Dear E. Jean: Are there any unsocial people left in the world? Or am I the only one? I work long hours, and I really like relaxing at home with my boyfriend. I volunteer my time, yes, and make plans with friends and colleagues, but I have to fight off a feeling of irritation when they text with a “Let’s get together.” I actually don’t mind seeing friends, but I hate finding the venue, getting dressed up, smiling, saying the right things, dealing with noise levels at restaurants. In short, I hate going out. An evening out means that I have one less evening in—and to myself.
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I know it’s ridiculous! I know there’s value in a wide network of friends, but I dislike Gchat, DMs, extended text conversations, and even Facebook. I tell people my “notifications are off” or my phone is “acting funny.” Is there any way to get rid of my resentment? Am I the only person on the planet who feels this way? —Greta Garbo, 2015 version
Dear Greta: Your friends have so many platforms on which to pester you—they don’t even need words, just emoji—that by 5 p.m., when your own personal mother pings you with a Skype, you stare at your phone like it’s a live grenade.
You asked if you’re “the only person on the planet who feels this way”? Ha! Do I have to lay down a blizzard of sassy-girl information-desk persons? 💁💁💁💁
Everybody feels this way. Dear God! Everybody wants to stay home. Staying in is, in fact, so in, as Tad Friend reported in The New Yorker, that when this year’s Silicon Valley It Couple of the Century, Marc Andreessen and Laura Arrillaga, first met, and he asked her (in one of 17 e-mails he sent her the next day—though how any messages got through with those torrents of double letters in both their surnames is beyond me), “What’s your ideal evening?,” she replied…
Before I continue, Mr. Marc Andreessen is, of course, the very genius who (in a roundabout way) makes it possible for your friends to constantly bug you. He was the co-inventor of Netscape, the Web browser that deflowered the Internet and started the boom. Now he’s a venture capitalist, and his big Sand Hill Road VC firm, Andreessen Horowitz, is a massive funder of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Skype…all the gorgeous platforms that your friends employ to destroy your peace.
So this ardent, half-crazed, 6’5″ Silicon Valley titan is sending these 17 e-mails to the extremely pretty Miss Arrillaga (entrepreneur, Stanford University faculty member, philanthropist, and billionaire’s daughter with a red-gold Tudor mane so superlative only that of Elizabeth I can rival it). But Mr. Titan is worried that Miss Tudor-Mane might be addicted to the jet set life. So in one of the e-mails, he asks, What’s her ideal evening?
(You know the irony factory is open for business when a man who’s so busy funding so many ways for people to reach out to one another that it’s next to impossible for him to ever get a quiet evening on Earth again…is asking how this woman spends her nights.)
Did Miss Arrillaga’s ideal evening include a chic restaurant with high noise levels? Did she, perhaps, list bowling or swing dancing? You could guess 20 times and not guess correctly. Here’s her reply: “Stay home, do e-mail, make an omelette, watch TV, take a bath, go to bed.” And not long after that, yes….
These days, one must be a billionaire (or act like one) to have the social spine to stay home. So. My advice: When your friends ask to get together, see them for lunch. Or if they want a Girls’ Night Out (which doesn’t even require a proper in- vitation, just 15 cocktail-glass emoji), set the time for 4 p.m. afternoon tea. A woman may run mad on oolong in the Palm Court of the Plaza; she may run mad on gin in a back alley in the Meatpacking District. Indeed, when we ELLE cronies gathered a few months ago at the Russian Tea Room at 4 p.m., there was as much vodka and prosecco flowing as Darjeeling.
And your nights? Ah, Greta, girl! Evenings will be posh, private affairs. You’ll be busy doing what makes you happiest. And what makes you happiest is “relaxing” with your boyfriend in the sweetest spot you know—at home.
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.