This delightful piece by Jaimie Epstein appears in the New York Times Magazine approximately July 8, 2007. (See below for comments)
I promise this is on topic, so please bear with me. . . . One day, as a cure for a broken heart, a heart that had only barely survived a head-on collision with another heart, a heart just out of intensive care, bruised and limping and still shying at the sound of any traffic, I decided to go online to find distraction in the arms of other, virtual men and maybe, as a bonus, a suitable replacement for the one no longer in my life, to meet someone the normal way, as opposed to the archaic, anachronistic, so 1970s way I had met HIM — I’d had my skis (nearly) charmed off me at 10,000 feet by my instructor, who was trying, with a dribble of luck but gallons of patience, to teach me how to jump turn on telemark skis. A broken heart, like the crack of dawn, can’t be fixed, said a wise friend, but I was hoping that the splint of male attention might at least encourage healing — and it would mean I’d have less time to waste obsessing over you-know-whom.
I didn’t realize, however, what a huge boulder I would be rolling uphill — what with my being a “literary person,” a sometime editor of this column, someone whose ear is as tuned to the pitch of language as a cellist’s is to music — until the misplaced modifiers, dyslexic spellings and grievous abuses of syntax started pouring in. One seeker of a woman to call his own allowed that the last book he had read was “Atonement,” which was about to earn him a gold star, Ian McEwan having his own section on my bookshelves, except that he didn’t quit while he was ahead — he had to add that it was written by . . . Ian McGregor! O.K., no big deal, you say, they’re both Brits, it’s hard to keep all the Ians (or, um, Ewans!) straight, you know what/whom he meant and at least he reads something besides Gawker. Well, yeah, but couldn’t he have malapropriated a lesser writer’s name, one whose first and last aren’t tattooed on my forehead, one not sitting on a pedestal in front of my computer? Couldn’t he have checked his sources?
Speaking of mis-namers, I am sure the Spielbergs and the Kings of the world are used to the “Steven or Stephen?” flip of the spelling coin, and some of my closest friends have been known to lose one of my “i”s, but you’d think that a man trying to impress a woman would get her name right. Well, you would be wrong. After an intense flurry of e-mailing that involved the seductive vocabulary of maple farming — “splitting maul”! “peavey”! — and even more seductive pictures of said maple farmer, I decided that we had reached the point in our relationship where I really needed him to spell my name correctly, and I told him so in a gentle mama-bear-like way. Next thing I know I get a quick response: “oops, bad timing — I just started a new relationship”! O.K., maybe he did, or maybe he took offense at my comment about the grin of satisfaction slathered over his end-of-the-workday face in his latest photo attachment: “for all i know you’ve just put a family of four through a wood chipper!” (Dude, where’s your sense of humor? Did you not love “Fargo”?) But maybe he was one of those men who would sooner ask for directions than have their punctuation or grammar corrected. Can you spell “thin-barked”?
I know what you’re thinking: No wonder she’s single, no wonder she got dumped, who would want to feel those eyes/ears of judgment upon his every utterance? (Please include a RECENT photo and a list of the five things you can’t live without when you e-mail your diatribe to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) But just imagine what it’s like to be afflicted with an excess language-sensitivity gene. I mean, how would you feel if someone extolled your “skillful verbage”? Maybe he liked the way I threw my verbs around, but my nose picked up a whiff of “garbage.” And what about the onomatopoeticist who enjoyed the “slurshing sound of the waves”? “Slurshing” made me think “drink sloppily and quickly,” and combined with the motion of the water, the effect of his words was to produce welling seasickness, not the soothing rock and roll of the ocean crashing and uncrashing with romantic abandon along the shore of a secluded beach that he must have been aiming for.
Uh-oh, I just ended a sentence with a preposition! Hey, I know I fall far short of the lofty standards upheld by Strunk and White, Fowler, Bernstein and Garner. It’s not like, whoops, I mean as if (see!), I’m perfect, as if I have, after all these years, mastered the subtlety of who/whom, as if I never use “media” in the singular or accidentally type “their” when I mean “there,” as if I ever get the comma or not before “too” 100 percent right. I know people don’t proofread their myriad daily e-mail messages, and I have certainly been chagrined to discover, say, that I fired off “bike” when I meant “back,” but isn’t dating online like sending out your résumé, aren’t you trying to sell yourself to a potential employer (i.e., friend, lover, hand-to-hold-until-the-end-of-time)? When you write to a new someone, that someone who just might be the answer to your dreams (yeah, right), don’t you want to show him/her that you care, that you are paying attention?
Alas, there does not appear to be a 12-step program for usage addicts, but while pondering what to do about my little weakness, I recalled that my baby brother, while working on his Ph.D. in math, once mentioned an “encumber” in a letter to me (yes, a real letter — it was eons ago), referring to the green vegetable, sometimes peeled, sometimes not, that you slice into salads or turn into raita to accompany your Indian feast. His spelling, if that’s possible, has only devolved since (maybe that’s why he finds numbers so elegant), but I still love him as much as I always have. So, channeling sibling tolerance, I began to leap over stray commas and words-run-into-periods and managed to go out with a cool downtown daddy-o “tommorow” who has “distain” for organized religion. And guess what? I even enjoined myself! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to discuss the financial wizard who basically wanted to know whether I could squat his weight (160; I can) because his affliction would indeed be off topic.
Jaimie Epstein, a freelance writer in New York, is really rather low maintenance.
Ok so the article is delightful, only I will propose a much shorter version for future generations, in the event that time becomes a valuable commodity. Begin: Jaimie Epstein got dumped by a ski instructor. I don’t know why. It just happened. So she turned to online dating, and much like most people who write columns nowadays, decided we should hear about it. Most of her responders were total idiots. Jaimie has a brother with a Ph.D. in math. If enjoining yourself means you got married, then that’s what Jaimie did. Eventually, by lowering her standards. It happens.