, Matt Reed, and Paul Vaitkus.
Endless Thread is a show about the blurred lines between digital communities…and nation state actors.
If you’ve got an untold history, an unsolved mystery, or a wild story from the internet that you want us to tell, hit us up. Email Endless Thread at WBUR dot ORG.