Pet Peeve #25: Your First IM Name Will Never Go Away

Let me tell you about Wanda.

Remember when your e-mail actually said, "You've Got Mail!" every time you got a new e-mail?

Wanda was my high school bus driver. Skinny as a toothpick but less brittle, Wanda had been driving buses for years. She had a long tangle of blonde hair and a crooked smile, and she took pride in driving us kids to school every day. She even took us to McDonald’s for breakfast once a semester.

Wanda had a nickname for everyone, and I had the good fortune of earning two of them: Cutebuns and Sweet Cheeks. She was referring to my butt, as it were. That may seem sketchy to you, but I don’t think Wanda even knew what my butt looked like, with my backpack hanging as low as it did. I think she just thought they were funny nicknames and she knew I’d play along.

You might recall that it was about 15 years ago that instant messaging got big. Everyone was on AOL IM. So the day came that I had to pick a screenname.

These days, most people use their real names online. Thank you, Facebook and Gmail. But back in 1996, most people thought if you used your real name online, an identity thief would immediately reach through the screen, grab your wallet, and punch you in the gut.

With these concerns in mind, I chose Cutebuns09 as my IM screenname (and yes, there were 8 other Cutebuns already taken. That should have been a sign that I was choosing the wrong name).

Of course, I didn’t stop there. I soon added a Yahoo account and an eBay account (what I was doing with eBay in the late 1990s, I don’t know. I don’t want to know). I’m sure there are other accounts out there with Cutebuns09 on them too.

When I went to college, I gained a Wash U e-mail address with my name. But we still used IM back then, so I was still Cutebuns09. And on eBay, every purchase I made using Cutebuns09 improved my buyer rating to the point that starting from scratch would be a huge step back.

Finally Facebook and Gmail came along, and I’m officially Jamey Stegmaier wherever I go. But Yahoo still thinks of me as Cutebuns09, much to the chagrin of the other guys in my Yahoo fantasy baseball league. So does eBay.

I have no doubt that I’m going to be 90 years old, hovercrafting between iReality oxygen chambers and Dippin’ Dots stores, and I’ll still run into people who identify me through their Yahoo 3D Contact Lenses as Cutebuns09.

Somewhere, Wanda will be smiling.

I’m sure I’m not alone with this. Come on, fess up on that first IM or e-mail username that you’re too embarrassed to use now.

22 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #25: Your First IM Name Will Never Go Away”

  1. You forgot to mention the fem-mullet that was Wanda’s hair. It was a messy tangle of blonde, but there was a permed curly bit on top. That was clearly the best part.

    That was a fund bus, and I totally forgot you were Cutebuns! Great story!

  2. My first car was rather unique. You could turn the radio on and change channels by pushing random spots on the dashboard. If you took your hands off the wheel, you’d make a right turn…and there were several interesting things in the back seat that were procured on many ill-conceived, yet fun adventures with Brandon Bates. Therefore, my license plate read, “YOUNEAK”. When I got to college, this translated into an IM name for me (a combination of University of Richmond and unique). I was “URyouneak”. I’m not ashamed of it, but it does bring back fond memories!

    • Ah, vanity plates. Those were the days. I actually think that was a pretty great license plate–certainly easy to remember.

  3. This whole webernet thing was new fangled when the movie “The Net” came out. This was the peak Sandra Bullok’s of mediocrity, and coincided with when the famuily got America Online. The mystery character that (I think) helped Sandra through her troubles had the handle “Cyberbob.” Granted, I was much more creative then than I am now, so my handle was “Hyperjon”. I DIDN’T EVEN SPELL MY OWN DAMN NAME RIGHT, but that was ok, because it would give me that extra anonymity that I lost by telling everyone my name was John.
    I mean Red.
    I mean…

  4. Eh, my first e-mail is still the one I use for personal stuff on Yahoo. Topaz1117. My birthday is November 17th, and my birthstone is Topaz. I was 11 when I made it up. Now I have a name on every service. My first car on MSN, variation of birthplace and date on AIM, quirky on Gmail…each has a purpose, so it actually helps in keeping different types of e-mails separated. Just remember you need an e-mail on a resume, so don’t go crazy…or set one up just for professional correspondence. I don’t think Cutebuns09 would go over well at a law firm, but it might work at a bakery. 🙂

    • That’s brilliant–Cutebuns09 would be perfect for a bakery. But yes, you bring up a great point about having a “professional” e-mail address. At some point I decided that I wanted the world to know professional Jamey in almost the same way it knows personal Jamey, so I use the same address for everything.

  5. randomlogic

    my aim name was randmlogic because randomlogic was taken.

    I’m still friends with the very first person I ever e-mailed with. I met him in a science olympiad chat room. He’s now married, just defended his PhD and starting a faculty position teaching Russian literature. Go figure.

  6. My first ever email address and AOL IM name was Love ACS. Somewhere down the line AOL redid it and changed it to Loveacs. The original reason I chose the name was because my Grandmere called me her “little love” as a pet name and ACS because of my initials. AOL changing it to Loveacs has gotten me some unwanted email and offers. A bunch of people think it’s Loveacts as in I’m some vicious man-eater, or else they assume I’m some webcam girl. My friends find this hilarious and frequently ask me about the email I’ve gotten and/or how many men’s lives I’ve destroyed over the past week. I have thought about changing it, but since I have separate email and IM names for work and such there isn’t a need. Not to mention that I remember the real reason I made it and it makes me think of my Grandmere. Man-eater and webcam girl I shall stay.

