Thursday, September 06, 2007

How to Email a Guy In a War Zone

Dear Terry:

I have really, really enjoyed and benefited from your emails since I signed up. It's great perspective.

I have a question to throw into the mix. While there are a number of potential candidates for dates at the moment, the man I think I like the bet is, unfortunately, deployed to Iraq. I've never met him; he's someone my Dad thought would be great for me, but we're both formerly married, so the conversation got going over email last January when it became clear we were both now divorced and available. Initially, I just treated it as a sort of a reach-out to a person in a war zone and therefore under considerable distress (my small part to help the troops...Yadda yadda yadda).

But we have a great deal in common (as it turns out), and my Dad may well have been right (wonderful man, my Dad) that this guy is a good match.

So what I'm wondering is this: If you've never met someone, and he's in a war zone, how ought you conduct a "relationship," or at least a semi-romantic exchange? Do the rules shift at all? The specific instance is that there are more occasional gaps of several days between his messages. As a general rule, one should not (did I get this right?) send more messages to a man than one receives. Does this rule still apply in this particular situation? I feel I'm in an awkward compromise between trying to be a compassionate stateside perspective provider and a candidate for girlfriend/wife at some future time. So I'm perplexed.

Thanks again!


Hello, E.-

I definitely respect and admire your compassion for the troops, but no, I don't think the rules shift. You write, he writes, you write, he writes.

Let's pretend you're the one deployed to Iraq: You get a message from a guy you don't know who turns out to be the son of an acquaintance. Intriguing.

You write back. He writes back.

You get sent somewhere where you don't have access to a computer. When you get back, you are immediately sent somewhere else where you don't have access to a computer. In your few spare moments, you roll the contents of your correspondent's last message around in your head. You mentally formulate a response.

You finally get access to a computer. You sit down to write to your new friend, only to discover he's beaten you to the punch. You read his letter, which, while very welcome, requires you to revise the letter you planned to write to him. You send your message. Then you are sent away again.

When you return, you find one...two...three...messages from your new friend. You're still glad to hear from him, but his stock is dropping by the minute.

Do you see what I mean? Clearly, this man knows that you're compassionate toward the troops. If you don't hear from him for a while, there's no need to reassure him of that fact. Write to him only after he writes to you.

Thanks for your very kind words, by the way. I'll keep my fingers crossed for both of you!