In the mid-1990s, parents didn’t care too much what chat rooms their children might wander into. I was eight or nine and didn’t know what a chat room was, but nevertheless I found myself in one with R, one afternoon at her house. It was my idea to pretend to be Mara Wilson, child star of the film Matilda, and I couldn’t believe that the men we spoke to—and they were all men, or said they were—didn’t know who Mara Wilson was. When we explained (“I’ve been in lots of films”), they weren’t interested. Then we pretended to be an eighteen-year-old student, and they were more interested. The brightest thing in the room was R’s lime-green velvet dress, which I envied but knew I shouldn’t, because my parents believed wearing green was bad luck. The chat room itself was pretty drab; this was several years before MSN, which let me spend hours every day changing my font from pink to blue to pink again. Our username was “kitten18,” and I heard R’s mum, moving about in the background, say to her boyfriend that this was a “clever choice.” I half-understood what she meant, which was exciting, and then I didn’t. Cats weren’t yet popular on the internet, but I knew that people liked them.

Hannah Rosefield lives in Cambridge, MA and in London. She still likes the film Matilda.