Photo: Shierly Brett
This Valentine's Day, AsiaOne speaks with two couples who found love in unexpected places.
IRC (Internet Chat Relay) may be a stranger to those born after the 90s, and to others, it may just be a memory -- perhaps not even a very pleasant one.
From cyber bullies, stalkers, to strangers asking for sexual favours, the folks from the IRC era have seen it all.
But love still blossoms in a 'hopeless' place.
Shierly Fadjaray (who's now known as Shierly Brett), 30, and Paul Brett, 47, are the lucky ones who have found that elusive relationship.
"We first 'met' online in early 2012 on IRC. It was some generic boy-meets-girl channel," Shierly revealed to AsiaOne after some deliberation.
The couple on a holiday in Lombok, Indonesia, in 2012 after their first meet-up in Singapore. Image: Shierly Brett
Shierly, who spent her childhood days in Indonesia and studied in Singapore, shared that she was on IRC because she was "unemployed, bored, and had no one to talk to." And of course, she didn't think she would meet "the one".
"I don't believe in over-romanticising 'the one'... All I know was he made me happy, and all I wanted was to be with him. " she added.
But it wasn't all that easy -- Shierly was living in Singapore then, and Paul, London.
"I woke up at 2am every night just to Skype with him, and we spent a lot of money travelling just to see each other," said Shierly.
For their first meet-up, six months after they first connected on IRC, Paul travelled 18 hours from London to Singapore.
Shierly, who was 24 years old then, recounts their real-life meeting as awkward, "I was quite shy at that time, but at the same time, I felt like I knew him forever. I remember teaching him how to hold a pair of chopsticks properly while having Pho for lunch at Changi Airport T3 food court!"
For Paul though, the memory is pretty much a blur -- he could only remember how tired he was after his 18-hour flight.
The trip to London in 2014 was when Shierly decided to move to London. Image: Shierly Brett
Despite a "rather awkward" first date, and friends who were skeptical about this 'online relationship' in the beginning, Shierly and Paul went on to 'date' for three years and got married in 2015. The couple are now proud parents to a toddler, Emily, who's turning three.
The trip to London in 2014 was when Shierly decided to move to London.Photo: Shierly Brett
"We never had that 'are we dating' conversation. It just flowed and progressed on its own," they revealed.
"We did warn each other not to sleep with other people though," Shierly added sheepishly.
At the beginning of their relationship, she didn't tell her family about it at all, because an online chatroom wasn't a conventional place to meet someone.
"Now, when I tell people we met online (because no one knows what IRC is anymore!), I don't get a reaction as big as I did back then -- I suppose it has become a norm to meet someone online these days."
The quirky couple posing with their 'bumps' in Brighton, UK, in 2016.Photo: Shierly Brett
Even their proposal story was quite unconventional.
Shierly was still in Singapore and Paul was in London, and it "wasn't even a proposal." (See also: 12 seriously romantic proposals from our real grooms!)
"It was more like a discussion of our future, and where we're going. But I was the first one to bring it up, so I guess I proposed?" she added with a laugh.
"I brought up the subject and presented to him the timeline I drew the night before (of the logistics if we were to get married). Not the most romantic decision point (or what others would call a proposal). Although I did cry when Paul agreed for us to get married," Shierly said.
And that's not even the sweetest thing that the couple shared with us.
"I am not a big fan of Valentine's Day, and we agreed on not celebrating it because I think it's rubbish. But Paul always got me chocolate and flowers anyway," she said.
"One memorable Valentine's Day was when I was pregnant. Earlier on in my pregnancy, we called the foetus a 'peanut'. And on Valentine's Day, I found a card on the dining table. I can't even remember what the card was like (other than it being simple), but I remember finding a piece of peanut M&Ms along with it and I just cried -- I thought it was the cutest thing ever."
The couple with their "peanut" Emily when she was first born in 2016 and her first birthday in 2017.Photo: Shierly Brett
So do we.
And yes, in case you're wondering, IRC is still very much alive -- you're welcome.
This story was originally published in AsiaOne.