It’s 4:20am. You have woken up to go to the bathroom because you are so old you can no longer make it through a full night’s sleep without peeing at least once. You bring your Iphone with you to see what Facebook messages or mass shootings you’ve missed while you slept. And then it happens.
It’s 3:55pm. Your kids are about to stumble off the school bus and then you are off to the races: schlepping them to lego robotics, holding their hands through dental appointments, cheering them on at sports practices — all whilst fielding complaints from baby bosses about what you brought them for snack. Their bus will be here ANY minute. It is your last 90 seconds to get shit done, socially or administratively, until night time, when you can either finish up or relax and be a person.
You are at basketball practice, trying to pay attention to the amateur excitement on court, but dying inside to return a few niggling emails so you can catch up on your series tonight with your husband after the kids go to bed. Your daughter wants you to watch her, not be on your phone. But you REALLY want to watch the Handmaid’s Tale after bedtime. So you sneak in a quickie. And then it happens.
In your haste to get it all done, you’ve pressed “reply” instead of “forward.” Maybe you innocently replied-without-comment to the class parent’s weekly update to the 49 other cc’d parents, intending to forward to your husband. It’s a harmless inbox-flooding mistake. At first glance, the 50 recipients will look for an addition and, when they don’t find one, realize your amateur mistake and secretly congratulate themselves for not doing the same — this time.
Maybe, while thinking you were forwarding to your husband, you added an innocent scheduling query — your basic, “Take a look. Don’t we have dinner with your college friend on math night?” So you unintentionally involved 49 other people in the boring minutiae of your domestic scheduling. Harmless.
Or you add something snarky like, “Do we really have to go to all this shit?” or “I hope we don’t sit next to the crazy Cushmans again” referring to the time that you got stuck next to the helicopter parents of a single who lectured you on how they got their child to read the summer before pre-kindergarten and complain ad nauseum about the sodium content of the school lunches. Of course you thought you were forwarding this scheduling addition and commentary to your husband exclusively, but not so fast: You have replied to all 50 parents (including those fucking Cushmans).
You want to die. You want to hide underneath the bleachers upon which you once idly, if anxiously, sat, hoping your husband will bring you food, water and diapers there for the rest of your days.
What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?
Do you accept that you are now the class pariah? Do you apologize singly or en masse to the recipients? What do you say to the class parent whose job— perhaps reason for being— you just insulted? Or those poor, annoying parents you outed as nuts (even if everyone already knew)? Do you make a commitment to re-evaluate your basic character and life choices? Or do you declare yourself a sex addict like those celebrities and politicians who expose themselves to their assistants, and check into an “addiction clinic” in Arizona with stone spa treatments, so you can disappear until things blow over and the world forgets. Even if you know that, like an elephant, a Manhattan elementary school parent never — ever — forgets.
And how will your e-flippancy affect your innocent child? Will it be forwarded to other members of the school community? Say leaders of the PTA or, gulp, school administrators? Will your kid be put in the 2nd highest math group even if they kill at math, just to punish him/you without being obvious. Sure, your child will be ostracized by the Cushman clan (but that’s kind of a win). But will she be asked on playdates by any normal families?
You immediately seek help from your original intended recipient: your husband. He will attempt to calm you down, be impossibly understanding and say something you both know is patently untrue like, “Nobody reads these emails anyway.” And all you can think while he is stumbling through his disingenuous response is this: If my husband had done this, I would have killed him. Killed. Him. And suddenly you are so thankful you married someone nicer and more forgiving than you are. And all your husband will be thinking throughout this ultimately fruitless counsel is “Thank fuck I wasn’t the one who sent this.”
And then you are all alone, staring at your inbox. Pressing “refresh” obsessively, you cringe-wait for karma to email you back with a fat wallop of guilt and recrimination. If the offended party really wants to punish you, they will take their sweet time, let your anxiety deliciously build.
I’ve been burned — and unintentionally singed others — by responding to texts via my computer. With the reduced text window on the Mac computer’s interface, it can appear that you are responding to one person when, in fact, it’s just the first name in a larger group text. Recently I excitedly accepted my friend “Mary’s” dinner party invite via text and then realized I had responded to a group text of mutual friends — only I was the only one in this particular group-text circle of friends that “Mary” had invited to this particular party. I’m not an asshole, and I firmly believe you can’t invite everyone to everything (as long as I’m invited. Kidding… Half.). But, obviously, no need to discuss said plans in front of “the uninvited.” Feelings get hurt.
Sometimes, you are secretly relieved you sent the oops-I-meant-to-forward-not-reply email. Maybe it’s a tedious friend you have been avoiding because all they ever talk about is their own white privilege at a time you want to think and talk about the world beyond your bubble. You wanted to break up with them anyway, or at least take a break from them. “Voila!” Mission accomplished. But you are not celebrating. You have to own up to the fact that you didn’t have the balls to tell them “It’s not me. It’s you” in person. And this backdoor diss is unbecoming, even of you — even in this digital age.
Of course slowing down would help. My husband always tell me I’m too quick on the draw when it comes to returning emails. He encourages me to sit on them awhile before responding, to set the precedent that I do not respond immediately (lest others begin to count on and expect that.)
Maybe we should take a page from the slow food movement and take the time to relish communicating with one another, rather than rushing through one of life’s true, great pleasures — connecting. We can all pledge to stop the “processed” communications — rife with LOL’s, LMAO’s and IMO’s — and shortcut emoji responses. We would all benefit, physically and emotionally, and the many windows for misunderstandings inherent to digital communication would narrow.
So, in this new year, I am resolved to slow down and take more time before–and in–responding to texts, emails and Westeros ravens. Maybe the world won’t end if I don’t RSVP to a girls’ night out in the first hour, or if that winter soccer clinic fills up within minutes of the online offer being sent out (This is New York City, after all).
True, I’ll occasionally miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (like my friend’s last-minute offer to accompany her to see Springsteen on Broadway which, if I don’t respond to within the next hour she’ll offer to someone who is vigilantly monitoring their inbox). But, hey, that’s the price you have to pay for piece of mind, I guess. Or, better yet, do what Drake would do…