Would Everybody Please Stop? by Jenny Allen

Would Everybody Please Stop? by Jenny Allen

Author:Jenny Allen
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Every morning, I face my e-mail as if it were a firing squad. I’m so scared of what might be there that I have failed or forgotten to do or will not be able to do, thereby disappointing or angering someone. I’m scared of the phone and of the regular mail for the same reason, although less so, only because hardly anyone I know under eighty uses the phone or real mail anymore.

You’d think I would have overcome this fear by now. I’ve been in therapy! I know how to meditate! But you know what, honestly? I think I can hope for some improvement, but if I were going to get better about it, I probably would be by now.

I’m not frightened about things I should be scared of—choking on a piece of steak or getting bedbugs from clothes I buy in thrift shops or getting rear-ended by a texting soccer mom. I’m aware that these things might happen to me, but I figure I’ll worry about them when they do.

What I’m scared of, if it has a theme, is letting people down: Somewhere, someone is or is about to be mad at me, or hurt—and the e-mail/regular mail/phone call is going to be the agent of this terrible turn of events. I forgot to go to a friend’s party or write a letter of recommendation or watch her web series. I’ve failed her, or I’m about to.

Sometimes, of course, I do mess up. Sometimes people are mad at me. I got a frosty e-mail recently from a woman I know, taking me to task for not calling her more often; last week I got a polite-but-fed-up e-mail from the guy who installed a new water tank in my basement three months ago, reminding me of the bill I’d forgotten to pay.

But I don’t get those e-mails that often. When my friends haven’t heard from me in a while, they generally send sweet e-mails asking if I’m okay. If I’ve forgotten to reply to an e-mail promptly, people are usually understanding. But that doesn’t seem to matter to me. I dread opening the e-mails anyway. I even suspect that underneath their understanding tone, my friends are, in fact, angry or upset or crushed. This is how pathetic I am: Sometimes I get e-mail overdue-book notices from my local library and imagine that Beth, the head librarian, is mad at me, even though I know, from personal experience, that Beth is never mad about it. All Beth ever says, even when you return a book two years late, is, “This is great. Thank you. And if you could bring in a few cans of something for the food bank, we’ll just forget about the fine.”

But of course I have to answer the e-mails, the phone, the regular mail. (I’m trying with Facebook, but I’m sorry, it’s like being in hell to me, the equivalent of answering a knock at the door to find five hundred people there, all talking at once.


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