I want to talk to you about a little-discussed, embarrassing illness that infects millions of Americans. Though most people are immune, we are still afflicted by the symptoms of this malady as they are manifested in others. I’m talking about HEV — the Happy Email Virus. We all know someone infected with HEV. We are most likely to see it in a cousin or sibling or parent; for some reason HEV is most evidently manifest in one’s relatives.
The chief symptom of HEV is the proclivity to forward emails about puppies, Jesus, and dying children who have tender insights into the human condition. A telltale sign of the HEV-inspired email is that it contains the instructions to show the sender how much you love him by sending the email back to him and 200 of your closest friends.
This provokes alternating emotions of guilt and rage. You feel guilty because you do not send back the email, and you feel anger because you know the next time you check your email there will be twenty more from the same person, all with the telltale “Fwd” at the front of the subject line. They will be in various nausea-inspiring color and font combinations, and will range from revelations about the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe to theologically unsound morality tales about the nature of God. You are embarrassed by the sight of them — embarrassed for the person who sent them, embarrassed to have them on your screen, embarrassed that after thousands of years of civilization we still haven’t figured out that it is uncouth to spell “love” as “l-u-v.”
There is no known cure for HEV. It afflicts people from all walks of life, all socioeconomic strata (except for the very top — captains of industry don’t have time to forward emails about the little boy who gives his sister a blood transfusion thinking that doing so will cause him to die). It can’t even be treated, for the most part, because to address it with the afflicted is to tell them — as they perceive it — that you wish they would die from debilitating gonorrhea. Of course that’s not at all what you want; you wish them well, so long as they stop forwarding the maudlin bloody emails. But the HEV-afflicted can’t see things that way, and so out of the kindness of our hearts we friends and relatives of the afflicted suffer in silence.
No more, brothers and sisters. Even though HEV is untreatable, we can break the cycle of co-dependency. I’m starting a new support group for friends and relatives of HEV victims. You can sign up in the comments section, but to do so you must copy and paste into the comment the worst example you can find of an HEV-inspired email. We can’t heal them, but we can heal ourselves. Let the healing begin. Share your story.
Update: Admiral Quixote recommends this solution to HEV. I recommend it, though I’m not sure it will cure the diehard cases. This clearly needs years of research funded by shortchanging the less popular diseases.