I'm getting fed up with spam. No, not SPAM, the local dietary staple. I could never get enough of SPAM, glorious SPAM. I'm talking about lower-case spam, the unappetizing, unsolicited emails that bombard my Blackberry daily.
In the first place, it's a sacrilege to use the name of our unofficial state dish to describe the online equivalent of junk mail. SPAM is not junk food; it's comfort food. I eat it at least once a week and my alter ego, Tita, works it into nearly every performance. Here's a little tribute she wrote for a Dr. Seuss read-aloud session. With apologies to the good doctor.
I no like green eggs an' ham.
Da only meat
Fried or baked
Or even milk shaked,
An' sometimes straight outta da can.
OK, so I've never actually tried a SPAM shake. But as a judge in a couple of SPAM recipe contests, I've tasted a wide variety of SPAM concoctions, from tacos to wontons. My late husband once made SPAM Wellington in a toaster oven, baking the pink loaf in a pastry shell and serving it with a cream sauce, in an effort to create a SPAM dish that he could stomach. I thought it was pretty good, but he never made it again. Come to think of it, that was the last time he cooked - or ate - SPAM.
Mystery meat, he called it. He said SPAM stood for Spiced Pressed Amalgamated Meat. I always thought it was short for "shoulder of pork and ham," which are the main ingredients. But according to the official website, the true meaning of the name is known only to a few retired Hormel Foods executives, presumably the ones who were in charge when the product was introduced in 1937.
The naming of spam is less of a puzzlement. Internet sources attribute the origin to a Monty Python comedy sketch in which the word SPAM is repeated over and over, sung by a chorus of Vikings to the annoyance of all. Repetition and annoyance are the key words here.
I'm generally an even-tempered sort, with a high threshold of tolerance for nonsense. I used to find spam only mildly annoying, and sometimes rather amusing. It was easy to laugh at all those Nigerian princes and lonely Russian maidens and purveyors of male-enhancement products, who obviously had me confused with someone else. I have no money to invest, nor maleness to enhance.
But now that the spammers have better targeting tools, it's not so easy to laugh off their marketing efforts as misguided random e-blasts. It's the profiling that bothers me. After my 55th birthday, I began receiving sales pitches for wrinkle removers and arthritis cures. Carnival Cruises and Victoria's Secret no longer write to me; my new Internet pals offer me life insurance and sensible footwear. The ones that really bug me are the come-ons from online matchmaking services like Forty Plus Singles and eHarmony 50+.
I know I'm just one of millions, an insignificant dot in some giant database; the spammers know me as a statistic, nothing more. Nobody's peeking into my windows or going through my trash. Yet my knee-jerk reaction is to take their suggestions personally. My inner tita snarls at the cluttered inbox, "So what you trying fo' say? You callin' me one wrinkled-up ol' maid?"
It's totally irrational, but sometimes I wonder if the spammers really are stalking me. They seem to know when I'm having a bad hair day and when my self-esteem is faltering. I swear, the spam is heaviest when I'm feeling most vulnerable. Who told them I haven't had an actual date in over a year? And why would they think I need help finding one?
On the other hand, Irina and her comrades are still writing to me, hoping to construct family with man such fine as I. Maybe, if I forward my Match.com invitations to her, they'll both leave me alone.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.