Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Everyone called her Queenie, because she was such a “drama queen!” And she liked the nickname because it brought her immediate attention. When Facebook became available, she’d found her medium, keeping her pages up-to-date all through college and after graduation, into her new job. She strove to be the most popular and best connected; the supreme social networker.

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She talked one of her boyfriends, a computer programmer, into creating an application to monitor and compare her friends' Facebook pages with her own. It tallied their numbers of friends, comments, photos, tags, invitations, and such, and reported on who had the most. She called it Magic Mirror, because it would tell her if she was the fairest of them all. When she fell behind – which happened rarely – she anxiously pursued new friends and posted status updates and photos, all aimed to push her Magic Mirror score back to the top.

When she married her high school sweetheart, George Blanca, the best-looking boy in their graduating class, her friends teased her, “We won’t be seeing you so much on Facebook, now that you’ll be busy with George!” But marriage spurred her on. She tagged wedding photos and friended George’s friends and relatives. She was the supreme social networker.

They named their beautiful little daughter Nieve, “after George’s grandmother’s,” Queenie said, “but we just call her Evie.” Much to everyone's surprise, Queenie's Facebooking accelerated with photos of little Evie at each milestone and in each new outfit. Her friends, many of them young mothers themselves, marveled, “Queenie, how do you find the time for Facebook?” Her response: “I always find time for what’s important.”

Evie grew up watching her mother on Facebook and, of course, wanted her own page. But Queenie insisted, “You’re too young. Facebook is for when you’re older.” In high school, Evie implored her mother, “All my friends have Facebook pages. Why can’t I?” George was sympathetic, and talked with Queenie. Finally, in her senior year, Queenie opened a Facebook account for Evie and set up her page. Evie was pleased, but puzzled. “If it’s my Facebook page, why are you setting it up? It’s mine!” Evie changed her password and took control. When Queenie offered to help and share some of her knowledge of social networking, Evie responded angrily. “I’m doing fine on my own.” Nonetheless, Queenie patiently offered her assistance and proudly liked and shared her daughter’s updates.

Queenie checked Evie’s Facebook page daily and, in secret, monitored her activity with Magic Mirror. As Evie's Magic Mirror score rose, Queenie felt proud of her daughter’s efforts and growing skill. But as Evie’s score continued to rise, Queenie’s pride turned into disinterest, and then displeasure and disdain. “You’re spending too much time on Facebook,” she told Evie, “I’m not going to help you anymore. You’re on your own. You didn’t want my help anyway.”

As George saw it, this was just the beginning of a series of mother-daughter conflicts. Queenie wanted to keep an eye on her, so when Evie was accepted to the local college, that was the end of the story, even though Evie had received a scholarship to a college three hours away. The summer after her high school graduation was particularly problematic since mother and daughter spent so much time together. George looked forward to the beginning of Evie's first semester at college, anticipating that with her busy academic schedule these conflicts would ease. But to his disappointment, matters got worse. Conflicts grew – everything from which car Evie should drive to school and what she should pack for lunch to responsibilities for household chores and priorities for class assignments. No doubt, all of these conflicts were exacerbated by the fact that, with the addition of Evie's new college friends, her Facebook Magic Mirror score had approached her mother's.

George watched these mother-daughter conflicts in agony. He talked with them, but each problem they solved was replaced by a new one. By mid-semester, with no resolution in sight, he convinced Queenie to allow Evie to transfer to the a more distant college where, instead of living at home and commuting, she would live in the dormitory.

Evie arrived for her second semester on her new campus, apprehensive on one hand, hopeful on the other. The dorms were at capacity, so she didn't have any choice about her living situation. She was assigned to a suite.

On her arrival, one of the girls opened the door. “You must be Nieve!” she exclaimed, smiling and excitedly nodding her head up and down. “My name’s Roberta, but everyone calls me Bobbie. Come on in.”

“Don’t believe her,” called a voice from inside the suite, “we call her Bobble because she’s a bobblehead.” Appearing at the door, she continued, “I’m Dorothy, but they call me Dourthy, or just Dour. They say I’m sour, but I’m not, I’m just realistic.”

Evie stepped into the suite’s living room, where she saw a third girl with puffy eyes and a reddened nose. “Hi, I’m Stephanie, Stuph for short, because I have allergies and I’m always stuffed up.” She turned to introduce another girl who just entered from one of the bedrooms. “And this is Ikki. She’s really smart, but she doesn’t like to admit it.”

“My real name’s Nicole,” she said, “but ‘Nikki’ is apparently too conventional for this suite. So, Nieve, that’s Spanish, right? Do you have a nickname?”

“Evie, just call me Evie.” She was pleased to be greeted so warmly by these girls. She noticed another girl, standing off in the corner. “Who’s that?”

“Oh, that’s Ilona, but we call her Lona,” Ikki replied. “Come on Lona, come over and say hi.” Lona came closer and extended her hand.

“What’s all the noise about?” Another girl entered from her bedroom, rubbing her eyes and yawning. “Is this the new girl?”

“Hi, I’m Nieve, but everyone calls me Evie. And you are …”

“Dawn. But they call me Yawn. You’ll never guess why.”

“Well, I guess you’ve met everyone,” said Bobble, “so let’s help you get moved in.”

“Duh,” called a voice from the kitchen, “even I can count up to seven.” Another girl made her way into the living room. “Hi, I’m Denise, but they call me Duh. Get it? Duhnise.”

