ANDREA LEE CHRISTENSEN
I don’t want to brag, but I used to be pretty big on the internet. I had my grubby paws everywhere – Fanfiction.net, Club Penguin, Xanga, you name it. But I had yet to conquer the biggest prize of them all, the crème de la crème: acquiring a Cybunny on Neopets. My Neopets login told you straightaway how aspirational I was – a social climber even at age 11: “Melea_Cybunny.” I knew that eventually, that cyborg rabbit was bound to be mine.
The trouble, you see, is that they only released a few Cybunnies at a time – unlike the plentiful masses of my other, unspecial pets. Shoyrus? A dime a dozen. Meercas? I spit on Meercas. It was harder to get a Cybunny than it was to convince your mom to buy you the same Juicy Couture tracksuit that Anna had gotten for her half birthday. I imagined the day I finally got a Cybunny would be the day my forehead acne cleared, and I would emerge from puberty reborn as a gleaming starlet who could finally stop wearing bangs. I was pretty much the second girl in my fifth grade class to get her period (poor Eunice Chen, forever known to us as the first to shed the shell of girlhood – gone so soon), and it was already awkward enough that I was sprouting boobs and sweating through my burgundy ballet leotard so that everyone laughed at my pit stains from the comfort of their young, unsweating bodies.
But on the internet, I could be anyone. The only trace of my real-life mediocrity was the fact that my poor pets were so decidedly mundane. I didn’t even have enough Neopoints to buy my stupid Shoyru a faerie paint brush so he could have faerie wings instead of the dumb dragon wings he was born with. I sighed with jealousy at the accounts whose decked out Neopets were not only painted the most exclusive colors (using the much-coveted Christmas paintbrush, for one), but had enough coin to paint their pets’ Petpets. If that wasn’t a status symbol, I don’t know what is.
But my short-lived dream of Neopian fame came crashing down one unanticipated afternoon when my ex-best friend (don’t ask) Kassandra came over and brought with her some dreaded news: it was already too late for me. While I had been lusting after limited edition pets, the world had moved on. Now, apparently, it was “all about Maplestory” – who’s on it, and what level they’ve reached. Little old me, not even level zero, had been left in the dust. Neopets was officially dead to my fifth grade class. On to Maplestory, and with it the elusive freedom of not having to check the dreaded “over 13” box the Neopets forum required. Not that I had even summoned the courage to do that yet, but everyone knew that was where Christina from P.E. had met her boyfriend who lived in another school district. Besides, I just felt like I wasn’t ready to tackle the whole “boy” thing. Enraged, ashamed, I logged off as quickly as I could and downloaded Maplestory. As for my Cybunny dreams? Thrown away in an instant, only surviving in distant memories of a forgotten time, a forgotten place – oh, Neopia, the promised land. I don’t know what to tell you, or the Cybunny I never had. I guess I grew up. I had middle school to think about.