I just subscribed to this thing Miranda July is doing where famous people from all walks of life (actors, authors, artists, people I’ve never heard of) forward you an email from their “sent” box. This week’s theme was “an email that includes a picture of yourself,” so all the emails from the actors and authors and artists and people I’d never heard of included a photo they had sent someone.
The first email was from the young phenom Lena Dunham, who I like quite a bit. And what was interesting about it was not the photo of her in a naughty Catholic girl skirt, it was the long, mid-90’s girlfriendy email-letter format (read it). Remember those? Remember when we wrote letters over email? Long, newsy, funny, personal, loving emails to the friends we missed after college. They were a lot like the ones we used to write by hand, only they didn’t enjoy so many centuries of popularity and crabby people don’t lament their demise with as much regularity.
And this got me thinking about a couple of those friends I have lost now that no one writes the long email letter anymore. The problem is that decline of this particular literary form is closely aligned with my blossoming phone phobia. Unless I keep up with you on a regular basis and see you all the time, I am scared to talk to you on the phone. I can handle quick plan-making phone calls, but I dread the catch-up call like most people dread public speaking. Chances are, if you are one of my old, long-lost friends, “call Your Name” has been traveling from to-do list to to-do list for years now.
And this is sad because this is how you lose your friends. How I lose my friends. Specifically my creamy-cheeked friend Vida, who I met in ninth grade and who runs a medical access organization for immigrants in Wyoming, and who remains one of my favorite people ever on earth even though I haven’t spoken to her in three years and she has a whole entire child whose name I do not know. And my crazy-beautiful friend Tara who I met in that writing class in Portland right after college when we were both so miserable and lost except that we found each other. She now lives in Germany and has adopted a son from Russia and I no longer really know much about her life. The last time I saw her was at her wedding at the UN, where my milk-full breasts kept threatening to topple from my dress and that guy sang that crazy opera poem.
I know bridges are easily crossed and forgiveness is something most people want to give. And yet, I still don’t call. I plan to. But I don’t. And every day and week and month and year that goes by just makes that catch-up call all the more daunting. But here comes Lena Dunham, to remind me of that moment in time when I was in my 20s and had lots of time and lots of great tales of love gone wrong and I maintained friendships simply by virtue of those funny, self-deprecating, newsy, loving, melodramatic email letters.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say exactly. This is part feeble excuse, part nostalgic waxing, part lament. I should probably have something big to say about technology and human relationships. How I came of age in the early days of email and got stuck there. Although that’s not true because I Facebook like mad. I even tweet when called upon to do so. So this is not a luddite’s elegy for a bygone technology. It’s more just that I miss my friends and I feel bad about losing touch, and that this morning, when I read Duham’s email, I was flooded with affection for two people to whom I badly owe letters.