February 25, 2007

I am an entirely different person over e-mail, and the e-me is far more appealing. Because with e-mail, I don't have to listen. In a phone call I repeat myself, so I'm easily found out. The person I'm talking to will say: "You just asked me that! Weren't you listening?" And I'll have to be honest and say no.

Also, the e-me is brief. A few typed sentences and I'm done. But if that e-mail had been a phone call? Two hours at least. No wonder my friends all e-mail me. If I call and leave a message for them to call back, they'll respond by e-mail. An e-mail response to a phone message says: "I don't want to talk to you, but I don't want to be rude either, so I'll pretend I'm too busy to talk." Then I pretend it's not a problem. I'll write back something quick and move on. Only then they're so relieved, e-mailing a response becomes normal practice.
It used to be plans were made over the phone and broken over the phone.

I preferred it. When I leave someone a message about a plan we've made and I see an e-mail from them an hour later, I know what's coming: a broken plan. On the phone, they might hear disappointment in my voice. Nobody wants to deal with that. But with e-mail I'll write back: "Don't worry about it." No guilt, no interrogation, no accountability. The e-me is a pushover.

People seem to enjoy it when I'm brief but, unfortunately, the feeling isn't mutual. Especially when it comes to relationships. A few weeks ago I ran into an ex-boyfriend and we had an awkward moment. So that night, rather than call, I sat down and wrote him an e-mail about our relationship, what went wrong and why. I laboured over every word, every comma, making sure it was just right, revising it until it got to the point where it was so perfect it was publishable. And you know what he wrote back? One word: "okay". When it comes to one-word responses, not answering at all is a lot better. At least then there's some mystery. But writing "okay"? Why not simply write: "I can't believe you put so much time into writing this e-mail when, clearly, I don't care"?

I suppose the problem with misrepresenting oneself over e-mail is that, eventually, people will think you've changed. Then, when the true personality comes out, it's a let-down.
I was fighting with a friend over e-mail, and when she realised I wasn't giving up and, sadly, I was still me, she called. "I got tired of typing," she said. "Let's just do this over the phone."

With friends, it's one thing. But with people you don't know, it can be tricky. Liza flirts freely in text, whereas in person she's more self-conscious. Last week she got a text saying "Yummy". She had no idea who it was from, but she wrote back "Busy", because even though she didn't know who she was sending it to, she didn't want to shut it down completely and risk offending someone who might just be a future husband. Of course, if it turns out that he is her perfect match, he'll be in for a surprise when he realises he's not marrying Jessica Rabbit.

I don't do sexy texts for that reason.

I like people to lower their expectations of me. I don't do sexy e-mails either. Reading someone's sex talk is like reading poorly written erotica. If there's going to be any sex talk at all, it has to be over the phone. That way, when I'm not listening, nobody will know.