Should There Be a Word Count on Love Letters?

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The other night, I happened to be looking over the shoulder of a friend — let's call him Christopher — as he typed out some kind of message. At first, I thought it might be a rough draft of a literary essay he wanted to write. It seemed to be about 5,000 words long, and it was chockfull of allusions to authors (one poem by Jack Gilbert, another by Auden). Then I took a closer look ... and saw it was actually an email to the girl he'd recently been out on a date with. A girl whom, as far as I knew, he liked very much.

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"Doesn't she have an office job?" I said. "Because that's really gonna get in the way of her being able to read that thing. Poor thing, she's gonna have to apply for a leave of absence just to get through it."

I breathed down his neck until he finished, but when I realized he was about to sign off on his DISSERTATION-LENGTH NOTE without so much as ASKING HER WHEN THEY MIGHT HANG OUT AGAIN (let alone inviting her on a proper date), fire began emitting from my mouth. "Do not send that rascal of an email unless you mention doing something with her again soon!" I yelled.

"But," he said, "don't you think a good long note like this will make her a little more excited about what's to come — and don't you think it will be perfectly obvious to her that I'm into her?"

My response? "I think it's more likely to be obvious to her that you are a logorrheic egomaniac whose more interested in wasting her time than asking her out!"

Over-reaction, you say? Fair enough. But I personally would feel burdened and annoyed if I got an email like that one — one that would make me feel obliged to respond in lengthy, clever turn. This may have to do with my age, or with the fact that I'm always trying to do too many things at once — but whatever the reason, receiving a long, meandering email from a guy I had a crush on would annoy me more than excite me. At this point, all I want to hear from a guy after a date is this: "When are you free to get together again?" If you ask me, he should save the scintillating back-and-forth for face-to-face encounters.

But what about you? Do you enjoy a prolonged email flirtation — or do you wish you could tell guys to keep the correspondence to a minimum?

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