Long ago and far away in a magical land.... oh wait, that's not it. Long ago, when I signed up for my very first AOL account and my very first taste of "The Internet" (which when I think about it IS a magical land, so maybe I wasn't so very far off after all), I knew nothing. Ha. Filling out that little account information quiz for AOL, I chose my username. No. I chose my name. I quickly learned that there were OTHER people already ON The Internet, and I would have to ::gasp:: Make Up A Different Username.
Now, if you don't really know anything about The Internet, and you're really really eager to get ON The Internet, and the only thing holding you back from GETTING on The Internet is a fake username, you aren't really inspired to spend deep contemplative effort crafting a clever and memorable moniker. Or at least I wasn't. So when I typed in "JSouthern" and AOL spit back JSouth 4205 as an ingenious alternative to my dull suggestion, I was a bit dismayed until I noticed that the digits at the end could be rearranged to be my childhood telephone number (yes, I grew up in a town so small that we had four digit telephone numbers), and JSouth4502 was hastily born so I could get ON The Internet. I really felt terribly clever, with my half-name-half-secret-code-from-the-past.
That clever feeling lasted until the moment I actually got signed in and was ON The Internet. In that magical land I quickly picked up on the fact that other folks had spent more than 3 minutes planning their cyberpersona, and actually had cute, meaningful, and here's the kicker, EASY TO REMEMBER usernames. And now I had saddled myself with a Borglike Master Screenname which could not be changed, because let's face it, AOL figured anyone in a position to create a Master Screenname was old enough and wise enough to come up with something charming and clever and EASY TO REMEMBER, and therefore would not need to make any changes. Oh sure, the other screen names that my account was allowed were able to change at a moment's notice, at the slightest whiff of boredom. But not the reliable, intelligent Master Account Creator who JUST WANTED TO GET ON THE INTERNET. ::sigh::
Many years down the road, AOL allowed one to create a second master screen name. By this time, I was reasonably accustomed to no one having a clue whether I was a man or a woman (although it was generally assumed that I was a man, because a WOMAN would be more CREATIVE with their username!). No one being able to remember my secret code, no one being charmed by my cleverness and ingenuity. Though beaten-down and fatigued by my dreary status, I retained enough strength to try again. I spent a great deal more effort on this attempt. I knew I wanted something much more representative of ME. No more anonymity. No more ambiguity. I wanted girly and personal. Unfortunately, a whole string of Julies before me had also wanted girly and personal and unambiguous and they had all chosen their AOL screen name well in advance of my feeble efforts. At long last, after trying multitudinous combinations of my name and my presence of being, I found one that was untouched and available: JulieItIs. Scarcely believing my good luck I rushed through the rest of the screenname creation to save my precious invention before some predatory and equally desperate Julie snatched it away from me just at the brink of my new cyber existence. Whew! Success!
I gleefully signed into my new account and sent email to everyone I knew and loved and cherished, announcing the New Me. It was glorious. My entire attitude to the world was new and fresh and giddy and happy and nothing could bring me down...
Until I filled out a form somewhere on The Internet asking for my email address. I cheerfully filled it out, julieitis (at) aol (dot) com. Hmmm. Somehow losing some capital letters put a new and not entirely satisfactory slant on my proud creation. It no longer looked girly and personal and fun. In fact, it bore a strong resemblance to... well, to a disease. Like something that might get left on a drinking glass in a lipstick schmear, or lurk on a doorknob waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting cyber wanderer and land him in a hospital bed with various distant relatives whispering dread pronouncements over the likelihood of his continued existence. This wasn't what I wanted. This wasn't the New ME. This was disgusting!
And as I sat there, frozen with the shock of the ice cold rain falling on my parade of screenname joy, the first "congratulatory" emails began to arrive in my box. Never had "You've Got Mail" sounded such a death knell on hope and anticipation for me. I opened the first.
"Cool, you've got a new screenname. So what are you now, some kind of disease?"
And there it was. Fate had tricked me a second time. I knew I couldn't bear the shame of writing back to everyone and admitting my folly; I was just going to have to brazen it out and convince everyone that I, in my infinite wisdom, had willingly chosen this path, and I began a barrage of self-justification that started with I Was Being Clever and Thinking Outside The Box and ended with a storm of You Won't Forget It and You Can Spell It, and buried my shame deep in the recesses of my rarely defragged hard drive.
Until Now. Now you know.