Five Ways Something Ruined My LifeFive Ways ‘You've Got Mail' Ruined My LifeErin Mallory Long

I have a shameful secret to admit. When You’ve Got Mail came out, I thought I was too good for it. Shocking, I know, since clearly everyone in the world loves this movie. (This was around the same time I thought I was too good for Britney Spears…such a misstep 14-year-old, Erin). Well, it turns out, I was just good enough for You’ve Got Mail and it wormed its way into my heart my freshman year of college.

My lovely roommate (who I kept for all of college) bought a DVD player for our room and suddenly we could watch movies together instead of me just watching The Virgin Suicides 30 times on my Dell laptop alone (I was a film student – the multiple re-watches were for a paper). So then I became very familiar with her movie collection which included You’ve Got Mail and, for instance, Overboard. So I guess sometime freshman year I decided to give this movie another shot. And then it was a whole different world. Now I was LIVING in New York and also watching it in this adorable movie and suddenly all was right in the world. (I think it’s important to note I LOVED Sleepless in Seattle and Joe Versus the Volcano so it was really important I get on board with the last of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks trifecta).

I still find it hard to be in a Starbucks without hearing “Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.” And they have maybe the best supporting cast ever (Parker Posey, Greg Kinnear, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, Jane Adams and an almost unrecognizable Sara Ramirez!).

But here are some other ways You’ve Got Mail ruined my life:

1. I Want It to Be Appropriate to Yell “That Caviar is a Garnish!” At Someone

Metaphorically or literally, I’d love to be able to use Kathleen Kelly’s “that caviar is a garnish!” line. On anyone. I mean, it’s just sort of amazing. She’s so taken aback that “Joe” from the bookstore with the adorable kids is “Joe Fox” that she doesn’t know how to react to him so she just yells at him for eating all the caviar – which is being used as a garnish on this particular hors d’oeuvre. THE NERVE!

It’s just brilliant. And I can’t look at caviar or talk about caviar without picturing this scene.

Similarly, I’ve been keeping a list of “Things That Were Definitely In My AIM Profile At One Point” and one of them is “bouquets of sharpened pencils.” (Specifically from her line remembering his quote ABOUT the newly sharpened pencils. It’s just perfect.

2. Want to Own a Bookstore and Write Children’s Books 

When I was a kid, we used to go to this local bookstore by our apartment and they had a little kid’s play area in the corner of the store that was right up against the window. And it was awesome. It had toys there and you could just sit around and look out the window and see who else was hanging out there and I just remember thinking it was so cool.

So I mean, I’ve always loved bookstores. But then you see Meg Ryan owning a bookstore and it’s a whole new level. Her bookstore is so cute and everyone loves her AND it’s a family business (another dream of mine was to be in a family business). Now, you might be thinking, “did you not understand what happened in the movie? She has to close her store!” And, yes, I do understand that. But that still sort of makes it feel so romantic. She has this tiny bookstore and these people who work there and they’re friends and this is their life. Putting on princess hats (what do we call those?) and reading stories to kids and selling cool old books and just generally having a good time.

And then she starts writing children’s books! It’s like Kathleen Kelly reached inside my brain and stole my made up life I had for myself! She also loves daisies and I LOVE daisies so it’s all very Single White Female of her but I’ll let it slide.

3. Makes Me Upset That I No Longer Live In the 90’s

I mean, I think we’re all pretty susceptible to nostalgia. When VH1 was doing “I Love the 80’s” and everything I was totally on board. But let’s not kid ourselves. I was only alive for 5 years of the 80’s. What exactly was I reminiscing about? Vague memories from early childhood? I mean, yes, I remember watching the video to Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” as a kid so I guess I could kind of relate but the 90’s were really my time to shine. I definitely was convinced I could be on “I Love the 90’s” and was already preparing for what I would wear to my talking head interview. Sadly, they did it without me. (What jerks).

