June 11, 1998
Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.
A Few Words About My Mail
I must admit, I have a soft spot for the man I'll call "Pizza Guy."
He writes me almost weekly to report his trials and tribulations in the helter-skelter world of food distribution and to comment on my columns. Sure, his first letter was a little frightening, what with psychotic penmanship and "screen play ideas" doodled in the margins. Still, he takes the time to write, and I can't help but be flattered by his missives.
This may be the most interesting relationship I've never had.
It started out a little rocky. In response to my column on Monica Lewinsky, he wrote: "Wake up and stop writing compromised filth. Have a nice day."
Well, that's no way to begin a friendship. Still, the closing seemed cordial, and I was only slightly worried about receiving a pizza topped with cheese-covered explosives.
Eventually, he warmed up to me, sending actual snapshots of pizzas he has delivered, and noting, "I respect your writing choices and believe you are able to express yourself with candor." Later, he suggested I use my column to "fuel up the disembodied malignancy that is the unreachable part of your soul...get mean."
Inspiring, yes, but soft-spot inducing? No. That came with Pizza Guy's seminal work, a letter in which he described his idea of a perfect date with me.
"I pick you up, I take you where you want to go. I give you all the money that's in my pocket. You go off with other people, and I drive myself to Jack in the Box. After stealing two of my father's beers, I crawl off to bed, hoping you're having a good time."
I couldn't make this stuff up. It's too good. Pizza Guy, I like you. If you ever come near me, there will have to be a restraining order, but I like you.
Pizza Guy may be a tad creepy, but most of the men who write are sweet and polite, almost uniformly suggesting an innocuous coffee date with aphorisms like "nothing ventured, nothing gained" and "seize the day."
Of course, there was the guy who wanted to meet at Ralphs, a location he must have thought would be non-threatening. And then there was the man who wrote a perfectly nice note, only to sign off with the demand that we meet "at 5:30 this Friday."
How did he think I'd respond?
Hey, good idea. Why don't I just dispense with "personal safety" and just get crazy with a total stranger. Do you have any deserted alleys you prefer? Or should I just come on over to your apartment for a roofie cocktail.
I don't want to be paranoid, but I also don't feature the idea of ending up on "America's Most Wanted," where the part of re-created me will be played by someone far more attractive while the real me is stuffed in some trunk somewhere in central New Jersey. Not that I'm paranoid.
For the most part, I really do love to get mail. I was especially touched by the response to my recent column on the process of finding a therapist. Dozens of therapists wrote, most with hyphenated names and empathetic suggestions.
One said that I need "creative reparenting." I don't know what that is, but it sounds good. Another offered me a spot in her "Wild Woman Workshop," which I believe involves howling at the moon with a lot of meno-pausal women wearing amber beads. Can't hurt, but it isn't for me.
Still, I'd rather howl than convert, which is what one letter writer suggested.
"If you want to know the truth about who you really are, read 'Scientology: A New Slant on Life" for the answers."
He even offered me a free copy. Give up Judaism for a religion that embraces Jenna Elfman? None for me, thanks.
Another therapist wrote: "If you would care to discuss your desultory, multifarious, ethereal and spellbounding (sic) views, please feel free to write or call.... I do have a girlfriend [even though marriage and engagement have not been topics on the menu]."
I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but perhaps it's not all that professional to hit on me while offering up your psychological services. Thanks for taking an interest, but you make Pizza Guy sound well-adjusted.
Lastly, I must respond to the man who wrote, "I can only infer from your writing that you are a very lonely and insecure person."
What an insightful summary of my personality, Perry Mason. Would it be less than literate of me to respond with a simple, "Duh."
Pizza Guy, you may be a freak, but at least you never state the obvious. Don't get excited. I wasn't kidding about that restraining order.