“‘And you know,’ continued the young biodynamicist, ‘I have a curious feeling, Professor, that somehow or other the numerous sheep are prized less than the one lone wolf. I wonder what is going to happen next. I wonder, for instance, what would be your attitude if our whimsical government with apparent inconsistency ignored the sheep but offered the wolf the most munificent position imaginable.’” -from Bend Sinister, Vladimir Nabokov
(Not a totally appropriate quote for the rest of this content but struck me anyhow, especially for the times we live in: ‘our whimsical government with apparent inconsistency ignored the sheep but offered the wolf the most munificent position imaginable’.)
New properties in G4
Flowing, mellifluous correspondence does not happen any longer. Where once I bought envelopes and stamps in bulk (actually I still do but not because I have such florid letter exchanges on the go), now I have very few correspondents. I think only three of my pen pals remain as regular letter writers. Many remain in my address book as people to whom I mail cds and occasional notes. I don’t really miss it that much, but sometimes I have a moment when a sense of the lost joy of letter writing hits me.
It even occurred to me recently that I don’t receive real emails any more either. The few friends with whom I used email as a primary means of communication write rarely enough that I can’t even say that we’re regularly in contact. Who knew that even email would become too much of burden? I get a lot of automated emails about property in such-and-such a district in such-and-such a city (my whole real estate porn/fetish), but seeing something personal is exceedingly rare. And often only a “poke” to get me to call or text, so it is not a means of communication but a means for prompting another kind of communication. I have consciously in the last few months tried to return much communication to email, if possible. Back to a place where I have more freedom and choice – responses happen on my time, or your time, if at all. I don’t need or want phantoms from years ago to pop up suddenly in a chat window. Like a virtual way to put everyone at arm’s length and preserve my own space. Everyone who needs to get in touch with me, and with whom I want immediate contact, knows how to reach me. Anyone else: if they really have something to say, they can email. And if they don’t, well, then I guess they don’t really need to be in touch.
I don’t want the immediacy or demanding nature of things like texting or Whatsapp unless I have invited it. I realized too late that I had fallen into following people to embrace these immediate forms of communication even when I did not want immediacy with them.
Straddle the saddle
It isn’t that I think I have to be in control of every bit of communication. But I have realized that some of it can wait. Some of it can be anticipated. Some of it feels unnecessarily prying. The intimacy of being immediately too close and too accessible is too much in most cases. It makes sense to create barriers and filters in these cases, while selectively choosing openness and accessibility with only the very few, the very dear. I will once more straddle the saddle of controlling how, when and with whom I communicate, and ride on into the sunset. And into kitchen utensil stores. 🙂
Oh, please: the voice of reason
A case in point: after I had already started writing this post, keen to build some walls between almost-random-people and myself, someone popped up today in my Whatsapp conversations; someone I might talk to twice a year and whom I don’t really know. It is, as I told him, a tenuous link. We have a brief chat and then fall totally off each other’s radar. Apparently my baked goods and I appeared in his dreams and “talking to you is warm and meaningful”. And he claims he is… in love with my voice. Oh, please. Oh, please. Oh, please.
Actually, I scrubbed “oh, please” from my vocabulary in high school when a pen pal actually sent me a card that only contained those words: “Oh, please.” I didn’t take it personally; I had told him that he seemed awfully self-absorbed, if not a little OCD, not to mention a little presumptuous, writing to me about how he spent an entire summer hunting up and down the eastern seaboard for the perfect bed comforter/duvet… and then hid it from himself so he would really appreciate it when winter came. He also told me he had been searching for years for the perfect vinegar and oil cruets for his kitchen but had still come up short. I wondered, “How many cruets can there be?” Not long thereafter my question was serendipitously answered when I walked into an antique store and saw a book titled Cruets Cruets Cruets, volume III. The presumption came when he started writing about how he expected that I would apply to colleges in Boston (to be near him?), that nothing on the west coast was worth considering (?!). Yeah, exactly… oh, please.
Am I alone, a lone wolf, in thinking that all of this smacks of too much familiarity?