“Did you see it yet?” Elizabeth asked over the phone, her tone of voice urgent and worried.

“See what?” I said, exasperated.  Z was outside playing with his friends, working up a grand sweat in the hot July sun.  Melinda was happily playing with her rattles and toys in the family room, and I sat there with her, watching Z through the window.

Elizabeth often called to alert me to something going on with the myriad of personalities we were managing together online.  Vivian still put out a paper newsletter to her hundreds of fan club members, but the online mailing list that she’d asked Elizabeth to help her open up was where the action was in that summer of 2000.  While the websites I ran served the purpose of drawing the fans to Rick and gave them news and information, for those who wanted to share their experiences with other fans, the online mailing list was the most living, breathing component of the fan experience.

I’d always liked Elizabeth; we’d started chatting in 1996 when I’d come to the fan club chats and seemed to share a lot of the same interests outside of the Rick Springfield experience.  We were similar in age and we both had young children.   When Vivian had asked who to pull into the fold to help with the mailing list, Elizabeth immediately sprung to mind; she had a knowledge of the internet and geekdom that I could only dream of.

That being said, Elizabeth took her job so seriously that she did it all day long, from the moment she woke up until long after the rest of the world was asleep.  A stay at home mother, she reasoned she was online anyway, so keeping tabs on our email list and keeping it running smoothly was easy to do.

“Kriss from California posted a link to a website that basically is a satire of your work on”

“What do you mean?”  I could feel my dander rising as I helped Melinda reach the plastic keys that she was reaching for.  She rolled over, her chubby legs rearing in her first attempts at crawling.

“I mean,” Elizabeth said, frustrated, “That she basically makes fun of the website and its lack of technical skill.”

My heart sank.  It was true; I was not a professional web designer and I’d never claimed to be.  Most of the fans who joined our mailing list knew that I’d risen up through the ranks of fans on the merits of a website that Rick saw and liked.  There were dozens of them cropping up that summer, nipping at the heels of the work I was doing.

If I hadn’t already had an innate sense of feeling horribly unqualified to fulfill the role that Rick Springfield had given me, these fans made it blatantly obvious that they felt Rick should pick them instead of me.  I was already working every second of Melinda’s naps and when she went to bed trying to learn how to use the Photoshop program Amy had given me last summer, hoping to make the site always more attractive and professional looking.  I needed to learn more, quickly, about graphic design and the newer codes to make the site stay ahead of the game.  The pressure pushed at me, taking my attention away from my baby girl and son outside and towards the online world where I was spending an increasing amount of my time.

“Shit, really?” I said, getting up and going into the kitchen where my laptop sat on the kitchen counter.  It would take minutes to start it up.  “I just don’t get how people are so mean.  I mean, this girl doesn’t even know me, has never even met me.  I’m doing the best I can.  How bad is it?”

“I’ve already sent her an email telling her that it’s pretty shitty of her to basically come into your house and then complain.  Which is essentially what she’s doing; she’s using our mailing list, with its thousand person audience, to complain about one of the people that started the list.  That’s pretty ungrateful.  Plus she’s wrong.  The site is great; Rick said so himself.”

“I agree that it sucks that she would come online to the place I’ve helped create and then complain about me.  Still, she has a point.  I’ve seen her site; she’s got some beautiful stuff  on there.  I know there are fans out there that could do this, and do it better.  Oh. My. Goodness.”

I had just pulled up her message, and clicked the link to her mock version of my work on Rick’s website.  Not only was it harsh, but it hit right to my worst fears about my work; that it just wasn’t good enough to be representing a multiplatinum recording artist.

“Don’t pay any attention to her.  She’s just jealous.”

I sighed, hearing Melinda starting to fuss for her lunch.  I cradled the phone as I positioned her at my breast, sitting on the sofa to still keep an eye on Z.  “She might be jealous, but she’s also right. Mean, but right.  I have to step up my game.  I am going to have to work on a redesign.  The bevel effect is definitely over with; and the buttons are crowded.  I need something neater, and cleaner.”

“Well certainly the best way to answer a critic is by outdoing them. Don’t worry, I’ve already deleted her message from the archives of the mailing list.”

I looked down at my daughter, but didn’t see her.  Instead I saw a million ideas running through my head for how I would improve the site and its design.  In just a few hours she would go down for her nap and I could get started, I thought.

“Thanks, Eliz.  I appreciate the heads up.”  I was going to have to start getting up earlier and working before the kids got up.  I couldn’t just rest on my laurels; if I wanted to keep this gig, I had to keep up. With what fans were saying, what they were doing, with the trends in site design.  I was seeing Rick in three weeks in Columbus; I set a goal in my head of having a redesign ready by then to share with him..  I could do it, if I started putting more time in online.

Without even seeing it, I had started the slow descent into living more of my life in cyberspace than I was in the real world.


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