“Can you repeat that?” Whether from the cashier, the bank teller, or the loan officer it’s the same raised-eyebrow reaction. I tell them my email, and then they ask to hear it again. I take a deep breath, give a resigned smile, and say, “Yeah. Sorry. It’s weird. I set it up a long time ago.” 

Fifteen years ago, to be exact. 

Back then I couldn’t have guessed just how often I would need to recite my email address in adulthood. I like to think that if I had known I would have picked a different, and, well, slightly less embarrassing moniker. 

And I sense I’m not alone. 

After talking with friends and family, I think America needs a blanket pardon for people like me — and probably you — who made their first email address at age 13. For me, I needed an email in case I had to correspond with Leonardo DiCaprio, you know, if the occasion ever arose.

These email addresses linger in our backgrounds like embarrassing secrets, waiting to get out. They come with AOL, Yahoo, Lycos or Netscape tacked on the end, as if they’re foreign ruins left over from the early aughts. 

My username was Megara226. I had just seen Disney’s “Hercules” and decided to base my whole personality on Megara, the quick-witted, surly brunette with whom Hercules falls in love. I had to add the 226 because a savvier preteen had probably already claimed just Megara.

While cringing in remembrance of the Megara era, I decided to ask what email addresses my peers had chosen for themselves in their formative years. I received hundreds of responses, shared in solidarity with the particular shame we all feel when we reflect on any decision we made between the ages of 11 and 17.

Some respondents explained they had created monikers that presented idealized, fictional versions of themselves. These email addresses often included activities the user would like to try, or interests they wish they had. Hoopgirl from a user who thought she might one day care about basketball. Tennis_maniac4 created by someone who had never played tennis. Multiple friends from landlocked Utah and Colorado included “surfbum” in their monikers. Ag_horse_lover never owned a horse. Violinchickliz neither plays the violin nor goes by Liz.

Some respondents had been desperate to share their fashion preferences a decade before the rise of fashion blogs or Instagram. They decided an email address was the place to let the world know which brands they wore. Since there was no cooler brand in the late ’90s than Roxy, the Quicksilver line for female surfers, there was no cooler email address than one that included Roxy in it. Respondents shared their emails of yore; Roxygal86, Roxygurl, Foxyroxy or Surfergirl_quicksilver19, because every possible Roxy-adjacent address was likely taken. 

Others used their email addresses to pay homage to their favorite media and pop culture icons. 

ToyStoryRocks. Hogwarts1701. Teamedward9944. AgentScully85. Bassbabe, made by a Lance Bass fan, prior, of course, to her learning of his sexual preferences. 

Iminlovewithleo95 from a fellow DiCaprio worshipper. I see you. 

And some endeavored to encapsulate their entire personality in under 20 characters. Shortsonly from a guy who only wore shorts as a child. And Oopsifaaaaaaaaaarted from someone with a skatalogical sensibility and plenty of time to type. Princess_abbie and Rockerchick87. 

All of these users expressed regrets. 

But no type of user has greater regret than the user who created their email hoping to catch the attention of the opposite sex. Hotbrunette and H0ttiehere. The thought was, I think, that if you simply stated you were attractive, others would believe you. 

My favorite is annlovesbrandonforever because Ann, the email’s creator, now cannot remember Brandon’s last name. 

We kept our embarrassing first accounts until we knew better. I used megara226 to receive and send chain emails and tie up the family phone line for hours while chatting on MSN messenger. I used it to apply to Brigham Young University, and once I was accepted in spite of my stupid email address, I used it to register for classes. 

But a semester or two into my higher education, as email became a more critical component in my academic career and social life, I decided to retire the account named for a Disney cartoon in favor of what I thought was something more professional and sophisticated. So I created my second embarrassing email address.

Oh that I could travel through time back to that fateful day in 2006. I would yell in the confused face of 19-year-old-me “JUST USE YOUR NAME. DON’T TRY AND BE CLEVER.” But the space time continuum remains intact and so I live every day with the consequences of having picked the email moniker of “MEGMORE”

“More,” because my maiden name is Morley. Not even spelled Morely. It’s Morley. But I thought it was a fun play on words? Right? Remember, I was still six years out from having a fully developed frontal cortex. That’s my only excuse, if it counts. That, and no one told me, possibly because no one really knew fully, just how central to my identity an email address would become. 

It was a gradual spiral. An online banking enrollment here, a social media login there. Then, one day, I was existentially tied to megmore. I was it and it was me — this moniker reads as nonsense at best and spam from a supplement brand at worst. 

I should have changed it long ago. But I didn’t and now I’m in too deep. 

Thankfully I have separate work emails for professional correspondence, so I’m spared some embarrassment on a professional level. But jobs come and go, and one must have a home base account for everything outside of work. 

So Megmore must live as long as I do, and probably well beyond. 

And that’s regrettable. But I take solace in knowing I’m not the only one. There’s an entire lost generation of us early email adapters who chose our online identifiers at too young an age before we understood the power or future ubiquity of the internet.

Most of these accounts have gone the way of megara226. The owners are now smart, productive members of society who have moved on to email addresses that reflect their intelligence and professional capacity. 

But there are some like myself who have traveled too far down the embarrassing email road and now must mutter “princess_jessica_32” or “Blink182fanbrandon when a cashier asks where to send the electronic receipt. A small indignity, yes, but also a comical reminder of our shared humanity.

Meg Walter is the editor-in-chief of The Beehive and a Deseret News contributor.