Monday, December 19, 2005

A Great New Tool for Self-Loathing

This story on the AP wire caught my attention. It reports on web sites that allow you to write e-mails to yourself in the future. You go to a site -- like -- draft a letter, tell them where and when to send it (for instance, send to on 12/19/2025), then sit back and wait to hear from you.

My first thought was: Isn't this a very Orwellian method of torturing yourself? I mean, what if you forget the date on which you told it to send the thing? We've all sat bathed in the computer's glow, anxiously clicking to refresh the in box every three minutes because we're desperately waiting on an e-mail from some girl or guy. Haven't we? Huh? (OK, right, I'm the only obsessive one. Sure.) Do we really want an onanistic version of that experience, hunched over a dimly lit desk, muttering, "C'mon self, write to me, dammit"?

(I think the best-case scenario, in terms of entertainment value, is that someone sends a highly detailed e-mail, with many specifics only they would know, and then literally forgets doing it. Twenty-five years later, they receive the message and start freaking out, triggering them to quit their job and embark on an extended, Matrix-like, ultimately misguided investigation into the nature of reality.)

And what do you say in these messages? I would barely know where to begin with myself today, much less years from now. But since I've drawn attention to this trend, it seems the only honorable thing to do is take a stab at it. So here's my draft to me, to be sent -- oh, I don't know -- twenty years from now.
Dear Me -- You?,

Well, this is the stupidest thing ever, huh?

How's the social life? As I write this, you're in New York. If you're somewhere else now, and feeling bad about it, don't: Remember how the subways drove you crazy, and everyone incessantly talked about their career, when they weren't pretending to have devoured the last few issues of the New York Review of Books? Remember how you felt obligated to have a fully formed, defensible opinion of even the most minor literary critics? Then again, if you're somewhere else and feeling good about it, are you crazy? New York is the best -- it's all downhill from here. Can people even read where you live now? Are your kids in some school district that offers an advanced-placement class on creationism? I mean, really, are you insane?

Just between you and me, whatever happened with that one girl? I'm dying to know. And on that note (with some hope thrown in): How are the wife and kids? That's assuming you have any or all of the above. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

Are you still "writing" and editing, or did you finally go to law school at age 44? As I write this, you're maintaining a blog with some regularity, so I hope you eventually felt the proper amount of shame -- for hurting the office productivity of your dozen closest friends, if nothing else.

I hope you've either cut back on or severely ramped up the recreational drinking; nothing's worse than being noncommittal.

In short, I hope you've made me/us proud. My requirements are pretty skimpy -- if you've avoided any major indictments and if you haven't forced good friends to read through too many drafts of too many bad novels, then that's a start.

As for me, I was happy. People I care about have gone through rough times, you probably at least have completed drafts of bad novels, and the MTA is threatening to strike; but everyone's reasonably healthy, spring training starts in two months, and it's a sunny day in the city on the brink of winter proper -- the light is bright and cold, the way we've always liked it.

You (Me)



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