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It Will Bite You Back

Mood: gloom & doom
Drinking: diet coke, sans vanilla

This is a story about how email done me wrong.
(Or, more accurately, how email enables my own tendencies to be an idiot.)

To start with a caveat, I’ll say that I’m one of email’s biggest fans. Since discovering it way back in the 90s when Pearl Jam was over and the Internet was the World Wide Web and the wonder was just beginning to be commonplace, I’ve sent thousands and thousands of little email gems.

It’s the easiest way for phone-o-phobes like myself to stay in touch with friends, far and near. And I’ve become pretty adept at filtering all the cheesy chain letters with frolicking flowers and kitties, the Nigerian fortune scams and the endless offers for oh-so-handy penis enlargement. (The latest one is all personalized: GROWTH4ULADONN.)

But sometimes email makes it too easy for me to be a complete idiot and sometimes even an asshole. There was the time (just this week) I got an email from a friend who had just suffered through a break up. He was letting a select group of friends know what had transpired. And knowing that he was all raw and wronged, I replied with a heartfelt and personal email to let him know I cared. You know, a private long-distance virtual hug between two friends. Except I hit “Reply All” and shared my private heartfelt virtual hug with my friend and all 17 of his friends, most of whom had no idea who I was. A fairly innocuous mistake but annoying nonetheless, because it turned sweet inentions into a cry for attention, all “LOOK AT WHAT A GOOD FRIEND I AM, SENDING THIS TOTALLY NICE MESSAGE. SEE? SEE WHAT GOOD VIBES I AM SENDING! YOU ALL SHOULD DO THE SAME, YOU MISERABLE PRICKS.”

That one wasn’t so bad. But then there was the time that earned me the temporary nickname “Darth LaDonna”. See, there was this girl, way back in the past tense, who used to be a very good friend of mine. And then we had a falling out, for a few good reasons. And then we had a getting back together. And then there was another falling out, for a thousand more reasons. And then a sort of truce. And then a whole lot of not-talking.

Years go by. We now live two thousand miles apart. She sends me an email to get reconnected, an email which includes a scantily-clad photo of herself, which left me mystified. All I could think was that she was trying to show me how skinny and pretty she thought she had become. Skinnier and prettier than me, she hoped. (‘Cuz that’s what ex-girlfriends do.) And I rose to the occasion with a bland and harmless message back to her, very noncommital, because I wasn’t sure how far I should take this whole reconnection thing. But since it was all online, since there was no real voice on the phone, it felt safe and impersonal. I could draw whatever conclusions I wanted from her glamourshot, and I did. And my conclusions were all based on a whole baggage compartment full of dusty hurts and half-forgotten resentments. I assumed the worst.

And I felt the need to share both my confusion and my assumptions with my sister (‘cuz that’s what sisters do). So I forwarded the bizarre photo, with accompanying email from the Ex-Friend, to her. I prefaced it all with a snarky little message making fun of the picture, which was all red lights and wind machine torn t-shirt, like an amateur Maxim shoot. I spent all of 15 seconds writing it. Then I hit “Send”. Which was my 2nd mistake.

My first mistake was that instead of choosing to “Forward” the message, I clicked “Reply.”

Yup. So right on the heels of my bland and vaguely friendly message, Ex-Friend gets a completely snarky, talking-out-the-other-side-of-my-mouth message. The reconnection attempt failed spectacularly, and falling out #3 took all of about 30 seconds.

What a bitch, right?

Not really. Well, sometimes yes. But the thing about email is that it makes bitches out of all of us. In a moment of passion or fervor or rage or vodka-induced-delerium, you bang out these frantic missives, some of them peppered liberally with totally inappropriate sentiments (“I used to be in love with you.”) or completely uncalled for epithets (“motherfucker” comes to mind) or ill-advised confidences (“What the hell is she thinking? I’m, like, totally not sinking to her level.”) or whatever. And you don’t even re-read it for spelling errors before you hit Send and it’s gone.

Then before you blink twice, you’re in the midst of a shitstorm that could have been avoided, god, so easily! Just by picking up the phone and talking instead. Just by writing a good old-fashioned stamp-required letter. Just by waiting ’til the sun came up. Just by waiting.

And you know what’s even more mystifying about all of this? We try to fix it all with more emails. More emails that will get misconstrued and misunderstood and sent ahead for non-involved parties to misinterpret and malign. And it just never ends.

Of course, I’ll never stop writing emails. I wouldn’t know how to go back to just paper and pen. But I’m well aware of the cost, these days.

Somehow it doesn’t seem to matter, though. I just pay the toll and keep on rolling, fingers flying, down that information superhighway.

-Lo, who thinks if anyone’s gonna call me a Bitch I should at least get to earn the title, first.

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