beware: pigeon words; the ones that fly back home.
After I wrote my last post – still reeling from yet another fossilised trail of regretful words that had been spewed out into the cyber realm – I began to think about what (my) life was like before super instant messaging.
Before my ‘frenemy’ the smart phone.
Before email, sms, mms, status updates, tweets, likes, pokes, ‘grams.
The innocent days, when if you wanted to say something to someone, you had to actually stir up the courage and deliver an often shaky, but well-thought out gesture of prose: face to face!
It was a process.
It was an intelligently organised process that required adequate risk-assessment.
Sounds difficult, hey? In fact, quite the contrary. These were the good old days! The no nonsense, straight to the point, say what you mean, mean what you say, good old days.
I spent a little while romanticising about returning to those days…Actually, I spent quite a few days thinking and talking about this idea, all the while practicing my new mission. Drafting every comment, message, and ‘post’ for at least an hour before ‘lift off’ …[I admit, a couple may have slipped through the cracks.]
I was thinking about how this (seemingly technologically-specific) anxiety that I felt wouldn’t have existed in the ‘good old days’.
That fear – that something would come back to bite me on the ass – would not exist: because of ‘the process‘.
The process would have weeded out the unnecessary, the possibly awkward, and the slightly erratic ‘messages’.
I felt comfort in thinking this through. I started to think that perhaps by ridding myself of the instant messaging gadgets in my life I may also be able to relinquish that anxiety… This could be another mission perhaps… No more instant messages – for this was the source of my anxiety. The anxiety was not suffered before this phone, this computer, these gadgets.
No, I would never have written anything I would’ve regretted back in the 90’s…
It came just days after posting “stop me. write this minute” …I received a message – a Facebook message, from the wife of my estranged childhood next door neighbour. Yep, the boy-next-door…she did also happen to be an old class-mate, from many years and many, many schools ago…In this instance, however, she was :The Wife of the boy next door.
So, I receive this totally out-of-the-blue message in my Facebook Inbox. She tells me of a Christmas card she and her husband (boy next door) had found whilst cleaning out their ‘stuff’…a Christmas card from me…from the 14 year old me.
Woh! Wait a minute, what the freak is happening here? !!
She goes on to say how they had found it, randomly. It had been kept for some reason. It was from me.. and it was “hilarious” !
My heart dropped.
What is this synchrony trying to tell me? And more to the point, what was it that my 14 year old self wrote in that card …that was so damn funny??!!
–Ok, by now you all must realise that the girl likes her words. And you also perhaps realise that the girl is impulsive.
Is it also obvious to you….that the girl is romantic? Well she is. And was, even more so, at age 14. Embarrassingly romantic.
So my alarm bells are ringing. My palms are sweating – my brain is about to implode!
Was it not punishment enough to have to sort through my outboxes regularly, and revisit old emails and text messages? Those that I wish had never left my brain and made there way into my concrete conscience. Was that not enough ?! Nope. Now I would be haunted by a 20 year old message that I probably, equally wished I’d never sent.
Flashbacks of the numerous, adolescent, love-letters that I had let set sail in the 90’s, came flooding into my over-worked brain. The affection. The admiration. The ever-so-witty undertones. The perfect teenage prose. The quirky, yet neatly hand-written bequests that had stained many an A4, margined, 2mm blue-lined, page.
Oh! what was she thinking? That impulsive, word-obsessed, romantic fool! What has she done?! What did she write to the boy next door?!!
This was it. This was the synergy that was going to teach me my lesson for once and for all. This was going to be the sharp-toothed word-dog to bite me on my ass!
I was so sure I was about to be completely and utterly floored by embarrassment, as sure as I was in love with the boy next door at the time. I was almost certainly in love him, I was almost certainly in love with every boy that lived anywhere near anybody’s door. Seriously, that was my youth. My heart was a beast.
I got up the courage to write back to wife next door… (I flagged the drafting process on this occasion however)
I thought “f*ck this!” It was too good an opportunity, for self-imposed ridicule, to pass up. This is the kind of stuff I live for!
Ok then amused Facebook Wife, boy next door, 14 year old me…what did I have to say? What poignant mess of a teenage stream was I going to have to suck back in? Come on, Hit me!
As it turns out, it was simply a Christmas card. A fairly banal Christmas cardy-type sentiment; containing some time-appropriate ‘cool words’ and a bit of a well disguised more-than-a-neighbourly tone, that only I would have recognised, knowing my own love history.
But, overall, it was fairly indiscriminate. I suppose, I can understand how they would have found it amusing after all those years. But it was just your run-of the mill- suburban amusement, not the type of evil, menacing ‘amusement over a young girls unrequited desire’ that I was imagining.
Hmmm. So what was gained from this experience? Aside from a little more anxiety over how many other of my award-winning manifestos were still out there, lurking about in the bottom- drawers of overgrown boys?
I guess what I/we can take from this mini-drama is that no matter, really, in what format you deliver your words ,as soon as you ‘pass them on‘, they no longer belong to you. You hand them over – they are now belonging to the receiver, and they can be used … in whatever which way your receiver pleases. Be it to admire, to amuse or to shoot back at you in a spaghetti-western style word-war. This is not up to you. You gave those words away.
So people, my tender, word-crunching fools. Take it from me…DO YOUR DRAFTS!! … And think thrice before hitting ‘send’ !
…Because, in words of another prominent 20th century poet
“words are like weapons, they wound sometimes”
May you speak of good and write of better…