I once described my Netflix Instant queue as self-flagellate. “Some movies should punish you,” I explained to a stranger at a wedding, which, being its own form of self-inflicted torture, was the perfect backdrop.
My penchant for superfluous suffering explains why “A Good Day to be Black & Sexy” and “L.I.E.” are going stale on my virtual shelf. People who sit through French stand-up watch this kind of stuff and like it. I want to be those people. I want to live up to my Netflix queue’s assessment of me because the sentient gigabytes that live in my cheap-ass Acer obviously know me better than I know myself. Or at least a better me.
Which brings me to my email.
Once a buoy in an ocean of porn spam, now even my “priority” inbox is netting all the unwanted byproducts of the Great White Whale expedition to reinvent myself with 60 percent off flying lessons. Browsing through the never-ending list of awesome stuff I should be doing -- eating middle eastern "fare," getting laser hair removal, changing the oil in the car I don't have -- because it's "cheap" makes my regular life seem bland by comparison. So I scroll through each new missed opportunity as a means of mortification.
Wouldn't it just be easier to unsubcribe? But then I'd be giving up without a fight.
“Moby-Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seekest him!,” cries Starbuck. In this metaphor Moby-Dick is Groupon, Gilt Groupe, Bite-sized Languages, Living Social and whatever other web service is luring innocents into lusting after instant ways to make them cooler people.
Also please be advised that I have never read “Moby-Dick.” But it’s in my iBooks thingy next to “Wuthering Heights,” “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and “A Tale of Two Cities.”
Yes, I have a high school diploma, but that didn’t stop me from chucking the summer reading list in favor of scamming on guys. And now look at me. I’m a 30-year-old who has yet to know Emily Bronte intimately.
You know how guys carry around wallet condoms in the hopes that one day they’ll be man enough to use ‘em. Yeah that’s “Wuthering Heights” for me.
Also, Emily Bronte was fluent in French. I do not speak French. And despite this totally insignificant fact, for the past seven months daily emails from Groupon in French land in my inbox because, according to me, I should speak French.
Last January, I flew to Paris to see the Basquiat retrospective, which you do not have to be French to understand, and after spending the greater part of a day pretending to get a lot of stuff I really didn’t, all I wanted to do was relax. But in a French way. So I headed to Groupon to get half off some kind of molecular fat-melting seaweed wrap, most likely known as a massage in the states. The bougie-version of the site refused to recognize my stupid American credit card and I was forced to bury my feelings with quiche.
“Ne m'attendez-pas, je vais prendre un petit moment à me préparer,” is French for “Don't wait for me, I am going to take a while to get ready.”
I know this because I get emails in both French and Spanish from a company called Bitesized Languages. A quick search of my inbox turned up “hundreds” of bilingual subject lines that I can’t translate. Instead of deleting them I mark them as read.
Someday I’ll be ready to be that girl who speaks three languages, goes on the Urban Bike Tour for kicks, watches unwatchable film and reads Wuthering Heights on the metro. According to the electronic hair shirts I sign up for, there is a person in real life who wears designer clothes, reads designer books and speaks a designer’s language. Someday I think that girl-woman will exist and her name will be Helena.
For now, though, I’m content not to wait for her. She’s taking “un petit moment à me préparer” and that’s totally cool.
Thing is, I know I'm not the only one who carries around tiny reminders of her alleged inadequacy in her pocket. I'd love to hear about all the silly stuff you signed up for that you just can't bring yourself to delete from your inbox, your iBook shelf, Netflix cue or who knows what. Anybody else have a Foodnetwork "recipe box" that's more full than their fridge?