Note: Don't forget to read more about my journey on my personal blog, So about what I said...
It was official: Our clandestine late-night (OK, 7 p.m.) rendezvous had become habitual. Like a slow tango between two wounded souls, a force beyond our control brought us together night after night. In that dark room, he pulled me toward his soft glow. Except for the ticking of the clock and the tiny sliver of moonlight that crept in through the bay window, we were alone. Just the two of us.
We’d been meeting in secret for months, but my stomach still swarmed with butterflies every night. I’d come to like the mystery in our well-orchestrated meetings – how I’d slip on my glasses, how my hands began to shake nervously, how every little move brought us closer together.
The sweet tension in the air was palpable.
I didn’t know much about him, but then again, I didn’t really need to. We never talked about our favorite song or mused about our childhood. I didn’t even know how he liked his coffee, but none of it ever mattered.
I knew this wasn’t me. I surely wasn’t that girl. Yet the sadder part was that maybe the new me didn’t even care because the second our hands met, he had a way of whispering those three little words every woman yearns to hear.
You’ve Got Mail.
The next hour went by in a haze of teeth grinding, nail biting and obsessive use of the backspace key. You’d think I was re-drafting the Declaration of Independence instead of an email that was decidedly anti-independent. I couldn’t reconcile what I’d become, but in my confusion emerged a kernel of truth: Email, it seems, is the new version of feeling out a potential love interest.
Before the days of logging on and hooking up, people courted the old-fashioned way. My grandparents, for one, extended their courtship over the Atlantic during WW II. I imagine them writing long, lengthy personal prose in long script filled with words like forever and eternally yours. Maybe my grandmother even scented her letters with perfume to add that special touch.
Deep and meaningful phones conversations once ran late into the night where giggles mingled with blushed cheeks. You heard the person’s voice, in real time – and what you said, admitted, disclosed or denied (yes, or lie) could be left unspoken the second you hung up. No records of your ramblings. No traces of your transgressions.
So now, what do my ramblings and traces look like? Who was I courting? Well, it was all there on record, no easy way to conceal, hide or erase it.
Welcome to the modern age of technology and the ubiquitous Internet. Email has become the secret weapon and ultimate tool of impression management. A scrawny geek can be a wooing wordsworth or a nice piece of male eye candy can finally give his intelligent opinion without a bunch of jaws dropping.
Cute Guy Friend and I had known each other since we barreled down the slide in elementary school. Our parents had been friends for years, so when he started emailing me after my father died six years ago, I didn’t think anything of it. It was a sweet gesture by a friend, and truthfully, I welcomed the opportunity to reminisce about the good old days and have an ear to listen to me prattle on and on about my father.
The emails started off innocent enough. A few times a month, we’d “check in” with each other. Some were serious (we’d complain about our job woes and the realities of post-college confusion). Some were fun (we’d laugh at pop culture). Some were even flirty (I’d be bold and insert an extra smiley face here and there).
A month later, I found myself in that trace. I couldn’t wait until my next fix, and I began craving that classic ding-ding-ding of my precious email inbox. Like caffeine, I needed an extra dose of checking time to get through the morning meeting. I cut lunches short. I even mentally drafted my next email on the ride home from work. And when I finally did get home, I felt that instant love as I sat down at my keyboard and poised my hands over the keyboard, ready to type poetic prose.
Over the next few months, as the warm summer weather morphed into a chilly fall, things just seemed to heat up, at least from my end. I found myself thinking of any old excuse to hit the send button. I was sure he needed to know every detail of my life. My work schedule. My dreams of being the next Carrie Bradshaw. The fact that I was leaving on vacation tomorrow and won’t have much access to email (shudder). Happy [insert holiday of choice]. OK, it’s me…again…
After awhile, I never thought too much about what I’d disclosed once my mail had been sent, but I did notice my shoulders felt lighter and I had more of a spring in my step.
When his replies became shorter and noticeably less sweet - he'd go weeks without answering my emails, which I reacted to with lots of nail-biting - I found myself epitomizing THAT girl.
Why won’t he write back?
Was I too forward?
What was I thinking when I signed off “Hope to see you soon”?
It wasn't a pretty sight.
By that night last November, my hands and fingers shivered, not from the crisp fall air wafting in from the nearby window, but from hitting the refresh button on my email one too many times. It was then I realized I was in love. In the wee hours of clicking and contemplation, I admitted the unthinkable to myself.
I was in love. I, a mature 28-year-old woman, was deep in the throes of a relationship with Dell, my trusty computer. Not Cute Guy Friend.
It was, after all, the easiest and most uncomplicated relationship I’d ever had. He was always there. He let me do all the talking. And he let me sit with my innermost feelings for as long as I needed to before I hit send. Because honestly, the last 5 months had become a sort of cleansing catharsis.
It wasn’t so much about who I was talking to (sure, it didn’t hurt that Cute Guy Friend had gorgeous eyes and had just started his own law firm), but what I was saying. In those emails, I said, err, wrote, things I wouldn’t have the courage to say on an actual date or late-night phone marathon.
I chose to be the real me. Dell didn’t care what I looked like, what I did for a living or the fact that I had a tendency to obsessively alphabetize my CD collection and quote lines from Frasier.
I stripped away everything but my words. I sat metaphorically naked, and for the first time, I felt completely and utterly comfortable. Normal even.
I’m living email-free these days, needing a bit of a break from my emotions. But unlike an impatient guy, I know Dell will still be there when I need him again.