Emails were often long questionnaires made worthy only by the right mind:

What’s your favorite color?


Name a weird food you like:


I fell in love with someone I’d never met because of his answers. When I finally saw him, I knew my devotion was right. The survey told me all his tastes: Orbital, Moby, The Chemical Brothers. They weren’t cool anymore by the time “Let Forever Be” came out but I can’t think of them without thinking of that kaleidoscopic, psychedelic video, the girl dancing in all the worst 90s colors.

Not so many years later, I’d try to seduce the college professor who taught me how to use power tools by talking to him about Run Lola Run. I played The Saint soundtrack over and over again; I still haven’t seen the movie. The answering man would never love me in the right way.

Each personal site was ugly, cluttered with motion and neon, because ugly was all we had. We taught ourselves to scratch and patch HTML in the most rudimentary ways so we could plaster Doors lyrics and bad gifs under URLs we abandoned in a month. We wanted to perform for each other, to staple evidence of ourselves to an intangible world. Even the boys used Angelfire back then.

Charlotte Shane is the author of Prostitute Laundry and N.B.