[Here is a thing I read to a room full of drunk people in London. It is about: the Internet.]
So I’ve been to a whole bunch of these Romantic Misadventure nights and what I’ve discovered is everyone’s had more romantic misadventures than me. Listening to Kit go on about his infinite dates, and Nell Frizzell – who despite looking like (she says) Meat Loaf at the time – being kissed by Cheese & Onion mouths on teenage summer holidays, has all made me a bit jealous. I did none of these things. In my late teens it was probably because I was huge and wide and wore far too much black lace and had big hair and thought Robert Smith was some kind of fashion icon. But before I turned into a looming black mass with some white patches indicating where my face and arms should be, I was just some lanky teenager with basically no friends who might have wanted a boyfriend if the opportunity ever arose, which it didn’t. I don’t know what you’re supposed to take away from these nights other than a hangover but it might be a newly discovered reason for your own failings. It might be that. That is what I have taken away from them, anyway. I had no boyfriends when you people were busy having boyfriends and all these Romantic Misadventures have got me wondering: the fuck was wrong with me? I’ve thought about it I think the things that were wrong with me can be be read through something we all did on that big, horrifying mirror: the internet.
I registered some email addresses in the late ’90s/early 2000s.
I registered a whole bunch of email addresses in the late ’90s/early 2000s.
(To save you the mental maths: I am 27 now and yes, I am panicking about my station in life which currently is one of those bleak ones that you only end up at if you fall asleep on the Northern Line. Moving on:)
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WHY I NEVER HAD A BOYFRIEND IN MY TEENS
AS EXPLAINED THROUGH MY OLD EMAIL ADDRESSES
Looneychick007@yahoo.com didn’t even like James Bond. I was 12, freakishly tall, hugely unsure of myself and brand new on the internet. I had only just upgraded from not using the Campbell family email address, all Netscape and sadness, because I discovered these things are free, you can have your own, and why would anyone share an email address in this day and age? “This day and age” being 1998 and our computer being a box-fresh Hewlett Packard soon to be introduced to the world of computer viruses and porn pop-ups by yours truly.
[SIDEBAR: I stand by this observation I made 15 years ago, and will never be able to get behind the husband/wife email address, nor the husband/wife Facebook account with the profile picture that is a fat-faced child with some ice cream on it. Does this make me unromantic? I like my shit compartmentalised. I have worked in retail.]
Looneychick007@yahoo.com wasn’t even sure how to spell “loony” and asked her mum whether it had an “e” in it or not. When her mum asked “what do you want to know how to spell loony for” this 12-year-old person was too embarrassed to say so, perhaps feeling a brief glimmer of her future self’s embarrassment at this stupid email address (WHAT IS WRONG WITH JUST USING YOUR NAME, I shout at her from the future where I was so late in registering that I’ve had to stick a “y” on the end thus becoming hayleycampbelly, as in “a bit like Hayley Campbell”, as in hayleycampbellish.).
“I just like to know how things are spelled,” I said, because this was true, although branding myself as loony was completely not. Perhaps I knew that if I didn’t know how things were spelled I was unlikely to win all those fights on the internet in my 20s because a misplaced apostrophe or superfluous “e” would render my point invalid. Anyway, mum said it did have an “e” and it doesn’t, but by the time I found that out it was too late. firstname.lastname@example.org was already using her new email address to sign into Yahoo! chatrooms where her username was, inventively, looneychick007. A girl who was neither loony nor liked James Bond and would never use the word “chick” in her actual life.
“Why are you loony?” chatroom people would ask, after I lied in reply to their a/s/l opener and told them I was completely 16 years old and totally female and definitely living somewhere cooler than the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. “Cos I just am, I am just so loony,” I would say, all unspecific and crazy, just a machine gun smattering of vague mental illness aiming for some kind of Zooey Dechanel kookiness without actually knowing who Zooey Dechanel was because where the hell was she in 1998. They would be all, “are you loony enough to put my cock in your mouth?” and there would be a pause, the cursor blinking expectantly, because this was the first time I’d ever heard of this thing where people put other peoples’ cocks in their mouths. I’d heard of cocks going up butts (I had recently seen the Stephen Fry film Wilde) but not in mouths. Why would you put something you pee out of into someone’s face? Isn’t that what butts and vaginas are for? It sounded impolite. I figured they covered that in a sex-ed class I missed while feigning illness, Ferris Bueller-style.
“Yes,” I replied, pulling a face. “I would totally put your cock in my mouth.”
“Do you swallow?”
Swallow? Gross. Was he going to pee in my mouth? 12-year-old me wondered what dicks tasted like. I decided that no, I probably would not swallow this person on the internet’s whatever even though he was 18/male/Sydney and worked as “an underpants model”. He said I wasn’t very good at “cybering” and left the room. I had no idea what he was talking about. No boyfriend.
The next email address happened because I hung out with the kind of fellow virgins who would make no moves toward nakedness or sloppy kisses and would instead use their mouths to quote lines in Hackers while watching the Jonny Lee Miller/Angelina Jolie film Hackers. They would do the same for every Kevin Smith film also: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, although the fact that I have no idea what the other one is called means that we all parted company circa 2002. In that time I watched them try to be mini-disc DJs and do a lot of “British people in Ibiza” dancing, because they had seen Kevin and Perry Go Large and thought “big fish little fish” was unironically cool. So anyway, as a result I got email@example.com. It even came with an underscore, implying that some other loser had already bagged the coveted email address firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope it made him happy. I chose to stick with “snoochieboochies” rather than try some other Jay and Silent Bob catchphrase, like email@example.com, or maybe firstname.lastname@example.org or the slightly less appropriate email@example.com. The fact that I was the kind of person who went straight for a movie catchphrase rather than something horrifying and sexy like firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org like all the other girls at school meant that I was immediately disqualified and was in no way girlfriend material for anybody. Apparently. Plus also it was really annoying to spell.
In 2002 I saw myself in an episode of South Park. It was the one where the boys’ future selves come back in time and everyone’s kind of pissed off about what they’ve become, especially Butters whose future self does nothing but sit at home all day watching Becker. If you’ve never seen the TV show Becker, allow me to explain: in this late ‘90s sitcom Ted Danson wore a terrible wig in his role as a misanthropic GP somewhere in The Bronx. The show revolved around Becker and the things that annoyed him which tended to be everything that wasn’t Becker. At 16 I was doing nothing but sitting at home highlighting the TV guide and watching Becker.
I was Butters’ future self.
In one life-changing (to me) episode, Becker’s receptionist mispronounced the syndrome “Asperger’s”. Several times. Over and over. Unrelentingly, in this one episode she mispronounced a syndrome that some guy in the waiting room had until the joke flailed and died for everyone but me. Ten minutes after that episode aired I was notifying everybody I knew to change their address books because I was no longer email@example.com, I was now firstname.lastname@example.org and still resolutely unfuckable.