What Mel Did
What Mel Did - A lady of letters

A Lady of Letters

I’m trying to remember the last time I hand wrote a letter to someone. Not counting love letters, thank you notes and letters to home, but a letter just for the giving and receiving of news.

When younger, I hand wrote a letter to a boy named Peter who was the bad boy of our school year. Actually, bad boy lite, since the real bad dudes rode motorbikes and sucked on smokes outside the school gates. Although how cool could a bunch of suspended/expelled kids be if rocking up to a school at 4 pm daily to watch a bunch of unsuspended kids leave for the day was their biggest play? A question we didn’t think to ask back then.

Peter’s biggest play was riding his push bike “no hands” whilst wearing his school tie back to front after being warned not to do so by several teachers. This sort of detention-seeking antic passed for game back then.

Peter and I were boyfriend and girlfriend, although he didn’t know it. The old-school way was for a girl to set her sights on a boy and everyone else to know he was “taken.” But it was important to me that Peter did know and why I set about hand writing him a letter which, when finished, I folded into an intricate origami shape and drew yellow and green flowers on. Not sure why the origami exactly. Maybe I thought this would be an edge over boyfriend-stealing girls. Although boyfriend-stealing girls weren’t inside penning letters, they were outside smoking and rubbing up against your man behind the bike shed.

In any event, one of my siblings found the letter and ran to show mum. I ran out of the house in deep embarrassment, and to this day don’t know what happened to my youthful outpourings. I never asked and Peter never got his letter.

Peter and I broke up a few weeks’ later when he started seeing a blonde who wore her school blazer inside out as her blaze of defiance. I didn’t write to Peter about his betrayal, but friends and I wrote each other lengthy missives dissecting the affair, talking ’bout how much better off we were without boys. Boys who callously played with feelings they had no idea we had for them.

Outside of affairs of the heart, other hand written letters included the usual fare of competition letters to win the lock of some pop star’s hair, or his signature scrawled across a moody black and white photograph. I include David Cassidy, David Essex and Starsky & Hutch as yet another set of unfeeling males who never wrote back, sent their hair or a photograph – moody or otherwise.

If I was to hand write a letter now to send to myself back then, it would simply read “Idiot.”

This youthful nonsense came to mind as I was trying to remember the last time I hand wrote a letter to someone. Not counting love letters, thank you notes and letters to home, but a letter just for the giving and receiving of news. No, my memory won’t play nice.

But memory serves me well enough to feel nostalgic for the drawers full of beautiful and intentionally chosen stationery, pens and journals I used to own. Picking out reams of assorted pretty paper was a favourite pastime. Admittedly, some of these stationery items were bought solely for affectation and never used. Nothing like a mountain of blank pretty paper and unused pens to show off just how well read and written you are.

In a modern take, there is a company who will hand write letters and send them out on your behalf. You type what you want to say and they hand write it to your recipient. Sweet or ironic, it doesn’t matter, since it’s the feelings from head to hand in our own unique handwriting which cannot be replicated.

Feelings which are the bedrock of today’s muse and which wouldn’t exist without the memories of sitting down to a deliberate act of slow communication. Then the memory of sealing that letter, with or without a loving kiss, and sending it on its way to a friend or imaginary boyfriend.

For sure, there is alchemy there which money cannot buy – or hand write for you.


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