Maybe this is the Internet's greatest asset to teendom: access, and the confidence to slip in and out of personalities, the ability to try on identities, the adolescent equivalent of playing dress-up in the attic, standing before the mirror in heels and lipstick long before you own your own.March 1999 I'm on line as Red720720, a cumbersome screen name that I believe, nonetheless, sounds teen-age blunt and allows me gender flexibility. In fact, I really haven't said much beyond commiserating with the pregnant girl, telling her that when my sister was pregnant she found cocoa butter helpful, that it helped her skin feel ''not as stretchy.'' I'm trying to talk in their language, although I worry that I'm not.
There are hundreds of such chat rooms on AOL, and it has taken a lot of Net navigating simply to find one that has room enough to let me in.
For all the crowds and clamoring, there's not much being said in this chat room, or rather, not much that's being paid attention to.
'' Watch out,'' he writes, in a flashy robin's-egg-blue font, '' I'm coming in. I spend a lot of time cruising E-zine sites for teen-agers and connecting to the ever-multiplying number of hyperlinks a lot of the Web pages offer. But in fact, I manage my first cyber-romance with a guy I meet a series of links away from a surfing site. He has something like a million screen names on a million different sites.
He tells me he is 16, from Honolulu, but wants to get out of there soon to come to the continental U. We chat a few times, about waves and about whether the volcanoes in Hawaii are cool.
Once a generation saw itself grow up on TV; now a generation is watching itself grow up on line.
It would follow then that the 31 million teen-agers of Gen Y or Generation Why or Echo Boomers or Millennials, as this group is variously called, would have completely new ways of perceiving one another and themselves. Teen-age years -- at least in my memory -- are reserved largely for trying out different personas.
(I have to think to remember not ''very cool.'') We become pals, going as far as to search for each other in a variety of spots if a couple of days go by without contact.
Then one night, out of nowhere, he asks me if I want to cyber. ) I say no, but agree to send him a kiss, which I do.
Another girl, 17, asks, '' Are your parents cool with it?