Non-Fiction Week 1: Young L<3ve, Just Click Send by Olivia Paschkes

Young L<3ve, Just Click Send

My very first boyfriend was an AOL instant messenger screename entitled, “EGGSRULE.” His real name was Jacob Rozenstein and we shared neighboring classrooms in the fifth grade hallway of Millstone Middle School. He and my brother, played on the same soccer team—that’s how we met. (How he acquired my screen name). We spent 180 days studying across from each other. Our lunch tables were in the same vicinity and we even had mutual friends. And yet, Jacob and I never spoke much in person. Instead, EGGSRULE and I accessed our young romance online. I was ten.

It required much urging, but my mom finally allowed me access to our computer. She was cautious about the whole “Internet” thing.. Today, ten-year-olds have their own domain names the iPhones has replaced the pacifier. My siblings and I were allowed to use a shared desktop PC. My mom installed a security program called “Net Nanny,” which parented our web access. The silhouette of Mary Poppins appeared on top of the web page with a pointed index finger every time she deemed a site inappropriate. I wasn’t interested in porn, so I rarely saw that finger. AOL[1]romance was, however, approved. She granted me access to the ultimate Internet resource: instant messenger[2]..

I had multiple AIM screenames throughout my life, each one named after my various pre-adolescent phases. I was “BillabongBabii94”[3] during my beachy, wish-I-could-be-a-surfer-girl-and-afford-Billabong-clothing phase. I was “IluvSk8rs94” during my (attempted) tomboy, wish-boys-with-skateboards-would-pay-attention-to-me phase. I was also, “xxFoShizzlexx94,” for a while, though I can’t recall what phase this was. I imagine it was just as awkward as the two prior.

With Jacob, I was BillabongBabii94. Everyday I would rush home from school and sign in to see if EGGSRULE was online. I would wait patiently for his away message[4] to disappear. My heart would pound as I grinded my teeth, and my mouth would take the form of some weird, demon-like side smile. I can only assume this is what most Internet predators look like. The first “hi :)” would send shivers down my spine. Our AIM romance was exciting. It gave me something to look forward to after school. We didn’t even need to talk in person.

We sent each other romantic poetry—that which I found from googling “romantic poetry”—and typed hearts: “<3”. We even put each other’s names in our AIM profile description. Everyone on our friends list[5] would know that we belonged to each other, though this was not evident in person.

Jacob and I weren’t intentionally ignoring each other in person. We were just too embarrassed. I remember when Jacob’s menacing guy friends forcefully brought him over to me at recess. We both turned red and didn’t say anything. He coughed—the only sound of his voice I ever heard. My best friend Delaney did most of the in-person talking for us. She still is my wing-woman and spokesperson. She and Jacob were classmates. She resented being our messenger. For Christmas, she exchanged our gifts for us. I bought him a giant pixie-stick and he gave me a mini racecar. A red Ferrari—he was predicting our future.

Eventually, though, the excitement for died down. I became exhausted of Internet poetry, and the amount of 3’s added to a “less-than” symbol didn’t matter anymore. “<3” would soon be replaced by emoticons. I decided I was tired of having a cyber boyfriend. I commissioned Delaney for the last time to tell Jacob it was over. “I had my whole life ahead of me.”

EGGSRULE and Billabongbabii94 were no more. I never made any further attempts to construct any sort of meaningful relationship on the Internet, specifically in the context of AOL Instant Messenger. (It was replaced by the text message anyway.)

I have since rejoined society.

1AOL, known previously as America Online, was once a popular multinational mass-media web database. It still exists but ceases to be relevant.

[2] Known popularly as AIM, it is the distant ancestor of today’s “text” message

[3] The origins of the double “i”, ex., “ii” is rumored to have originated in the New Jersey home of a 12-year old girl, who after spending countless days in a row Instant Messaging, developed a twitch in her right pinky, the finger she used to type the letter “i”.

[4] The message left when “away” from one’s computer. Generic message options were available, but it also invited creativity. (This was a time before communication became limited to 140-characters.) As one’s computer was usually left on for the “away” message to appear, it was an ultimate waste of electricity.

[5] The list of AIM screenames that appear in a thin window, to the right of the screen. *Often confused with “real” friends.

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