From You’ve Got Mail to You’ve Got a Match

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

I decided to skip all the hashtags about the Cape Storms today and hide in bed from the wind and rain to heal my seasonal cold with Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail, that old gem of a film from 1998 starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

I love this movie. It’s warm and charming and whenever I have a cold I am reminded of the scene where Meg Ryan is home sick in her endearing apartment, drinking copious amounts of tea, leaving a trail of used tissues where ever she wanders. 

You’ve Got Mail was released in the days of dial up connection. When you had to wait for the fuzz of the telephone line to quiet down after the tone before you could settle in to your inbox. 

I was only 14 when I saw the film. I remember thinking how cool it was that people could communicate that way. I always wanted a pen pal. South Africa was a bit slow on the uptake, especially when it came to chat-rooms and the like. 

But it was the romance of the film that grabbed me most. The idea of writing to each other and building an entire relationship without having to go out looking for it – so that by the time you meet that person you already know each other. Everything seemed so romantic and so perfectly easy. 

Drippy for a 14 year old, I know.

I was introduced to writer and director Nora Ephron from a very young age. Heartburn is one of the first films I ever watched. And Nora’s scripts basically carved the heart I continue to wear on my sleeve. 

None of this struck me as unrealistic. The phrase “That kind of stuff only happens in movies” never crossed my mind. It took a long time and multiple “open-heart surgeries” to learn that that was in fact true. 

I even got so angry at Nora’s influence on my idea of romance that I once penned a letter to her sarcastically thanking her for ruining my life with her lies of love. More than that, none of my loves lost were initially found on the Internet. I have never, to this day been signed up to any sort of online dating site. 

My relationships were mostly the products of University cafeterias and horrible house parties. And then, there was Tinder. I had long given up on the idea of getting mail and followed the religion of “you’ve got a match” instead.

Tinder met a wiser Haji. By the time I started using it the idea of “true love” became the stuff of deep and dark fantasies. Tinder removes the magic of correspondence. Swiping right enough times and you’re bound to get a notification. 

The only time there is a lag in communication, is when you or the party you’re chatting to is pondering which emoji to send next. And then, of course, while profile pics can lie – there is no mystery about the man or the woman you are flirting with. 

A quick Google search will give you access to multiple photos and as much information as you need. That thing called imagination has become redundant and so has romance. You don’t go on Tinder to get to know anyone, not really, unless of course you’re willing to engage deeply over a dick pic and then set up a meeting to meet said dick in pic. 

If You’ve Got Mail was the modern version of love letters shared between Beethoven and his Immortal Beloved then Tinder is the modern day equivalent of bumping uglies in a night club and never seeing each other again. 

So, has the evolution of communication changed the way we think about love? Or have we changed the meaning of love because of technology? 

I still got the warm and fuzzies when I finished watching You’ve Got Mail for the umpteenth time. In some ways, it’s more relevant than ever. It’s a reminder of the existence of something more meaningful. Having said that though, I did meet my life-partner in a nightclub. I didn’t get mail. But I did get WhatsApps. A lot. 

And I saw her everyday since that first meeting and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. So maybe that stuff doesn’t only happen in the movies, and maybe there’s something to be said for getting a match in more ways than one. 

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