18 March 2013

When I was 17

When I was 17, my grandparents gave me a computer and set me up with an AOL account (that they paid for for several years). At first it was kept at their house. I can't remember why, but I'm sure there was some good reason. Maybe there wasn't room for it, wherever we were living at the time. We moved a lot the last couple of years I was living at home, before moving into the dorm in college. I had a car so I would drive to their house sometimes to go on the internet. Most of the time they were away in Massachusetts.

They got it for me because I was the rising star genius of the family. I was going to go to medical school. I was going right my mother's wrongs, beginning by not getting pregnant freshman year of college. I was wildly successful at that; Chem II, not so much. I switched my major from pre-med to psychology probably in the first semester.

The screen name my grandparents picked for me when they set up my AOL account was "carklet," and the password something like "premed." As soon as I got access to the computer, I set up another account, "prdinpink." Some of you might recognize it. At the time, there was a strict character limit on screen names, though I'm sure that even if there hadn't been, "prettyinpink" or any variation on the actual spelling would have already been taken. In 1997, there were no social networks. At least not that I was aware of. Maybe for techies, or hacker types, but not for average folk like me. We had chat rooms and fan club listservs. That's where we filled out very simple profiles. Name, age/birthday, favorite quote, favorite band, marital status, occupation. If I recall correctly, not unlike Friendster in its early days, except without the photos or commentability or messaging feature. There was messaging in friendster, right? When I was 17, I was quite goth. Prdinpink might not sound particularly goth, and "Pretty in Pink" wasn't (isn't) my favorite John Hughes film, but for a few years there, my hair was colored pink. Prdinpink just made sense.

Morrissey was (is) one of my major faves, so under marital status I wrote "Will Never Marry," the title of a Morrissey song. Also, a sentiment I felt at the time (and maybe now-ish too). My quote was from an Ayn Rand novel. I still remember it, by heart. Judge if ye will. "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, or ask another man to live for mine." It was in "Atlas Shrugged." That sentence was a password to gain access to some kind of vault or entrance. Only if spoken with conviction would the speaker gain access.

Under occupation, I said "Telling people I'm a dominatrix and then laughing when they believe me HAHAHAHAHAHA" (ah, the foreshadowing!). When I was 17, I had very little idea of what a dominatrix really was. Being goth, of course I had some notion, but it wasn't until I was 24 and living in New York that I learned what it really means to be a dominatrix. I would get messages from people, men, older men, probably much older men, who thought that I might really be a dominatrix. Maybe they stopped reading at "Telling people I'm a dominatrix." That would chat me on AIM, seeking domination. I would ignore and block them.

It's striking to me now that I had absolutely no supervision on that computer. My mother never asked me what I got up to on there, never seemed concerned. My poor sister, with whom I shared a room, had to sleep through the glowing screen, me typing away late into the night, chatting with internet folk, mostly strangers, sometimes a friend. She never asked me to turn it off. Had it been the other way around, I might have gone postal on her. The patience of a saint, that one.

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