This veil of anonymity let an entire generation of young women like myself experience their sexual initiations in AIM chatrooms.For the first few weeks or so, my relationship with Frank Zappy skirted the lines of PG-13 respectability.
We met in an AOL chatroom in the “Friends” category, bonding over a shared interest in baseball and the inspiration for his screenname; I’d impressed him by referencing the lyrics to “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.” Every day (except Monday and Wednesday, when I had Hebrew school), between pm and pm, I’d grab the Compaq laptop from my parents’ room, zip past my babysitter watching General Hospital, and log onto AOL to see if Frank Zappy was on my buddy list.
I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember we talked about classic rock and which colleges he thought Dana should apply to.
It was easier to be anonymous on the Internet back then, to flirt and wink and experiment behind purposefully misspelled, sexually charged screennames like seksikittee69 and bigboi17 that weren’t tethered to a public Facebook account.
While technology like group video conferencing existed, it was painfully slow and not readily available.
And to be honest, I don’t think he knew what he was saying either.
He wasn’t particularly imaginative, or even literate.
(For the next few years, I thought “cum” was a synonym for “penis,” in large part due to Frank Zappy’s sloppy syntax.) I don’t remember being sexually aroused by my relationship with Frank Zappy, so much as I was just fascinated by anything vaguely related to sex at the time.
I only have vague memories about the first time I had sex.
(I was 15, and it was the intermission of my camp’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; I was Helena, he was Lysander, and that’s all you need to know.) I do, however, have a very clear memory of the first time I had cybersex. His AIM handle was Frank Zappy, and I believe he claimed to be a married man from Queens.
I was Dana, a name I had lifted from a character on my favorite Purple Moon CD-ROM.
Dana was 19, an aspiring veterinarian, and everyone told her she looked like Britney Spears.