MSN Messenger—its logo two green and blue humanoid figures—was a marvel of early 00’s digital communication, which I used solely to talk to boys. I was 12 when Microsoft introduced MSN in 1999; for the next few years, MSN was the whole of the Internet to me.
After school, I would sit at the white desk in my lavender-painted room, and start flirting. Group conversations hummed along, but the real thrills were in one-on-one chats. Some of these boys I knew out in the real world, but mostly they were friends of friends, test subjects. I still feel the unfaded, marrow-dark embarrassment of being informed that Monty Panesar, a screenname I’d taken for the real thing, was a cricketer who’d just had a career-best season for Leicestershire, and not a boy from King’s College School.
Meeting these boys offline was a terrible letdown. On MSN, conversations fizzed and crackled with the promise of sex, but out in the world, they fell flat out. In darkened living rooms, I couldn’t sustain ten minutes of conversation with the same boys I had spent hours talking to online. It was a disconsolate safeguard for my 15-year-old heart, when I wanted little more than to translate the buzz I felt sitting in my bright, pale room into real life.