Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Textual Analysis

Yesterday I walked into my house and heard my cell phone make the little tinkling jingle it trills repeatedly when I have an unread text message. “Oh, shit,” I muttered as I picked up the phone, thinking that it was probably a wrong number, because few of my friends ever text-message me, and I’ve told the few who have that I don’t like the form of communication in the slightest. (There are all kinds of reasons, including the fact that I have better things to do with my thumb and hate all the cutesy abbreviations.) I didn’t know whether to be annoyed that I was getting a message from and intended for someone I didn’t know, or relieved that at least this annoyance hadn’t come from someone who actually claimed to be my friend.

But wouldn’t you know, when I checked the message, it was indeed from a friend. The message began, “I know you don’t like text messages, but....” and it went on at length from there, though the gist of it can be summed up as “I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you.”

I know you don’t like text messages, but.

This guy does indeed know I don’t like text messages, because we’ve been through this before--several times. It started out with my saying, “I don’t really like text messages,” then saying, “I really don’t like text messages,” then saying, “Not only do I dislike the basic form of communication, but the whole thing is even more annoying because I have to pay extra for every lousy unwanted text message I receive,” before finally informing him (via email, in my response to this most recent text message), “Never text message me again unless your avowed intention is to make me so angry that I refuse all contact with you for a good two weeks.”

I haven’t heard back from the guy, but I’m sure he’ll be very hurt and think I’ve over-reacted. But I’m angrier than I can say that 1) he not only does something he knows I don’t like, 2) he does it as part of something he expects me to be happy about: a message telling me that he’s thinking of me, even though that thinking of me involves no thoughtfulness, no attention to my explicit and unequivocal statements about my preferences in the matter.

I wouldn’t be so angry if this were an isolated incident, but the guy has a long habit of saying, “I know you don’t like what I’m about to do, but I’m going to do it anyway,” before embarking on some action he really expects me to be happy and/or grateful about. Two significant examples are his way of telling me stuff he already knows I already know, as if I’ve never heard or thought of the idea myself; and more importantly and offensively, giving me really shitty unsolicited advice, even though he knows that I HATE and RESENT unsolicited advice because it’s almost always a condescending, worthless suggestion to do something that is either completely inappropriate or else something I’ve already considered and in some cases already tried and discovered doesn’t work. Not only that, but I find it hard not to despise and contemn people who insist on dispensing such worthless advice.

And the whole “I know you don’t like what I’m about to do” part--is it an insincere disclaimer, a way of letting me know he doesn’t approve of my disapproval? I think more likely it’s a way of trying to prevent me from getting upset, to essentially withdraw my right or opportunity to express any displeasure I might feel by expressing it for me right off the bat. I don’t know what he’s thinking when he says that, but I do know that the fact that he does it so often makes the whole proposition intellectually and emotionally dishonest. It makes it clear that it's all about him, that the point is for him to do things for me that make HIM feel good--offer crappy facile advice, so he gets to feel proactive and wise, or say "hi" in a way he's fine with but I hate--rather than doing things for me that make ME feel good.

Last week I went to this presentation on the gender inflections of communication styles. Since men control most of the discourse, men tend to expect women to adapt to their way of communicating, rather than attempting to understand and become fluent in female forms of communication. Perhaps that’s part of what’s going on in this situation: this guy just expects me to get used to the fact that he wants me to be happy about his reliance on media and actions that really upset me, and to accommodate him. But that ain’t gonna happen. And I’ve already mastered one traditionally male form of communication: a flat command. So I’m telling the whole world: NEVER TEXT MESSAGE ME AGAIN.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Get Your Own Blog

Given that I have another blog where I post with some frequency, and given how seldom I post here, and given how far I've strayed from this blog's mission statement (most of what I post is true, but little of it is dangerous), you may wonder, why do I still make any effort to maintain it? Why do I ever post anything here at all?

Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is that I really like the name (which comes from the Poe song "Not a Virgin"--she sings, "Tell me something dangerous and true," and it's a sentiment I like) and another is that I really like the banner: the painting is "Venus Verticordia" by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphael Brotherhood, and I have been an ardent fan of the Pre-Raphaelites ever since I saw an exhibit of their work at the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) in 1984. (I actually saw the exhibit three times. I couldn't stay away. I even paid to see it, which was a big deal because I was a poor college students and most other museums in Britain were free. I also bought the exhibit catalogue, which is how I looked up the title of the Rosetti painting.)

But another reason is that it's a place where I can post links and photos and rants without disturbing anyone unless they want to be disturbed. As almost no one reads this blog, I don't have to worry about upsetting or inconveniencing very many people here. And I wish more of my friends would follow my lead, and acquire a blog where they publish links and photos and rants that people can visit and view as their schedules and their moods allow--or not.

See, I have friends whose email correspondence with me consists almost entirely of forwards: forwards of political commentary designed to alert me to what the opposite side of the political spectrum thinks. Forwards of photos of children who went missing thousands of miles from where I live. Forwards of thoroughly familiar statements by Nazi officials on how to get a country to go to war. Forwards of amusing cartoons. Once, back in the days when I had dial-up, someone even sent me a movie, which mucked up my email for hours.

And then I have other friends who send me interesting stuff, but I'd just as soon read it on their blogs and keep it out of my mailbox.

I'm not saying I want people to stop sending me interesting new articles or cool links. Just yesterday a friend sent me a link so wacky I had to blog about it on my other blog. But I am saying I want people to be WAY MORE SELECTIVE about what they do send.

If you regularly forward stuff to most of the people in your address book, you need a blog! If you forward something virtually every day to one or two people, you STILL need a blog! Get your own damn blog, and install the links you want people to visit along with a brief message about why this is worth someone else's time! Take some time to digest and comment on the long news stories you forward!

In other words, keep this shit (even if it's not really shit) out of my inbox unless you KNOW, with the calm, comforting certainty provided by revelation from the Holy Ghost, that it's something I'm A) unlikely to see on my own and B)vitally interested in! (A good rule of thumb: If I like the email you sent well enough to post a blog entry of my own about it, your judgment is sound.) The rest of the time, let me visit YOUR BLOG and see what you're thinking about and reading, instead of forcing this stuff on me.


Really. Bloggers are so much more considerate than plain old emailers. I'm glad I joined the ranks of the former and stopped being one of the latter.