Love At First Type

“Do you believe in love at first sight?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you believe in love before that?”

These two lines sum up the question at the heart of Attachments, the debut novel by Rainbow Rowell. It’s set in 1999 at a Midwestern newspaper in the midst of the Y2K madness. Co-workers Beth and Jennifer spend good portions of their day sending each other messages about very personal details of their lives despite knowing that their email is being monitored. The person monitoring their email is Lincoln, and he doesn’t have the heart to send them a warning.

You see, through their messages, Lincoln has come to enjoy Beth and Jennifer’s interactions immensely. Before he realizes it, he has fallen for Beth but can’t imagine how he would ever introduce himself. Quite a dilemma, isn’t it?

I discovered Attachments after seeing it chosen for the Barnes & Noble Summer 2011 Discover Great New Writers program and the subject matter really resonated with me. Why, you may ask? Well, I’m a veteran of falling for someone online. The most important relationships I’ve had began by reading someone’s words and being drawn to them and the person behind those words. When you love words and feel comfortable using them, I think it’s natural to fall for someone via the written word. If you’ve ever written or received a love letter, you know how powerful it can be to share intense emotions through language. You keep those letters and re-read them over and over and the feelings that get stirred up don’t diminish with each reading. They grow.

If you’re getting to know someone online, it’s easy to put your best foot forward, as it were. You can take time to say exactly what you want to say. There is no stuttering or fumbling over words. You aren’t distracted by the physical presence of the person with whom you’re talking. All you have are your words.

Can this be problematic? Certainly. For example, I know that I can come across much more self-assured online than I normally do in real life. This doesn’t mean that I’m lying about who I am. It just means that I’m presenting my best self, who I am internally, and who I want to be more of, externally.

I must confess that I don’t read much fiction anymore. I don’t know exactly why or when this happened but if you looked at my bookshelves, you’d find mainly nonfiction: biographies, how-to books, philosophy, etc. So, for a book of fiction to grab me, it must be something special.

The subject matter of Attachments may have lured me in, but it was (big surprise), the words that kept me reading. Rainbow Rowell fills her novel with pop culture references to songs, movies and my personal favorite, “Dungeons and Dragons”. (I was a devoted D&D geek in the mid-to-late 1980s). But the quality that most impresses me is her dialogue. Rowell’s dialogue is crisp and punchy, much like the best movie or television dialogue you’ve ever heard.

So I highly recommend Attachments to anyone who loves snappy dialogue and a captivating and unconventional love story. Despite the fact that my previous forays into online love haven’t led to “happily ever after”, I’m not discouraged. To answer the questions that began this post, I not only believe in love at first sight. I believe in love at first type.

Welcome to Bizarro World

In my never-ending quest to not just entertain, but to enlighten you, I came across this interesting article today. Apparently, British theoretical physicists are attempting to find evidence of multiple alternative universes, aka, “multiverses”. You science fiction and comic book readers are very familiar with the idea of a multiverse. (See DC Comics Infinite Crisis and 52, for just two examples.)

In essence, the thought is that we live in a multiverse in which new universes form each time they collide with each other. What really piqued my interest was the theory that these universes could possibly not adhere to the laws of nature with which we’re familiar. For example, time could move backward instead of forward. Freaky, right?

This is just like Bizarro World. For the uninitiated, Bizarro World, aka, Htrae, is a fictional planet in the DC Comics universe. In Bizarro World, society lives by the Bizarro Code in which everything is done the opposite way it’s done on Earth. I had a dream that I woke up in Bizarro World.

Someone named “Snooki” who inhabits Jersey Shore, supposedly makes $100,000 an episode. According to a website called PayScale, high school teachers in New Jersey earn between $35,269 – $73,705 per year. Snooki must be doing something really impressive.

Then, I hear a creepy disembodied voice talking to me. I’ve heard it before but I have a hard time placing it at first. I realize that it’s Michele Bachmann.

Suddenly, I wake up shaking and covered in sweat.

“Good thing that world isn’t real,” I mumble. But then, I turn on the television and see:

“No, no, no!” I scream. “This can’t be happening. It must be Bizarro World!”

I hear another voice, this time emanating from inside my own head. The voice says, “Kelly, this is your world, for better or worse. Just because it’s not Bizarro World doesn’t mean it’s not bizarre.”

You Play to Win the Game

Back in 2002 when he was the head coach of the New York Jets, Herman Edwards uttered this line and his sentiment really resonated with me in light of the coverage of the defeat of the U.S. Women’s National Team in the World Cup Final. I was puzzled and annoyed by the coverage of their loss mainly because it seemed patronizing. The fact that the U.S. team failed to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities in the first half, lost a lead twice, committed sloppy errors that led to Japan’s scores and totally broke down during penalty kicks was absent in the coverage. It was all hearts and flowers about their wins over Brazil and France. Don’t get me wrong. Those were great wins and there is no doubt that the U.S. team did wonders for women’s sports, especially soccer, here in the U.S. All you have to do is look at the ratings.

But, if the goal of playing is winning, they failed. Why are people so afraid to say that? I think it’s because no one, especially men, wants to be accused of being a sexist. The fastest, easiest way to shut down debate is to call someone either (a) racist, (b) homophobic, or (c) sexist. By pointing out that they failed to win the game doesn’t mean that they are failures as human beings or that their run in the tournament was a failure. Anyone with common sense knows that. Are female athletes so fragile that they need protection from criticism? Hardly. Female athletes are strong in body, mind and spirit, just like their male counterparts and they deserve to be praised and criticized by the same standards.

Finally, someone said just this very thing. On the July 19, 2011 episode of Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, host Bryant Gumbel delivered a spot-on commentary. I don’t always agree with Mr. Gumbel, but he said everything I was thinking after the World Cup Final. I applaud him for facing the slings and arrows he’s sure to receive for daring not to parrot the politically correct party line.

Nutella It Like It Is

Every once in awhile, a commercial comes along that annoys me beyond words. Well, maybe not beyond words, since I’m now blogging about it. But, you get the idea. This Nutella commercial is the current target of my advertising angst. We see a harried Mom of three oozing gratitude that Nutella came into her life. Now she can give her family “a breakfast they’ll want to eat” and she can feel good “that they’re ready to tackle the day”. Really? You popped toast in the toaster, slathered chocolate and hazelnut on it and threw it in front of your kids. Wow, you are SO getting the mother of the year award!

I don’t have kids and have no idea how difficult it is to get them fed, clothed and out the door every day. But, still, is this what we’ve devolved into? I can tell you this, if my mother had sent me out the door with toast and a spread for my “nutritious” breakfast, the neighbors would have called Child Protective Services.

But, you know, maybe I need to not take things so seriously. It’s just a commercial after all. I should look for the lighter side of life. Like this. Ah, parody always makes me feel so much better.