HEV Negative

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.


  1. greg walllace

    Okay, this is actually a challenge because before I delete such drivel out of pure reflex, I fire off a quick note to the offending party that I would have read their pathetic little missive but I was too busy feeding hamsters to my pet python Woody (no relation, I’m sure). or I send it back with the rejoinder that there’s simply no room on my system for their letter; I’m saving all available memory for porn downloads. I guess I’ll just have to notfy my emotionally stunted niece in Phoenix that I haven’y heard from here in awhile. That should open up the floodgates of offal.

  2. Steve Gigl

    Incredibly on target. Unfortunately, I delete acquaintance-spam pretty much immediately.

    My hope for said “support group” would be that we could find a way to stop the madness without losing friends.

    During the dot-com boom, I remember reading a news story about a web site that would allow people to anonymously notify someone that they have bad breath (am I too lazy to check to see if it’s still alive? Yep!). That exact solution wouldn’t work for this problem though, because the “HEV-positive” person would still take it very personally (in my experience, they are likely to take massive offense at any criticism, well-meaning or not).

    The most HEV-positive person in my life has taken a break from FWDs lately, so I haven’t had to think about the problem in a while; I am therefore at a loss for any other suggestions…

  3. Tamzen

    As with many other friends and relatives of the HEV-infected, I am quick to delete the offending missives.

    However, a prime example was delivered today to my work inbox from a sweet and intelligent young woman who seems blithely unaware of the idiocy she is spreading.

    The text of the email is as follows:

    “F R O G – we all need one!
    I was told a story about a lady in the hospital who was near death when an area Chaplain came to visit her.? This Chaplain was a very young female with long blond hair.? She listened to the lady who was ill and left her a small gift for comfort.? It was a tiny ceramic frog.
    ?????The next day one of the people from the lady’s church came to visit. The lady told her friend about the beautiful young Chaplain who had come to visit her.? The friend was so impressed with the way the lady had improved and felt the need to talk to the young Chaplain. In her search to find the young gal, she was repeatedly reassured that the chaplains are never very young and that there was never a gal tha fit the description given.
    Upon returning to the lady in the hospital, a visiting nurse entered the room and noticed the ceramic frog.? The nurse made the comment “I see you have a guardian angel with you.”? As she held the little frog. We asked why she made the comment and we were informed that the frog stood for: (F) Fully (R) Rely? (O) On (G) God
    To The World You Might Be One Person; But To One Person You Might Be the World.
    ?You have been Tagged by the Froggy, which means you are a great friend!!
    You will Have Good Luck For Two Years if you send this to 8 people or more.
    ???? And if this is sent back to you then you know that you are a? true? friend…”

    Ignoring the spelling, grammar, and the interesting changes in the perspective of the narration of this tale, my favorite part is the characteristic I recognize most often in these charming letters: we are almost invariably told to trust God, Jesus, or perhaps a vague concept of “love” . . . while the email ends with an injunction to pass it on to either gain good luck or avoid bad luck. And still our friends remain oblivious to any and all inherent contradictions?it is still about God, right?

  4. nathan

    And aside from all of the other problems with HEV, it also helps spread spam…I’m sure spammers all try to get on as many such emailing lists as they can…heck, they may even purposely start these things, because when it inevitably makes it back to the spammer, he has a wonderful list of email addresses on which to inflict HIS particular brand of offal.
    Does sending your email (and sometimes name & city in the case of e-petitions) help contribute to identity theft? I wouldn’t try to argue it isn’t.
    I wrote a longer post abou this about a week ago on my website…but I haven’t been posting lately, so it’s only 3 posts down. 🙁

  5. Tom C

    I believe that the gushing tripe below meets HEV specs:


    I sat on the porch overlooking a beautiful mountain with my mom.

    “Remember your girlfriends,” she advised, swirling the wine in her glass. “You need girlfriends. Go places with them, do things with them. Keep them.”

    What a funny piece of advice, I thought. I was a grown woman, fairly assertive and confident, for goodness sake, not a young girl who needed girlfriends.

    But I listened to my Mom and I got back in touch with some of my old girlfriends and paid more attention and care to the friends I had made through the years. Gradually I came to understand that Mom knew what she was talking about.

    Here is what I know about girlfriends and boy friends . . . friends

    Girlfriends bring casseroles or bought doughnuts and scrub your bathroom or rub your back when you are sick.

    Girlfriends keep your dogs, and keep your secrets.

    Girlfriends give advice when you ask for it. Sometimes you take it, sometimes you don’t. Girlfriends don’t always tell you that you’re right, ’cause sometimes, you’re not; but, they’re always honest.

    Girlfriends still love you, even when they don’t agree with your choices.

    Girlfriends might send you a birthday card, but they might not. It does not matter in the least.

    Girlfriends laugh with you, and you need very little to start the laughter. They cry with you, too.

    Girlfriends pull you out of jams and understand your problems.

    Girlfriends don’t keep a calendar that lets them know who hosted the other last party or talk or dinner.

    Girlfriends will give a party for your birthday, or maybe not. It doesn’t matter in the least. They may give you a party, even if it’s not your birthday, just to cheer you and them up.

    Girlfriends are there for you, in an instant and
    truly, when the hard times come.

    Girlfriends listen when you lose a job or a spouse.

    Girlfriends listen when others may break your heart.

    Girlfriends listen when your minds or bodies fail.

    My girlfriends bless my life. Once we were young, with no idea of the incredible joys or the incredible sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.

    If you’d like to pass this on to your girlfriends/ boy friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Let them know that you will hold them, as they have held you.

    I just did.


    The woman who sent this to me is very nice. She is not stupid. She likes me. I like her. I did not reply to her email, and won’t.

    But, AAARRRGGHH! Part of me thinks that only a Pollyanna ditz would propagate such drivel.

