Last week, I was enjoying a thick dollop of yogurt when I heard laughter, followed by murmurs: “Fascinating. I’ve never seen someone eat cream cheese with a spoon before.” It was an entertaining moment but, to be real, it had to be recognized by the outside world. I grabbed my phone, translated the story into text-speak, and sent it to a WhatsApp group of close friends. But as soon as I sent the message, I regretted it. Did it seem like I was complaining? Was I oversharing? Was this even a funny story? It was the same feeling that I had in ninth grade when a girl asked me if I thought she was pretty and I responded not-so-gracefully: “I really hope a time machine tumbles from the clouds and offers me a redo”. My 14-year-old prayers went unanswered but, this time, the WhatsApp gods had my back. Crying-laughter emojis were replaced by one sentence: This message was deleted.
On almost every platform except vanilla SMS, messages can vanish with the click of a finger. I used to think this was an emergency option, just in case someone accidentally forwards their social security number to the college GroupMe. But unsharing content is like borrowing your suitemates’ toothpaste or asking for extensions: it starts as a last resort but becomes a lifestyle. Texting can be stressful. I instinctively want to connect with friends by sharing anecdotes and distributing hot-takes fresh from the synapses. At the same time, live tweeting can turn into unwelcome oversharing and miscommunication that trigger my deepest people-pleasing fears. The result is perpetual doubt: to send or not to send? Having a digital eraser removes this pressure and allows me to live recklessly. Almost every day, I live-tweet an event to my friends, realize the information is overwhelming, and delete the story two minutes later. It’s the best of both worlds: all of the catharsis of sharing without any of the consequences.
Saying “expelliarmus!” to accidental awkwardness is liberating, but it’s also kind of reprehensible. Imagine hearing the buzz of a notification and preparing for a dopamine rush only to discover that the message has disappeared. Even worse than irritation is the suspicion. I don’t mind people wondering if I’m a secret CIA-agent, but I’d prefer that friends trust me and know that I trust them back. One day, I’ll leave the delete-button behind and embrace a more authentic life. For now, though, it’s too tempting to unleash in the moment and curate later. I’m still waiting for guilt to outweigh pleasure.
From the blank canvas that is the books’ most unfortunate narrator to the film’s uncanny ability to make even Robert Pattinson seem unappealing, there is no shortage of content to stoke the flames of ambivalence among anyone — un — lucky enough to experience the Twilight Saga. Yet whilst almost every facet of the book series, from Stephenie Meyer’s astronomical use of adverbs — “Jacob whined unhappily,” “Edward answered blackly” — to gaping holes in the plot — vampires’ only bodily fluid is venom and Edward still manages to impregnate Bella — to unnecessarily convoluted conflict — the age-old vampire-werewolf conflict based on vampires’ consumption of human blood despite the fact that the Cullen clan consumes only animal blood — there is something uncanny and intriguing about the story. It may be that I am drawn to the dramatic potential of such an otherworldly love story and hooked by the story’s atrocious execution, left ever-dissatisfied and ever-wondering what the story might have been in the hands of a more competent source. Like the strange inability to look away from an accident or a dumpster fire, no matter how atrocious I find the “Twilight” series, I can’t seem to look away — nor can I determine whether the series is one I love to hate or hate to love.
There are eleven books stacked on my desk, most of them unread, but all with my name and phone number inscribed in blue ballpoint ink on the inside cover. Four were bought at Book Trader, three from the poorly-lit but wonderfully mysterious used bookstore in the basement of Pike Place Market in Seattle. Two were gifts from my mom. I’m not sure where I got the other two. I do know that the pile will get larger before it gets smaller.
I love buying books with the intention of reading them in one sitting, artfully perched beneath a stained glass window with a coconut milk vanilla latte in hand — extra shot of espresso, half the vanilla — as I underline and highlight the moving passages that I simply know will redefine my entire worldview. Mary Oliver’s guide to writing poetry, an advanced copy of E.M. Hulse’s “Eden Mine,” John McPhee’s “Princeton Anthology of Writing.” I’ve started all of them, but finished only a few. I hate that I love reading eleven books at one time. Perhaps I should write a book made of all the small bites I take of others. An anthology of quarter-loved writing, first chapters, books read for the sake of a single sentence.
The thing is, I’m going to tote these books around with me until they’ve been read cover-to-cover. My back is paying the price.