Seems like every morning I find myself weeding my inbox: delete, delete, delete, like a gardener tending a hopeless patch. I’m wary of accidentally opening something I might regret. Every afternoon, I weed again. Impossible. This morning, for example, I had ninety-three messages in my inbox. After weeding: twenty-one. Once, when I glanced away at something else, eighteen new messages suddenly appeared.
“Have you heard of Unsubscribe?” friends say to me. Everybody knows about Unsubscribe, our one weapon against the onrushing glut. How’s it working out for you? As well as that spam filter you used to think of so highly? In my experience—and possibly to get as much as I can out of my gardening metaphor—I have to say Unsubscribe is a lot like pulling dandelions. You get a certain glow of momentary satisfaction. But just wait a couple of days.
A lot of the email I scrub out every day reminds me of those books you always thought you were going to read someday. Someday has come and gone and they’re still sitting on the coffee table, or under it, reproach written all over their faces. The sites that looked interesting. And maybe they still are—I just don’t have time to find out. Unsubscribe? Well, that would be unkind, wouldn’t it? I know they mean well. For today, anyway, delete, delete, delete . . .
Then there are the emails from retail establishments I either once bought something from or where I searched for something but didn’t find it. “Hey, here’s something else you might like!” they plead over and over. These are the people most amenable to Unsubscribe and I give them credit for it. Or I would, if they didn’t keep coming back again.
Of course there are the wannabe swindlers. The fake Netflix, Amazon, PayPal messages: “Your account has been cancelled,” they claim mendaciously. They can cure it all if I just input my credit card number. Or there are the guys who want to send me a free toolkit, electric oven, or just a bunch of money—if only I would, well, you know. . . . Some are very obvious, the way Publisher’s Clearing House used to say, “You may already be a winner!” right there on the front of the envelope. “Congratulations,” someone or other tells me almost every day. I have never tried to find out what they are congratulating me for. With a shudder and a sigh: delete, delete, delete . . .
In that same category, I tend to place all those folks who want to help me with my nerves, sciatica, restless legs, aging liver and some problems I didn’t even know about. People who want so badly to tell me what to eat, what not to eat, and even what positions to hold while sleeping. Is holding one position while sleeping even possible? Delete, delete, delete . . .
Back when the internet was new—to me, at least—I chose an internet address which, I thought, would not reveal whether I was male or female. Not that I knew anything to fear about the internet (those were the days). It was just a habit from living in apartment buildings. Except, instead of that simple, chaste first initial, I chose an old nickname, one I had from back in the dark days when everything for school or workshops had to be typed and re-typed, a short scramble of my somewhat longer name. What I didn’t know was that is also the name of a character in one of those rather warlike video games. I think that might be why I get all the emails which led to the title of this piece. They want to help my sex life, or the sex life of the person they appear to imagine I am, and they want to help in the most primitive ways possible: “Male enhancement,” “Secrets of elongation,” “Morning wood.” Those are some of the nearly polite ones. When I first started thinking about this essay I started making note of the various overtures. So far, there have been more than twenty, including, “Legal steroid turning men into beasts.” Oh yes, and the offers of “Ukraine beauties.” Delete with gloves on . . .
It’s pretty obvious, I suppose. Changing my long-loved handle to something more androgynous—but not feminine! I can only imagine those overtures—will help me lose contact with the guys who want to help me with my prostate problems. All that will take is notifying every single person, organization and institution I actually want to have my email address. Meanwhile, there’s always Unsubscribe, right?
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