A dear and valued friend of mine sends me one of those email chain letters.   There’s nothing malicious or fraudulent about it.   It doesn’t threaten or ask for money.   It asks you to read a paragraph of prose – clichés to be sure but moderately uplifting and nothing to take offence over – and then send it off to a dozen women of significance in your life, including the sender, and wait to see what happens on the 4th day.

I sigh.   I am very fond of my friend, a woman of taste and judgement, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings.   So I enumerate the dozen most significant women in my life.   They’re far flung – Tokyo, Toronto, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford and here in the South.

And then I’m overtaken by a burst of irritation.    I don’t want this.   I don’t need to read a paragraph of psycho-babble.   I don’t want anything to happen on the 4th day (not that anything will.)   I don’t want new recipes, money, prayers, friends.   None of those.   Nothing.   And what’s more, neither do my dozen friends.

I wonder briefly about the motivation of the people who initiate these emails.   So far as I can figure, there is no profit motive in sending things like this email chain out into the atmosphere.   (Unless the object is to get more traffic on the site.)  Can it really just be people who haven’t enough to do in their lives, filing up the unforgiving minute with risky ventures ‘to see what happens’.    (I used to do things to see what happened, but not any more.    Generally I found in these situations, far more happened than you bargained for.   Plenty of things happen that you can’t prevent and have to deal with, without you starting up a few more.)

And then I turn my thoughts back to my valued friend.    She’s a sensible woman, not given to superstitions or other time-wasting nonsense.   I think, why is she doing this?   Then I wonder, why I would do it?   Because I don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings.    And why is she doing it?   For exactly the same reason.   So we’re all doing things that we don’t want to do in order not to offend the feelings of the person who sent it to us, and no doubt she likewise, stretching back into infinity.   So I dump the draft email.

Ladies, let’s not do it.    You can send me anything you want me to see – just for me to read;  for my information;  to make me laugh;  to give me an option;  for my opinion.    I’ll be glad to receive these.     If it’s not confidential and I think others might find it amusing, I’ll post it on.    But don’t send me any chain emails.   I won’t be doing them.   I know you don’t really want to either.

Let’s cast off these chains.