But given my deep nostalgia for the 90’s, You’ve Got Mail is one of the greatest movies to watch. Is it the Most 90’s Movie of All Time? No. But it is pretty darn good 90’s-wise. I mean, just the fact that the entire movie is a love letter to AOL is amazing. Remember when we just had to wait in anticipation to hear the words “you’ve got mail”? Now we have to obsessively check to see if anyone mentioned us on twitter, wrote to us on Facebook, liked our posts on Tumblr AND emailed us! So much harder! (Oh gosh, did I turn into Greg Kinnear’s character? I better not start calling anyone a lone reed…)


I’m not saying I wish I had AOL or anything but that modem sound is so comforting to me somehow. Right?

But how come Kathleen Kelly hates Fox Books but gets her coffee at Starbucks rather than a local coffee shop? That’s always bugged me.

4. Makes Me Upset That I Can Never Live In The NYC Of This Movie

This comes up with almost any movie or TV show set in a place where you live. Nothing is ever the same. Monica and Rachel’s apartment is CRAZY, no one normal gets to live like that (especially with that studio audience in the living room – awkward!). But the New York City in You’ve Got Mail is particularly great.

It’s beautiful Spring weather!

It’s beautiful Fall weather!

Gorgeous snow is falling!

It’s never disgusting Summer weather!

Realistically, there should be a scene where everyone’s hair is so wet from the combination of falling snow and sweat from being on the subway in layers and layers of winter clothes. There should also be a scene in the summertime where Meg Ryan is wearing a white top and gets caught in a rain storm and has to run home.

I mean, don’t get me wrong I absolutely love New York City (and State, in general) but we are not known for our awesome weather. There are a few weeks per year when we’re allowed to have nice, mild weather and that’s about it.

But thank goodness for glossy movies that don’t make us live in reality.

5. “All This Nothing Has Meant More to Me Than So Many Somethings”

We’re gonna get real here for a minute. I love this as a romantic comedy. They Hate Each Other At First But Then Fall In Love, Duh is my favorite genre of movie ever. Well, maybe not ever. I love a good Fish Out of Water tale as well. And Odd Couples! Oh man, so many good movies.

But I digress.

You’ve Got Mail is so nice because nothing outwardly happens with them until the very end. You’re just hoping they’ll figure it out the whole time. All they do is email and IM! It’s so cute. I mean, would we even make this movie anymore? And this is from 1998. It’s not like it’s an ancient movie. But I just love simple it all is. They both convince each other that it’s okay to have this online relationship because nothing happens, they just talk. But isn’t that what good romance is about? That connection that you have with someone else even just through a computer? It’s amazing. And then I just love that line of “all this nothing has meant more to me than so many…somethings.” It’s just beautiful and a perfect summation of what is so good about this movie.


Also I sort of dreamed that someone would describe me as Kathleen Kelly gets described: “Oh, no, she’s beautiful, but she’s a pill.”

(Main photo from here, computer pic from here)

  • Terry Poulos

    This is one of those moveis that everytime it comes on TV, I HAVE to watch it. It’s incredibly under-rated, because it represents the beginnings of this massive social online dating thing.
    I love the part where he visits her in her apartment and she’s hiding Kleenex under the cushions!
    And who doesn’t get all teary eyed at the end with that “Somehwere over the Rainbow” music playing and that dog bounding thru the park…….just….awwwwwww!

  • Sarah Richter

    I, to0, did not immediately jump on the “You’ve Got Mail” bandwagon. I saw it my senior year of high school and wasn’t terribly impressed. It snuck up on me and has become one of my favorites…the movie my college roommates and I put on instead of the radio, the one I pull out when I’m sick, the movie that I can’t see when flipping through the channels without watching. Thanks for validating so many of my feelings for this movie! Or should I say, “Thank Yer”?

