Love and other subject lines.

https://thirdparty.fmpub.net/placement/401616?fleur_de_sel=timestamp 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.




Never mind the why and wherefore.*

https://thirdparty.fmpub.net/placement/401616?fleur_de_sel=timestamp 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.


It's a debate I often have with myself: Is it possible for someone you've never met to be one of your best friends? Today is a "yes" day.

Apparently, October 26 of last year was a "yes" day, too. So was November 24. Okay. Never mind — it's not a debate. It's totally possible.

I'm going through e-mails this morning that I've sent to this best friend I've never met, to write about him for his birthday. Because it's beyond the feeble capabilities of my near-exploding brain to have actually sent him a card. Never mind the tiny text up there; I'd have done this even if it hadn't been my task for the day to write about e-mail. No, really.

His name is Apron. My Masonic Apron. Dear, dear Apron.

I don't know when I started reading his blog, and for the life of me, I can't find the first hopelessly awkward e-mail I sent him to the anonymous junk-mail-and-spam-from-blog-readers address when I decided he and I needed to be friends and told him so. (It wasn't even an option for him, except, I guess, that he could have ignored it and never responded. But that's not his way. Any opportunity to put more words out there is one Mr. Apron seizes. [New York Times–style courtesy titles today? Sure.]) It's stressing me out that I can't find those first few e-mails, because I knew from the start that we actually would be friends. That I would ultimately find out his real name, start corresponding with him at the non-spam address, make things Facebook official, stalk the online White Pages for his home address and send him…snail mail. It's reciprocal, of course: He sent me a calculator watch for my birthday. In October. My birthday is in April, and he knows that.

The first message I have from that real e-mail account dates to almost exactly a year ago. I guess the dates don't matter, really. As with any good friend, it's hard to imagine my life without him in it in some form. What matters is that in the past year — or however long it's been — Mr. Apron has become the first person I reach out to in crisis and triumph, and often the only person I write when I have something grossly inappropriate to share. Breakups. Makeups. Sex-you-ups. Family squabbles. Fat-kid revelry and fat-girl self-loathing. He's definitely the first person who knew I was…QUITTING MY JOB:

(Oh lord, I'm just dying over here. What a whore. But for the record, I absolutely would have Asian Supermanned out the window of my office onto a blimp if I had a flair for that sort of physical drama.)



Anyway, he gets me. He's 750 miles away and I've never met him in the flesh (I imagine we'll laugh about that later), but he gets me. I often don't get him — he writes in bizarre metaphors, makes disgusting bodily references and peppers his missives with Yiddish phrases (or maybe that's me) and Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics — but I'm content to be deliriously mystified. His words have this awkward poetry about them that put me at ease before I've even opened a message from him. I know I'll be smiling soon, if I'm not already. I don't write him as much as I'd like to anymore. (Since I started this job, I don't do anything as much as I'd like to, including breathing.) But he's always told me not to apologize for it, so…I won't. Mr. Apron is living proof, again and again, that a person's blog scratches only the surface of who someone really is. And I can only guess that e-mails go only a little deeper than that. He called me on the phone once for advice, and that freaked us both out. (I don't do phones.) But until he decides I'm allowed to see him eat and I have enough money to travel those 750 miles to ambush him and his wife, we will have our e-mails. On Wednesday afternoon, shortly before my date — which I now feel immensely awkward even referring to because, of course, the Flightless Bipedal managed to find my post about it before we went out — he wrote me an e-mail that was mostly very sweet but ended with this: I don't know if tonight is the start of something awesomeballs for you, or if it'll just be... balls, for you, but, at the very least, may it be an evening filled with wit and wisdom, the required awkward silences, visions of giraffes and tigers, titties and beer.

It's not so much e-mail that's changed my life but the people I've come to know because of it. So happy birthday, Mr. Apron, and thanks for all the e-mails. This oink's for you.




* The title of my post is the title of a Gilbert & Sullivan song. I hope he knew that before he read the footnote. I'm sure he did. And now you do, too.