Thoughts about Emails

It is said that 80% of all emails are written by women. That’s not so surprising granted the fact that women are widely considered better communicators. What really interests me today is not the individual communiqués from friends, but the barrage of forwarded mass-mailed emails, mostly from women, that carry religious, medical, philosophic, psychological, artistic, and political messages.

Almost daily emails arrive that speak of situations and problems related to aging. Some are sweet and sentimental— the “love yourself as you are, varicose veins and all” variety—or the power of positive thinking—“Life isn’t about the passing storms. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Some are truly funny and some hit home with a gallows humor. Some are full of free medical advice and warnings about the food we eat, the water we drink, the exercise we do, or do not do, and the symptoms that should scare us to death. A reminder to go to the dermatologist to check for suspicious moles, with horror stories from those who waited too long, has certainly prompted me to have a yearly check.

 There are myriad approaches to women’s safety. Watch for strangers and check the back seat of your car in a big-box parking lot and, of course, lock your car instantly before you drive away. Recently, I received advice about having a can of Wasp Killer— rather than mace—handy at all times to ward off intruders in the home. The idea is that Wasp spray can shoot accurately up to twenty feet away and when aimed at the eyes will temporarily, painfully blind the person. As a result, you will have enough time to get away or, at the very least, call 9-11. 

Sometimes, the messages are aesthetic with examples of extraordinary talent. Animal stories and pictures, including the Best of National Geographic, can take hours of time to study and swoon over. Chinese acrobats can take my breath or, more often, make me feel sedentary and calcified. Patterns and designs, close to perfect realistic depictions have appeared in rice fields, flower gardens and on carved watermelons. It seems there is no end to worldwide, innovative talent.

 Recently, I received several copies of a YouTube featuring a film of the life of a boy who was born blind with severe physical handicaps. Through the commitment and faith of his parents, he became a fine pianist and is now marching with his school band in a wheel chair. What a wake-up call to anyone with even the slightest tendency towards complacency or self-pity!

 Other emails are not so uplifting. I am constantly amazed at the number of predictions that the end of the world is coming because of the infiltration of heathens, or Muslims, or any possible difference of opinion other than fundamental Christianity. As a life long believer—albeit an Episcopalian with endless questions—I wonder if the sender wants to test me or convert me or just hurt my feelings. I continue to be shocked by people I enjoy knowing socially who harbor convictions that Barack Obama was not born in the United States or that all of us who are registered Democrats are closet socialists, if not communists.

All in all, with more than twenty-five unsolicited emails a day, sometimes many more, on my computer screen, I cannot help wondering what would happen if there were a charge for each one. Would opinions be handed out so consistently and with such magnitude? Sometimes I am even asked to forward the emails to seven other people and I will have good luck if I do, or bad luck if I don’t. When I think of the marvelous tool that emails provide: immediate answers to questions that would take weeks by snail mail, business that can be conducted, invitations that can be offered and answered, changes of plans, encouragement, condolence and congratulations, all instantly—and particularly personal messages between family and friends—I am an enormous fan of the technology. Whether I am writing to or receiving messages from my son who lives in Hong Kong or my grandchildren who live in other cities or are away at school, I am grateful for the easy, cheap and efficient method of communicating. I just need to remind myself  that even if 80% of the emails are sent by women, I still have a 100% option to use the delete button.

(originally published in a slightly different form in the Boca Beacon)