My niece, who is 17, sent me a very excited text message one afternoon not too long ago. She received a letter in the mail from her boyfriend, who lives in another state. She was beside herself with excitement and we went shopping together to buy special stationary so she could write back to him. I was so excited for her and relieved that the art of writing love letters is not lost to text messages, e-mails, Facebook and Twitter messages.
There is no greater pleasure than receiving a love letter. Be it by mail or given in person, the feel of paper and ink in my hands and reading handwritten words of cariño (affection) is almost as good as holding the author of the letter in my arms. There is lots of room for imperfection - smudges from the ink, crossing out words, misspellings and run-on sentences. In a hand-written love letter, there is no red line to alert the author of misspelled words or a warning of incorrect use of grammar. In a hand-written love letter, the author is forced to just be her or himself.
My relationship with love letters began in middle school when I had my first puppy love. Jason, whom I've written about before, would either deliver letters to me in-between classes or sometimes slip them through the slats in my locker door. The letters, which were always folded intricately, were written on white notebook paper in tiny little block letters and I would read the words over and over and my heart felt as though it was going to leap out of my chest and run down the street. I, of course, replied in kind using my pink ballpoint pen and perfect penmanship. I don't remember the words either of us used, I just remember feeling like the entire universe stopped functioning while I read those words.
Twenty years later, I'm still a sucker for a hand-written love letter, although I must admit, it's been years since I've received one. Admittedly, there have been boyfriends who have written really beautiful messages in birthday or Valentine's Day cards, but it isn't the same as a love letter. There was one guy, California Michael, who wrote me a beautiful message on his bathroom mirror in my lipstick in the middle of the night so that I would find it the next morning. That's probably one of the most romantic gestures I've received in the last fifteen years - and it happened way back in 2005.
I tend to fantasize about the things that I want a boyfriend to do for me. Romantic dinners, showing up with my favorite flowers, a mix CD with my favorite music, buying me gummy bears and icy fountain sodas when I'm having a stressful day, etc. The problem is I want him to read my mind and know what he should do. The same is true with love letters. I want him to write me a love letter so that I can reply. I never fantasize about being the person who actually writes the letter first.
It's a mixture of pride and the need for proof (with an extra helping of fear of rejection) that holds me back from making the first move, or even the first romantic gesture - and I have never told a man "I love you" first. In my mind, if I do those things first, then he has the upper hand and I am the subservient, weak little woman. Worse, I believe that I'll seem desperate and pushy - I'm afraid to put too much of myself out there for fear that he will reject me, feel suffocated or feel differently than I do.
I wrote a few weeks ago that I have spent most of my life chasing, finding and keeping men. I have spent countless hours of energy on wondering when he was going to call, what his mixed messages really meant, why doesn't he love me the way I love him? Even very recently, I expended a lot of energy wondering why the men I date don't take me to fancy restaurants or plan elaborate dates.
While spending all that energy waiting, I never made the first move. I never picked the up the phone, never forced him to make up his mind, never saved my love for myself. Planning a romantic date (other than for his birthday) is something that I did but then I felt a little annoyed because he didn't plan it. I just spun myself in a circle, wondering when he was going to fulfill my fantasies of romance. All that fear about being perceived as subservient and weak and there I was, letting whoever I was dating make all the decisions.
Here's the thing about love - if love rules, then it doesn't really matter who writes the letter or plans the romantic evening. There are no games or mixed messages and when we truly love, we don't keep track of who makes the first move. We simply love. Fear is what tells us to keep track, to doubt, to be frozen. Fear is where my commitment issues are rooted; my ability to give and receive love is where they are resolved.
When the time comes for me to write a love letter, I'll go shopping for stationary with my niece, or perhaps write the letter on white notebook paper and fold it intricately. I may even be the first one to write the letter, and I'll wait with anticipation for his reply, which I know will come.
Next time: I'm Too Sexy For This Blog.