I was in the seventh grade when I opened my first e-mail account. I’m part of the generation that remembers that switchover from a normal childhood into an increasingly tech-filled adolescence. Everything about the internet was magnificent in those years – Netscape, Napster chatrooms, MSN messenger and Shockwave games.
Willy Wonka took me by the hand and, what would years later be immortalized in a meme, led me to a world of pure procrastination. Websites were psychedelic, coaxing me through tunnels of blue font on black backgrounds, gifs created in Microsoft Paint, iframes with broken links and star trails behind my cursor.
When I was thirteen, I had mastered how to swiftly and quietly descend the stairs in the middle of the night. It involved holding my breath throughout the entire trajectory from bedroom to staircase to den. I had to first get around any creaky spots in my bedroom floor, which usually involved leaping to the edge of my room. I then quietly landed on the threshold of my door (we weren’t allowed to close our bedroom doors when I was young so there was no obstacle there), and did a graceful pirouette to the edge of the staircase. I’m not sure what a pirouette is but it sounds like what I did.
Here I was in crosshairs between my sister’s bedroom door and my parents’ french-doored boudoir, one door always propped open to allow for sound surveillance, one pane of glass punched cleanly out by my youngest sister in a fit of rage. I usually stopped here to listen for sounds of movement. The carpeted stairs I descended in the manner of Cate Blanchett as Galadriel – swiftly, expertly controlling the distribution of weight from toes to arches to heels.
When I hit the bottom of the stairs, I was greeted with noiseless tile floor and the subtle hum of the family computer. I might as well have been like a moth to a flame, stealing away secret hours with the internet. These days, I along with everyone else go to bed holding a smartphone or tablet in front of my face. Back then, people had to introduce a measure of cunning to get that kind of access to the web.
Here I was on an unassuming night, ears always perked for sounds of danger while I concentrated on things I simply had to do on the web. I got lost in the sound of mouse clicks and my eyes strained to read poor-contrast text. This is of course the moment my mom peered into the den and showered me in a blanket of parental disappointment with a side of utter mortification.
You think you’d know what a thirteen year old does on the internet, but parents underestimate how aware kids are of what’s out there and how quickly they get over it. Then again, it was much, much less embarrassing to let my mom think I just got caught doing something “bad” on the internet than what I was really doing.
Building a fan website for my thirteen-year-old self’s favourite fictional pairing – Padme and Anakin.
The words did not even exist at the time to explain what that meant. Tumblr and Netflix and generally growing up with the internet have changed peoples’ understanding of fandom today, but when I was thirteen, it was a SECRET SHAME.
TL;DR: I used to sneak onto the computer in the middle of the night to build websites in the name of fandom.