  • Kimberly Block

    I can understand the “feeling too cool” for You’ve Got Mail. Because I so loved it in middle school, of course, I didn’t allow myself to still like it in high school. But thank God for college when I fell back in love with it again. I couldn’t hardly choose a favorite movie, but it’s up there with Pride & Prejudice and The Holiday. I would also like to give a nod to the caviar garnish and bouquets of sharpened pencils. And since seeing this movie I have read Pride & Prejudice and seen the Godfather. I have yet to read “the shoe books” but it’s on my bucket list ;)

  • Andrea Macy

    RIP Norah Ephron….

  • Leisa Ilander

    Oh I’m glad I’m not alone. I watched it about a year ago and realised all my clothing choices as an adult are influenced by Kathleen Kelly. How did that happen?
    And yes, I also try to fit “bouquets of sharpened pencils” into my everyday conversation.

  • Trudy Holtz

    Oh, any of the trifecta of Meg Ryan / Tom Hanks movies are just the best. And Overboard?! Damn, like my favorite ever. If they are on Tv, I am watching them.

    Oh, am I the only one who remembers Joe vs. The Volcano on Tv, which was always immediately followed by The Goonies? Like all the time?

  • Theresa Beckhusen

    Have you seen The Shop Around the Corner or In the Good Old Summertime? You’ve Got Mail is based on those (there’s a long genesis for this plot). Anyway, they’re both pretty baller as Jimmy Stewart stars in the former and Judy Garland in the latter.

  • Mandy Searle

    Must do a rewatch tonight. Such a classic. Great article!

  • Lauren Scharf

    lol I can’t even hear the word “garnish” without thinking of that scene.

  • Natalie Jorges

    Have you watched the two movies that You’ve Got Mail is based on? They are “In the Good Old Summertime” and “Shop Around the Corner.” The Shop Around the Corner came out in ’40 and stars Jimmy Stewart (my favorite) and “In the Good Old Summertime” stars Judy Garland (also my favorite) and even has Liza make a cameo!

  • Sandra Byles

    THIS IS SO ME. For the longest time, I hated on this movie for no good reason,t hinking I was above it or something? (“It’s no Sleepless in Seattle, guys”) And then in University I was living with two girls who are OBSESSED with You’ve Got Mail and all of a sudden I was watching it like, once a month and quoting it nonstop and wishing and praying that Steve Zahn could be my best friend. I also consider it one of my top five “Movies That Make Me Wish I Lived In NYC”

  • Sierra Bennett

    I love this article, we are one in a kind Erin! Do I have “You’ve Got Mail” recorded on my DVR? I sure do, since 2010 I might add. Everytime I watch it I want to get school supplies and decorate my room with twinkle lights (I don’t know why I haven’t honestly). Love it.

    • Erin Long

      YES. I have it recorded on DVR from July 2011. I get it.

  • Janelle Linus Hann

    thanks for this article. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that Kathleen Kelly took my imaginary life. Also, if you haven’t seen it, go watch The Shop Around the Corner (with Jimmy Stewart).

  • Joyce Wong

    not to forget the song “Dreams” of Cranberries in the last scene, it’s such a perfect touch!

  • Ana Garcia

    gahh l love this article its sad that they dont make movies like this anymore. its simple and day to day yet it has so much heart. rom coms arent like they used to be. and can i say that i loved her apartment!! it was cute and shabby i want something of the sort.

  • Erin Garland

    I love this movie and wrote about my favorite things back in April. I can’t not watch it whenever it’s on tv.

  • Deanna Gallichan

    This is my go-to “background” movie when I have stuff to do (like cleaning or crafts or Primp Night mani/pedi/facial fun) and I want some company. These characters are like family! My copy has been played countless times as background, and even after all that, I can still sit down and watch it just to watch it. Love! Love!

  • Vaya Pashos

    When I first moved out of home it was to inner-city Melbourne and I used to walk down the street in the morning with ‘Dreams’ by The Cranberries in my head.

  • Jac Sanchez

    YES! I want ALL those things as well…you get me.

  • Taylor Aileen Harrison

    Stop making me cry!

    • Erin Long


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