I can tell you exactly when it happened, the moment I became a crazy person.

It was Mr. Harris’ third grade science class and we were studying astronomy. I loved everything about that class and that teacher. Seriously, Mr. Harris was just one of those amazing teachers that inspired people. Before Mr. Harris, I hated Science. After Mr. Harris, I was explaining how a hypothesis worked to everyone who’d listen.

Everything was going so well in my nine-year-old life. Until, of course, Valentine’s Day came around and Joshua Van Dyke gave me a card. A card with an image of a pig holding a sign that says, “I love you.” (20 years later! I still remember the card! Crazy! Both me and the situation!)

I don’t know if I’d ever thought of Joshua Van Dyke in that way before, but the card changed everything. I simply didn’t know what to make of it.

“WHAT DOES IT MEEEEAN,” I demanded of my friends, my parents, the bus driver, my music teacher and my dance instructor. “Does he love me, or does the pig love me?!?”

That card ruined everything. I was never able to look at Joshua Van Dyke — or communication with members of the opposite sex — the same way again (note: Joshua Van Dyke, if you’re reading this because you suddenly got a Google alert about yourself, I am no longer in love with you. I haven’t been since that unfortunate 4th grade Spring Concert incident. Just so we’re clear).

When it comes to conversing with friends, emailing bosses and business associates and even planning the occasional camping trip, I am great. Amazing, even. I’m a really good emailer. If Mr. Harris popped back into my life, he’d give me an “Excellent” in written and verbal communication. I am a confident person who thinks nothing of when a friend should get an email or how many texts are too many texts.

Unless those texts are going to or coming from a dude. In which case, I’m right back to being nine years old, asking the janitor about the hidden meaning of a pig holding a heart.

The advent of the iPhone screen shot is the best thing that’s happened to me and the worst thing that’s happened to my friends. Every text is grabbed, emailed and demanded to be analyzed. Texts are written, re-written, sent for approval and given timelines. In the last few weeks I’ve thrown myself into actually dating instead of sitting at home watching the Vampire Diaries with my cat, and my friends are being punished for it.

I want to be normal, I really do. I want to get a text that says, “Hey, how are you?” and not wonder if he’s just saying that to be polite or if he really wants to know how I’m doing. I want to reply to that text without seeking the opinion of no less than 12 of my closest friends. I want to be able to text someone just because I feel like texting them. Or ask someone to get together without calculating how long it’s been since I’ve seen him, how many times he’s asked me out and perhaps googling the appropriate actions for a second date. I want to approach communication reminding myself that if I dude is thrown off because I texted a day before I should have, then he is not the dude for me.

But I can’t do any of those things. And somehow, someway, a pig holding a muddy heart (OMG, you guys, is the muddy heart a symbol of my muddied romantic conversations?!?) is to blame.

More like this:
How to Say “I Like You” (Without Actually Having to Say It)
My Taste in Music Is Ruining My Dating Life
6 Bits of Information That Should Never Be Relayed Via Text Message

Joy Engel lives and works in Portland, Maine where she tweets far too much and solves the occasional murder-mystery while riding around on a bicycle. Everything she writes is her personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of her employer or its clients.