    • You have the same problem I’ve had! Sadly I still use the same E-mail since the late 90’s, mainly because everything is sent there, bills, facebook updates, and family sends everything there. Like you, I picked the E-mail for a specific reason, however by changing it,it feels as if I would be denying the original reason I chose it…or even worse, denying a part of myself existed for the last 11 years. In certain friend circles back home I’m known by this E-mail address and sometimes people even referred to me by my E-mail/ IM name because it fit? (Yeah, its a little weird.) I’ve debated giving up this E-mail in exchange for one where people won’t think of me as some sort of “60’s-band-loving-harlot”, but then once people get to know me, they realize differently. Like you, the name is staying, why mess with something when it keeps working, even with some of the unwanted attention!

      P.S. It is so cool your Grandma was you inspiration for your E-mail address! 🙂

      • Exactly, plus sometimes the unwanted attention gives me and my friends our laugh for the day.
        Being thought of as some sort of “60s-band-loving-harlot” might be fun. Somewhere in the late 90s, I actually made a screen name in honor of my favorite band at the time (Backstreet Boys) and I have no idea how to get rid of it. It’s like linked to my AOL email too which is awful. I get tortured for that too. Too bad I can’t go back in time and warn my younger self about the importance of an adult sounding email/IM name.

  7. This reminds me of Funny People:
    Ira: I can give you my fax number and my e-mail.

    George: What’s your e-mail?

    Ira: My e-mail? It’s

    George: Wow. I’m just… I’m starting to reconsider asking you.

    Ira: Don’t do that. It’s from high school. It was funny then.

    George: Yeah, you should change it.

    Ira: It’s, like, 13 years old, and everyone I know knows it…
    Okay, I will.

    George: I mean change it now.

    In high school, my very first email address ever was I think I was 16 or so when I got it. About a year and a half ago, I was sending out resumes, and my Mom pointed out that “jadepunkchick” at the top of a resume hardly inspires confidence in a potential job candidate. “Why don’t you change it?” she asks me. “Well,” I reply, “I’ve had this same address for more than 10 years, and everyone knows it, and there’s a lot of other accounts and such linked to it…”

    Shortly after that, I saw the movie Funny People. I immediately changed my email address to I had a job offer within a week…

  8. First email I ever had: RachelBaby86. For as long as I can remember, my cousin has called me Rachel Baby and I’ve called him Jonah Baby. I was born in ’86, and it seemed like a natural choice. That was pretty standard in the ’90s. Nickname + birth year.

    My AIM Screen name is where the real embarrassment sets in: jstnsgurlnsync. Got that? My love for Justin Timberlake will forever be immortalized by AOL Instant Messenger. And gosh darnit, I’m ok with it. It’s actually still fairly accurate, if not a little dated.

    I have the standard firstinitial,secondinital,lastname, number GMail account now. Sadly, RachelBaby probably wouldn’t have gotten many jobs.

  9. OMG I REMEMBER WANDA!!! She always blasted Q94, and she was paper thin but in a ‘don’t cross this woman’ red-neck kinda way. I too appreciated the pride she took in getting us there on time, and in style. My grandmother drove my school bus in elementary school, and she also had an obsession with my tush – except since she was my grandma, she took that extra step of actually pinching it. I had no idea Wanda was so flirtatious with you – what a visual I will have of this interaction for the rest of the day…. cutebuns. hahahahahahhahaa. You were so straight laced back then. ;P

    • Yep, that’s Wanda! She was a great bus driver. I can’t speak for the quality of your tush, but Wanda seemed greatly pleased with mine. I feel like it was our currency–she got me to school on time, and I lifted my backpack a little higher when I walked off the bus. 🙂

  10. My first ever email/screen name was sweet-chica13 and it was on which I don’t think exists anymore. We got the Internet when I was 13 and I really should not have been in chat rooms that young. Does anyone else remember the first question people ask in a chat room? A/S/L (age/sex/location)
    A year later, my mom created a hotmail account for me as princessmichellekay.
    In 2005 I started using chellykay as my handle for everything instead. It’s still anonymous enough that no one will reach through my computer and steal my wallet.

  11. I just read this….I thought you might like to know what my first AOL IM name was…but let me preface that information with a bit of backstory.

    I was 15, going on 16. We had just gotten a computer and we were rationed 40 hours/month on it. Dad was UBER strict about our time limits and checked out everything we did, including chat rooms. I thought chatting was super cool and so I snuck downstairs to the basement to chat after they went to bed.

    Anyway… Dad was the gatekeeper to The Internet, he chose our names. Keep in mind that my family is pretty conservative, Christian and I was sheltered growing up. My Christian father came up with the name of all names to represent his only daughter on the World Wide Web.


    Let’s just say I was propositioned a whole lot.

    • Ansley–You could not have prefaced that story any better. Amazing. I laughed out loud when I saw your screenname. Please thank your father for the story.


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