Jul 5, 2009


I finally wrote a letter to my friend M today. That's post-worthy for two reasons. First, because when I say I wrote a letter, I actually mean a letter. Not a facebook message. Not an email. Not a skype-text. An actual letter with a piece of paper that I scribbled on myself, with a pen, before putting it in an envelope, licking it shut (I'd forgotten that tangy, unpleasant taste that envelopes have) and popping a stamp on it. A real 1990s experience.

The second reason for posting about my letter to M is he's the one who upped and left his law-firm life, decided to use his legal skills in the service of his country and is now at some undisclosed location in Afghanistan. This is not some big, beefy guy who enjoyed playing wargames on his Playstation and decided to try out the real thing. This guy is your typical, 30-something slightly unfit lawyer (or he was, anyway; the latest pictures seem to suggest that becoming a soldier is even more effective than shelling out for a personal trainer).

In any event, there he is, in some hot, arid place where people who don't know how incredibly funny he can be have decided they don't like him and are employing their best efforts to blow him to pieces.

Given those circumstances, I found the letter-writing a bit tricky. What do you say to someone whose daily life is now mostly filled with trying not to get killed? What exactly is the right tone? Is there an etiquette book that has a chapter on "writing war letters" that women in the 40s used as a handy reference text?

Well, M being M, and me being me, I went for funny. Hopefully that was the right call.

* * *

For fun, a few words from Emily Post on the subject of letter-writing, published in 1922:

THE ART of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a post-card... to-day people don’t care a bit whether they write well or ill. Mental effort is one thing that the younger generation of the “smart world” seems to consider it unreasonable to ask—and just as it is the fashion to let their spines droop until they suggest nothing so much as Tenniel’s drawing in Alice in Wonderland of the caterpillar sitting on the toad-stool—so do they let their mental faculties relax, slump and atrophy.

And to close, Ms. Post's invaluable counsel...

Of course the best advice to a young girl who is impelled to write letters to men, can be put in one word, don’t!

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