Mary Grace Garis
November 26, 2015 9:20 am

Before heading home for Thanksgiving I got uncomfortably introspective modern dating, as one does when you go to a bar and everyone to your right and left is swiping right and left. Though cynical to a fault, there was a momentary pang of, “Whatever happened with the romantic complexities of Nora Ephron films, where love is wonderfully weird and everyone has great coats?” Deep sigh. But then I remembered…Ephron even managed to tackle the trickier nuances of digital dating. Case and point: how many #relationshipgoals can you gather from You’ve Got Mail?

You’ve Got Mail is a modern update of the Hungarian play Parfumerie, but as “modern” reads as “1998,” it feels technologically archaic. AOL was just so many years and so many unused discs ago, you know? In spite of this, Ephron, Tom Hanks, and Meg Ryan (duh) make a hella interesting stab about online romance and what happens when real life conflicts. Sure enough, it’s sometimes unpleasant, but always entertaining.

So a decade ahead of it’s time, here is everything You’ve Got Mail taught me about Internet flirtationship, digital cheating, and secretly going to war with your one true love.

It MAY be infidelity if you’re involved with someone on e-mail…make sure to double check with your co-workers first

The thing that struck me the first time I watched You’ve Got Mail (like, after reliving the trauma of dial-up) was the fact that both Kathleen and Joe are in other relationships for the majority of the movie. And not like casual, “guy you’ve had 3 OkCupid dates with” dating, they’re basically living with other people. Kathleen has to double check if this is a kosher thing to be doing, and the general consensus is, “Probably unless cybersex is involved.” Yet whether you’re sexting or not, kids (and you know I don’t judge) take a step back to analyze your current relationship if it looks like you’re getting emotionally invested with that guy on Bumble.

Standing people up isn’t just bad form, it’s bad form that’ll prolong a film an extra half hour longer than necessary. 

When Joe realizes that Kathleen is Shopgirl he promptly freaks out and ditches her in the coffee shop…but not before antagonizing her as his full Joe Fox self. Honestly, still don’t understand the scene, still don’t think that’s a way to treat a person. Kathleen is left feeling hurt by both Joe AND his quasi-alter ego NY152. The moral of the story is don’t stand people up, don’t belittle their profession and love of Jane Austen, and maybe just tell them you’re NY152 so it can speed up the plot. I know it’s awkward, but you’re an adult.

Make definite lines between your professional and your personal lives.

To recap this more succinctly, Joe’s entire problem is that after he finds out Kathleen’s Shopgirl, he alternately puts her out of business but tells her to “go to the mattresses.”  She urges her to fight, insisting it’s “just business, not personal” to get ruthless…which is an easy way to write off his own behavior. When he later recycles the line in his apology, Kathleen is respectably miffed. “All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you, but it was personal to me,” she says. “It’s personal to a lot of people. I mean, what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”

Seriously. Pick a side, because otherwise people get hurt.

If you end up running bae’s business to the ground, daisies make for a good apology.

Listen. Sometimes circumstances lead you to get off on the wrong foot with someone, and even after it seems the damage is done you want to make amends. To say the least Joe’s courtship is wonky for 90% the movie, but he does make a valiant effort in the final act. He brings over daisies (they’re Kathleen’s favorite), he tucks her into bed, and then actually befriends her, maybe to see if Kathleen could like the real him.

And you know what? It works. He has to get crafty to successfully merge himself and NY152 for the big reveal, but it works enough where Kathleen can forgive him on all fronts. Don’t cry, Shopgirl. Don’t cry…Mary Grace…

Some of the most magical relationships begin online, so get to clicking.

Among all the complications, this is the underlying message of the film, and that must be weirdly comforting to, oh, our entire generation. Long before the Internet became something we carried with us (next to our e-cigarettes, probs) was this almost foreign notion that you can find your soulmate on a computer. And yeah, the film shows it comes with its own slew of problems. But at the end of the day, maybe it’s worth it if you find someone who can make you swoon with, “Don’t you just love New York in the Fall?”

[Image via Universal Pictures]

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