A lot of people with whom I email have had enough of me. Their gripes are always the same: “You write back too quickly,” “You don’t give me enough time to respond,” “Your Build-a-Bear is 100% safe; this will be our final cease and desist letter.” But the complaint I get the most—the one that, if complaints were an Indian tribe, would be the friggin’ chief—is this: “It makes me anxious and upset to read your ‘AHAHAHAHA’s when you think something is funny. Why don’t you just use ‘lol’?”
To these people I say: I am so, so sorry. I didn’t realize that email was such an elegant and fancy form of communication. I didn’t realize that it was too ‘refined’ for raw or unchecked emotion. I didn’t realize that I had to write my emails with a friggin’ quill.
When I was in college, I took a class on poetry. And do you know what I learned in that class? That John Keats was exactly my oldest brother’s age (at the time that I was taking that college class) when he (John Keats) died. (My brother is now 43 and is running a marathon in June) (Pete Farthing 1, John Keats 0, AHAHAHAHAAA).
Do you know what else I learned in that class? That one of my classmates had written a very long, and very imaginary-looking word in his notebook: “onomatopoeia.” Curious and confused with a quenchless thirst for copying my classmates’ notes, I wrote this silly and peculiar word down in my own notebook.
Fast-forward fifteen years: While cleaning out stuff from my parents’ basement to move into my own apartment, I found that same college poetry notebook. I was way too busy to look through it then, but three weeks later, when I moved back into my parents’ basement, I saw it again and found “onomatopoeia” written in my cute college handwriting. So I looked it up, and do you know what I learned? That my parents had lost their dictionary one night after a game of Fictionary got out of control. “Typical Robert and Donna Farthing,” I said to myself out loud.
Not ready to give up just yet, I prepared to take the notebook to my Uncle Frank, a great scholar and knower of words. Well, apparently someone’s parents (mine) forgot to tell a certain daughter (me) that Uncle Frank had kicked the bucket over a decade ago. Frustrated, tired, and annoyed that I had uncharacteristically sent Uncle Frank a birthday present that year, I took the notebook to a nearby elementary school. I asked to speak to the principal, directly. My request was denied, but I did get to speak to some of the students as I was being escorted off the premises. I thrust the notebook at one student and I asked him if he knew how to pronounce that large word written in hot pink, and if he knew what that word meant. Finally, and at last, I had all of my questions answered:
“ON-O-MA-TO-POE-IA,” he chirped. “Words that imitate sounds.”
And a child shall lead them, indeed!
The point to take away from all of this research is: If AHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAA isn’t a word imitating the most natural sound in the whole world, then I don’t want to be right!
Here’s the thing about ‘lol’: What in the hell does that even mean? That I’m laughing out loud? Yeah, that really comes across when I’m reading it. “Hmph,” I think to myself, sounding out the words of your email, “my friend or co-worker wrote ‘lol’—he or she must be laughing really, REALLY hard right now. The intensity of this laughter is just LEAPING off the page. I get it! I really get it!! ‘Lol,’ man—‘lol’ forever!”
Did I mention that I am being sarcastic? Because I am, you filthy animal. I REALLY AM!!!!!
SO SUE ME FOR ENJOYING A LITTLE BIT OF FEELING IN THIS WORLD!!!!!
Here is what I think of the complaint about ‘AHAHAHAHAAA’: (I just pretended to throw up.) Do you think that I am doing this for my own pleasure? Do you think that I am sitting here, and that I am reading what you wrote, and that I am choosing to burst out with some of the most unbridled laughter that I have ever had to endure? Do you think that I am enjoying this monstrous roar clawing itself out of me, consuming my every fiber, ruling over my every nerve? Do you think that this is somehow fun for me?
Do you think that I don’t wish that ‘lol’ could adequately express how hard I am laughing, but that using ‘lol’ would be like using ‘splash’ for the uncontainable RAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHHH that is Niagara Falls?
Do you think that I am a friggin’ piece of WOOD?
I guess what I have to ask is this: What exactly are you so afraid of? Or maybe this is the better question: What exactly are you running away from? Because in my SoulCycle class, I am told to run towards the fear, not away from it, and so if I knew what your own fear was, I could probably run towards it and then punch it in the face for you.
And oh how we would all laugh about it then!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Look, I’m not here to beg and plead and moan for you to keep emailing me. I’m really not. Life is too short for tears, man—and too long not to laugh. So thank you for the emails, man, and I’ll see you on the other side.
I’ll SEE YOU IN HELL
DO YOU HEAR ME?!
I WILL SEE YOU IN HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!