The Wrath of Shelley Newman

Adventures with my e-mail alter ego

I have problems with Harvard e-mail. It isn’t just that I always open the stupid “I send this to have your advice” virus attachments or that I am inexplicably still subscribed to some awful porno equivalent of the BMG Music Club. We all have these e-mail problems and we put up with them in order to savor the joys of things like the Harvard Secular Society discussion list’s charmingly futile and interminable all-night debate between atheists and evangelical Christians over—get this—the existence of God.

My problem transcends constant telnet-checking and a bizarre urge to catalogue and index drunkmail. My problem is much more serious.

To paraphrase Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry (and Pogo): I have seen the enemy—and her name is Shelley Newman.

Shelley is a middle-aged woman, named after the English writer Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose hobbies include skiing and checking her e-mail. I have not actually met her (which was what Admiral Perry actually said upon beating the crap out of the British fleet during the War of 1812), but I have seen her—safely logged in at net-19427.fas.harvard.edu and at pool-141-154-119-99.bos.east.verizon.net, among other exciting locations. Shelley’s e-mail address is newman@fas.harvard.edu.

Our paths first crossed innocently enough. About six months ago—two years after I was assigned dnewman@fas as my e-mail address—a friend and Crimson co-worker accidentally sent Shelley the top-secret message, “i’m hungry. my tummy’s grumbling. =op” Shelley replied politely:

I doubt I am who you were wishing to reach...

Shelley newman

The message was quickly forwarded to its intended recipient (me) with the explanatory note: “i forgot the d in your e-mail address and now i am red.”

Three weeks later, Shelley received an invitation (entitled “what’s up sluts” and authored by Crimson editor Temple W. Simpson ’03) to catch up with my freshman year roommates over a slice of pizza at Pinocchio’s. It is unclear whether she took offense at being called a slut or whether she simply preferred Tommy’s to Noch’s. In any case, this time Shelley’s response was more pointed:

I do believe that you have the wrong Newman

change it. Please

It would seem that my friends had learned their lesson. Yet the very next day Shelley was invited to the 21st birthday party of FM Publisher Kenyon S.M. Weaver ’03. Uninterested in the promise of “debauchery, inebriation, and surely some nudity to follow,” Shelley issued a stern rebuke to Weaver’s roommate:

Please take me off your list. I am not a student, in the traditional sense and I really don’t need this sort of mail. You have too much time and too much money...get out and do something good for someone else.

This unwarrantedly bitchy e-mail prompted the suggestion from Weaver’s party-planning roommate (Simpson, who had screwed up my address twice in a row) that perhaps Shelley hadn’t been laid in a while—and that perhaps this was a job for FM cover model Anthony J. Herrera ’03, also Weaver’s roommate. Herrera will not confirm whether he encountered our antagonist over that weekend, but Shelley emerged early the following week apparently in a much better mood, playfully declining Jonathan M. Lee’s ’03 offer to participate in the planning of my blocking group’s trip to the Harvard-Yale football game in New Haven:

Please take me off of this list. I have no idea who this person is supposed to be, but... it ain’t me babe. I am old enough to be your mother and I am not interested in football... thanks for the invite, though... what a hoot!

Shelley Newman

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