    You want to hear about “girlfriends”? How ’bout I interject a few choice words about some of my REAL HUMAN “girlfriends” from PLANET EARTH into this TERMINALLY VAIN FEMALE-CHAUVINIST FANTASY OF A GERBIL-BRAINED STEPFORD SISTERHOOD???

    Deep breath, I’m OK, I’m calming myself down now. Tony, guess I didn’t quite understand the part about how sharing these emails would be a healing experience. I think I need to share several drinks now, instead.

  6. MarcV

    Could you please FWD a FWD of the support group meeting details and minutes? While I may be HEV-, my wife is HEV+ and is in need of help.

    Possible future rant: people who attach big graphics files/digital photos, thinking that everyone else must have broadband. Nothing quite as infuriating as waiting ten+ minutes for e-mail to download. Some of us can only afford dial-up!

  7. iceman

    if you use MS outlook or entourage as a mail program

    you can filter the subjects or text or headers to the trash or other folders, even double ruling

    if luanne then inbox
    if luanne and fwd in subject heading then put in
    luanne jokes folder

    if nigeria lagos or senegal in body of message
    then put in trash

    if enlarge your P—- then trash


  8. Amanda

    HEV antidote?

    >Friendship Poem
    >For those tired of the usual “friend” poems,
    >here is a touch of reality.
    >When you are sad – – – I will get you drunk
    >and help you plot revenge against the scum
    >sucking bastard who made you sad.
    >When you are blue – – – I’ll try to dislodge
    >whatever’s choking you.
    >When you smile – – – I’ll know you finally got laid.
    >When you are scared – – – I will rag you about it
    >every chance I get.
    >When you are worried – – – I will tell you horrible
    >stories about how much worse it could be and to quit whining.
    >When you are confused – – – I will use little
    >words to explain it to your dumb ass.
    >When you are sick – – – Stay away from me
    >until your well again, I don’t want whatever you have.
    >When you fall – – – I will point and laugh at
    >your clumsy ass.
    >This is my oath – – – I pledge till the end.
    >Why you may ask?
    >Because you’re my friend.
    >Send to ten of your closest friends and get
    >depressed because you only have 2 friends,
    >and one of them is not speaking to you
    >right now anyway.

  9. Shawn Small

    These days I only seem to get jokes forwarded to me which isn’t so bad, but every once and awhile, I will get the Incredible Story with Pics. The last one I got came from someone very close and quite intelligent which goes to show that we all fall prey. Did anyone get this one? It was a collection of pictures of the space shuttle blowing up as taken from an Israeli satellite? Of course they were fake; doctored pics from the movie Armegeddon. My solution is to give these FWD’ers the address http://www.snopes.com which helps debunk many an urban legend (and some things are found true!). Hope this helps.
    Btw — The walk-a-thon for HEV will be held next weekend.
    We’re against it 🙂

  10. Davey

    Here’s one I received a few weeks ago – and I know it’s true because it says so:

    This is a bricklayer’s accident report, which was printed in the newsletter of an Australian Workers’ Compensation Board. This is a true story. Had this guy died, he’d have received a Darwin Award for sure..”

    Dear Sir,
    I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 3 of the accident report form. I put “poor planning” as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

    I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later were found to be slightly in excess of 500 lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor.

    Securing the rope at ground level I went up onto the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks. You will note in Block 11 of the accident report form I weigh 135 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed.

    This explained the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collar bone, as listed in section 3 of the accident report form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping ’til the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of beginning to experience pain.

    At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of bricks, that barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight: 135 lbs.

    As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and several lacerations of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked.

    I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks in pain and unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back down onto me. This explains the two broken legs.

    I hope this answers your inquiry.

    Tee Hee

  11. Gina

    LOL! Enjoyed the articulative rant! I’ve been curing people of HEV for a few years now. I had to quit because for every 1 I cured, 3 appeared to take their place. I resorted to the delete key, in most instances. But occasionally, I’ll take one of those really really good emails and chop off the “send to xxx people or xxxx” and pass it on to a few selective recipients. Sooner or later, someone adds what I’ve deleted back on and sends it to me again, just to torture me.

    It’s a bit scary sometimes. 🙂

  12. Christine

    I immediately went into my deleted items folder to pull out my most recent HEV+ relative’s email. Unfortunately, I have quite a few HEV+ relatives.

    > Making Pancakes

    > Six -year-old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents
    > pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter,
    > opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it
    on the floor.
    > He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most
    > of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the
    > which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten.
    > Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to
    > be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad.
    > He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or
    > the stove and he didn’t know how the stove worked!. Suddenly he saw his
    > kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away,
    > the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this
    > monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and
    > And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled
    > up in Brandon’s eyes. All he’d wanted to do was something good, but he’d
    made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a
    > But his father just watched him.
    > Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him
    and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process.
    > how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but it
    > turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend,
    > we can’t stand our job, or our health goes sour.
    > Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything
    > else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us,
    even though some of our mess gets all over Him.
    > But just because we might mess up, we can’t stop trying to “make
    > for God or for others. Sooner or later we’ll get it right, and then
    > they’ll be glad we tried…
    > Please pass some of this love on to others….suppose one morning you
    were called to God; do all your friends know you love them?
    > I was thinking… and I wondered if I had any wounds needing to be
    > friendships that need rekindling or three words needing to be said,
    > sometimes, “I love you” can heal & bless! Remind every one of your
    friends that you love them. Even if you think they don’t love back, you
    would be
    > amazed at what those three little words, a smile, and a reminder like
    > can do.
    > Just in case I haven’t told you lately… I LOVE YA!!!
    > Send this to everyone you love, and send it back to the person who sent
    > to you. And never stop “making pancakes”!!!


Comments are closed.