Love and other subject lines. Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.



My high school choir director never let me live it down: I broke up with my first boyfriend in an e-mail. It escapes me how my high school choir director even found out it had happened, but he did. And I did: I broke up with my first boyfriend in an e-mail. Kyle and I met at the pool the summer before high school started; we were friends for what felt like a long time before he managed one day to get into my locker and stuck a big smiley-face balloon inside with a sheet of college-rule notebook paper taped to it that said, "You're the magic the holds the sky up from the ground. Will you go out with me?" Lyrics from "Magic," a Ben Folds Five song we both loved — even though it was actually about suicide. He also made me a guitar-holding Build-a-Bear with a voice box inside that said, "Paige, it would be BEARRIFFIC if you would go to Homecoming with me!" And I broke up with him in an e-mail.

This is not an isolated incident.

In 2006, I got an e-mail from an ex-boyfriend telling me he'd driven his beaten-up Volvo 240 from Lawrence, Kansas, to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of writing screenplays with his best friend from high school. It was the sole catalyst that eventually drove me to New York City. There were more e-mails, transmitted instantly over 3,000 miles of land, that brought us back together for a few silly, ill-advised months. Our schedules were completely opposite: I had a day job on Eastern time, and he worked an overnight shift covering the police beat on Pacific time. I woke up every morning to a message, sometimes sent just before he left his desk to pass out for a few hours. Those e-mails weren't enough, of course; we visited each other twice and he broke up with me one night a few months later, unceremoniously, though not in an e-mail. I was riding the W home to Astoria and he told me over the rumble and clatter of the elevated train that he just couldn't do it anymore.

In 2008, in one futile e-mail — written over three hours as I watched the Emmy Awards on the sofa in my first Chicago apartment — I begged an emotional cripple to love me. I bared my soul to him. And he didn't even respond. I deleted all his e-mails last week in a cathartic, one-click purge I had no idea I was even capable of.

That fall, brazenly flirtatious Yelp messages and seemingly endless threads of innuendo-fueled emails led to my most disastrous relationship yet (if I had to choose one): the man who barely knew me and, after a little more than a month, moved himself and all his things to Chicago. We spent Thanksgiving together; our morning downtown at the parade is one of my only fond memories of us together. He squatted in my apartment for weeks, yelled at me for throwing away a bag of parsley and asking him to cook my eggs a little longer. I didn't sleep. I lost 10 pounds. And in the end, I sat for hours shaking at my desk in Arlington Heights, writing a 500-word e-mail telling him to get out of my apartment: "The point at which I start being scared to speak to you and don't want to be in my own apartment is the point I need to just be done."

And then there's the Knight. There are no words. Well, there are hundreds of thousands, actually, if not millions. The beginning, the middle, the end. Those e-mails are our relationship playing out in full color — with a soundtrack.

It could be said that this is all a product of the time we live in. That in the world of texts and instant messages and online dating and making things Facebook official, my history of love and other subject lines is nothing new. (It probably isn't.) It could be said — though I never would — that all these relationships have played out in large part electronically, in words, because I'm a girl with no spine. But really, I think I just…haven't ever known how to do it any other way. From my brain to a keyboard, I have a way with words. From my brain to my mouth, words have their way with me. I fumble. I say things I don't mean. I curse, and it kills the mood. I'm another version of myself in e-mails, one I sometimes like better than what I see in the mirror. It happens less and less now — I actually want to have conversations, even when they don't turn out the way I imagined them in my head. Maybe keyboard and mirror me are moving closer to one and the same, and maybe one of these days, one of these relationships will actually stick.

For now: It's not you, it's me.