“Yeah,” Evie replied, “I get it. I have seven suitemates, and I just hope I fit in.”

With her suitemates’ help, she quickly moved in. The suite was already over-full since it was designed for six. It had three double rooms, one of which was a bit larger and used as a triple. Evie moved into the living room, the room that everyone used but no one cleaned up. She worked hard every day to pick up the mess.

Even though Evie was the tallest, her seven suitemates were each a year or two older than she. They proved to be an interesting bunch. Ikki seemed to know everything about anything. She loved biology, especially dissection. Evie figured that’s why they called her Ikki. Duh, by contrast, seemed so lacking in common sense it was hard to believe she had been accepted to college. Stuph rarely remembered to take her allergy medications. Bobble was always so upbeat it verged on annoying. She got along well with everyone, even Dour, who was at the other end of the spectrum, short-tempered and direct, more inclined toward negatives than positives. Yawn was a procrastinator who stayed up late almost every night to complete her assignments. Lona never initiated a conversation but she was a good listener and when she spoke, it was because she had something genuine to say. Evie was amazed to find that, in spite of their differences, they were all very close and dedicated to each other. She was extremely pleased and indeed honored that they took her in and accepted her. She figured the dorm director must have known this was a group that could adopt a newcomer.

She wasn't looking for a boyfriend, but when a very nice-looking and well-mannered young man came by to visit the suite, she was enchanted. He already new her seven suitemates and all their cutesy nicknames. He referred to them collectively as “the minors,” a reflection, she believed, of the fact that they were all under the age of 21. Her suitemates referred to him as “the prince.” She supposed that his family was well-to-do, or at least he acted that way. When asked her out, she accepted, and thereafter they were often seen together.

With all of these new friends, and their friends, and more friends that she made in her new classes, the number of her Facebook friends surged, not to mention the number of comments on her updates and the photos in which she was tagged. She became the supreme social networker. Her Magic Mirror score soared, although she didn't know it because she didn't have Magic Mirror installed.

But her mother did.

“She thinks she’s so cute in those photos! She assumes she’s so well liked! Better than her own mother!” Queenie spent nearly all her time trying to build up her Magic Mirror score, but she couldn't catch up to her daughter. She was distraught, and then became desperate. She saw only one solution. She became fixated on it and plotted secretly without George’s knowledge.

She found her old boyfriend, the computer programmer, on Facebook. He wrote a computer program enabling her to take over Evie’s Facebook account. She called it Poison Apple. She unfriended Evie’s friends and deleted her photos, status updates, and comments.

The next time Evie signed into Facebook, she entered her email address and password again and again, but it didn’t work. When she looked at her public Facebook page, her updates were gone. Photos gone. Friends gone. And then she started getting messages. “Why did you unfriend me?” “Why did you remove that photo of you and me at the party?” What happened? She was upset and alarmed and didn’t know what to do. She confided in “the prince,” hoping that he would have some advice. “Don’t ask me,” he said, “you should ask the ‘miners.’”

“The ‘minors?’ You mean my suitemates? What would they know?” she asked.

“What do you mean, ‘What would they know!’ They’re the computer geniuses! They’re the ones everyone comes to with their data problems! Why did you think we call them the ‘miners,’ the ‘data miners!’”

“I didn’t know!” Evie replied. “I noticed they all spend a lot of time on their computers, but I figured they were just doing homework.” She returned to her dorm and showed the suitemates her Facebook account.

With barely an explanation they set to action. Never before had Evie seen seven individuals get to work so fast, coordinate so effortlessly, working individually and in shifting pairs and trios, and share information and trade ideas so freely. And it was all for her. She never felt so taken care of.

Dour took her aside and promised, “Evie, we’ll sort this out. It may take us hours or days, but we’re persistent. We will fix this for you.” Bobbles was as bubbly as ever, but worked as hard and fast as anyone. Stuph came over with her bottle of allergy medication. “Evie,” she said, “remind me to take one of these every four hours. Just interrupt me.” Lona sat with one girl at a time, listening carefully to understand a problem she encountered. Then, after thinking about it for several minutes, Lona would suggest two or three different approaches for how to work on it. Yawn worked all night while the others got some sleep. Duh, it now became clear, provided important insights. When she helped another girl solve a problem, the other girl said, “Duh, I should have seen that!” Evie was wrong about Ikki, too. As each girl left the suite for class she told Ikki everything she had done and what problems she was working on. Ikki integrated all this information and saw the big picture in all of its details. She managed to keep track of everything. Her high IQ had earned her the nickname Iqqi.

Thirty-four hours later they sent a technical memo advising Facebook of a security hole in its identification system. Then they asked Evie to sit down to hear their report.

“The good news is, we reclaimed your account and re-established your friends and photos and everything. The bad news is, we found out who stole your account.”

“The bad news! Who was it?”

“Your mother.”

Evie was shocked. She called her father and they had a long talk. She talked to her psychology professor and with her advice, met with a counselor at the health center. She came to understand her own growing desire for autonomy and recognition as an adult, and as well, her mother’s long-felt insecurity and need for attention. With support and prodding from George, mother and daughter talked and they saw a family therapist. And while it can’t be said that they lived happily ever after, every day, they tried.

© 2014 Sandor Schuman. All rights reserved.
An updated version of this story was published in Distressing Damsels: A Fairy Tale Anthology, 2017, Fantasia Divinity.