Girl Talk: Why EChem is Just Not Enough

I heart words and communication. This includes emails, text messages, Gchat, Blackberry Messenger, iChat — the works. I am a sucker for a well-crafted email or a witty text message. My motto: The way to my heart is through my brain. That’s why I thought Joe could be Mr. Perfect for me. Joe and I met one night at a work gala. I had already put away an entire bottle of wine when I almost knocked him over on the dance floor.

“Do you like to dance, beautiful girl who almost stepped on my foot?” he asked.

“Only when I’m drunk. When I’m sober, I dance like Elaine from ‘Seinfeld.’” I replied.

It was a rainy October night and Joe offered to escort me to the subway when the event ended, impressed that I could: a.) still walk and b.) do it in 3-inch heels. “Email me,” I slurred, handing him my business card, “I loooove emails.”
The next day at work, the misery of my hangover was interrupted when Joe sent me a long, witty, intellectually stimulating email, complete with references to popular culture, long words spelled properly (so hot), anecdotes about his life, and plenty of questions about mine. Wait … what did he look like again? The emails continued, getting more and more opus-like. He responded quickly – my number-one turn-on. Enough with that “hard to get” crap. Within a few days, he began sending me funny, random text messages along with the novella-esque emails.

I just passed the subway stop I walked you to the night we met. Good thing you didn’t incapacitate me by stepping on my foot. I want to see you dance like Elaine.

What’s your favorite kind of cupcake?

I just saw a man wearing a horse costume on Columbus. Ah … New York.

He even played along when a week later I told him that I was putting a ban on our email communication because I wasn’t getting any work done. In response, he sent a handwritten letter to my office via courier asking me out for Saturday night. I was so overcome that I think I might have peed my pants. It was like this guy could read my mind. Finally, I would get to see him in person again!

That Saturday night I walked into the fancy seafood restaurant ready to pick up our witty repartee right where it left off. As soon as we sat down across from each other, I felt my stomach drop. Something was very, very wrong. He was attractive enough, but I wasn’t attracted to him. Why? We had nothing to say to each other. I mean … nothing. How could this have happened?

What Joe and I had was something I like to call “E(mail)Chemistry” or “EChem” – really hot technological chemistry. When you’ve got great EChem with someone, it can often be indicative of real chemistry, but sometimes, sadly, it is not. Why? My theory: Emails, texts, Gchat, etc. all allow a person to develop what I’ve dubbed an “EPersona,” i.e., their technological way of being. The tricky thing is that an EPersona may or may not have anything to do with a person’s authentic self. The safe distance that technology creates allows people the opportunity to represent their best, most wonderful, sometimes even fantasy self. When you can be calculated, deliberate, and thoughtful about every word, you can feel brave enough, safe enough, in control enough to do, say, and be things that you could never do, say, or be face-to-face. But the catch is that is the only person you can fall in love with is a real, authentic person — in person — not a freaking avatar. And falling in love is about vulnerability, imperfection, and spontaneity.

What I learned from Joe and others like him (sadly, there have been too many) is that amazing EChem is just not enough. Getting to know someone’s EPersona is not sufficient. No email (no matter the length) or text message (no matter the wit) can replace that odd, quirky, unpredictable genius that is real/live chemistry between real/live people. That strange electric moment when someone kisses you for the first time and you feel an army of hummingbirds in the pit of your stomach.

A few weeks after the Joe incident, I got set up on a blind date with Adam. We exchanged emails before we ever met in person. He didn’t respond very quickly, there were no long words in his email. In fact, he misspelled many of the simple words, his grammar was iffy, he didn’t catch my reference to The Fountainhead , and he didn’t send me a text message to confirm our date. In fact, I was pretty sure we had nothing in common based on our dull EChem. But halfway through dinner when he grabbed my hand, I felt an undeniable jolt of energy bolt up my arm and I knew in my gut that it was right.

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