The Reason I’m Jealous

The hottest trend in written communication is acronyms (sorry, Oxford comma) and that suits me just fine, because I am very busy and important and cannot be spending all that time typing out whole sentences. The days of monks toiling in a medieval monastery, taking a week to illustrate just ONE letter with 10 tiny panels depicting woodland creatures piously celebrating the harvest season, are long gone. Today, your modern monks are too busy penny trading and ordering Birkenstocks online to care about meticulously illustrating some boring coffee table book. If acronyms are good enough for monks, they are good enough for me. The communication revolution is happening and I am HFI.

The gains that acronyms have afforded in the fields of Snark, Profanity, and SmartAss Responses are particularly impressive. Please observe:
FU
WTF
WTAF
GTFO
FML
Awesome AF, right? The acronym that I find myself using the most, though, is a new-ish acronym for an old phenomenon. It perfectly captures that anxious cringey feeling I get when someone starts raving about a great new band I’ve never heard of. Or great new restaurant I’ve never heard of. Or worse, a great new book I’ve never heard of. You know by now I am talking about FOMO, that ever-present Fear Of Missing Out. It’s been the human condition forever, it seems, to want to Do All The Things or to want to Have All The Things or just Be All Things To Everybody and that when we can’t have everything and be everywhere, it makes us unhappy. In our present Google times, FOMO is having a real moment, because now we can almost instantly know about missing out on a whole bunch of stuff we never even knew to want in the first place. Pre-internet, we had to settle for vaguely imagining fabulous lives we weren’t living. Now, we are one Tweet, Facebook post, or episode of HGTV’s House Hunters International away from “vague idea” to “oh that is a very specific cool thing in which I am unable to participate”. It makes me wish for simpler times, when monks weren’t fretting about which monastery had the best illustration rooms or if they were participating in the dopest harvest season.

FOMO flat swamps me when I least expect it and I was not expecting it at all when a friend of mine recently shared an amazing family story. It seems that once upon a time, my friend’s mother wrote a lovely fan letter to Daphne du Maurier. The letter was in fact so lovely that Daphne du Maurier answered it WITH A WHOLE OTHER LETTER ADDRESSED TO MY FRIEND’S MOM and that letter is now a family treasure. Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) was a British author who did justice to her literary pedigree (her grandfather was both a writer and a cartoonist, and her parents were prestigious London-based actors) by publishing psychologically suspenseful novels, plays, and short stories. Du Maurier’s work explores and exploits tensions that exist between reality and perception in our most intimate relationships, finding sinister overtones and malicious intent in interpersonal power struggles. She wrote the novels Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and My Cousin Rachel, the short stories “Don’t Look Now” and “The Birds”, and in her spare time she answered at least one fan letter.

It was Du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca that immediately came to mind when I first feasted my eyes on my friend’s Family Heirloom Letter Of Du Maurierness. Rebecca opens as we meet the narrator, a restless and dissatisfied young woman traveling Europe serving as a companion to a wealthy, shallow social climber. Bound by the limited opportunities for a woman of her station (hello, British class system), she has dim prospects for anything but a life catering to the whims of people with more money than sense. Upon meeting the mysterious widower Maxim de Winter, she enters into a whirlwind courtship that results in a quick marriage and sudden ascendancy to mistress of Manderley, the de Winter English country estate and ancestral home. As a career path, it’s enviable on the surface, but IRL it pays to ask questions before you marry a widower 20 years older than you are. Questions like:
What was my husband’s dead first wife like?
Also, why is she dead?
Also, is the housekeeper at my new English country estate a manipulative beeyotch completely devoted to the memory of my husband’s dead first wife to the extent that she will try to ruin my life through gaslighting and manipulation?
Etc., etc.

Intimidated, unsure, and undermined at every turn by her lack of confidence and a possibly psychotic housekeeper, our heroine is so full of FOMO that you will read the whole book before realizing that you don’t even know her name. Nobody does. She never shares it. The book is named for the dead wife, not the live one, which makes Buzzfeed’s list of “Bad Signs You’re Too Passive In Your First Marriage/His Second Marriage”. Too afraid to assert herself and desperate to please, our narrator spends endless time wondering what it would be like to be the kind of person who could be mistress of Manderley (her own actual house, where she lives) and happily married to Maxim (her actual husband) instead of telling everyone to STFU and taking charge.

monk illustrating

Monk composing fan letter

My FOMO was real when my friend shared Daphne du Maurier’s charming and gracious reply to her charming and gracious fan. If I put myself out there to an author I admire, would I be so lucky as to be acknowledged? If Daphne du Maurier has taught me anything, it’s to speak up before your creepy housekeeper tries to push you out a window. My best case scenario is a return letter I will cherish forever. Worst case scenario is a restraining order I would cherish forever. Either way, I’m not missing out.

Action Items

Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of Rebecca is one of his best movies. It’s tense and spooky and if your jam is watching Laurence Olivier act like a jerk, then don’t miss it. This movie is Laurence Olivier at peak jerk.

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