Yesterday, I got my first letter from a new penpal. I used to have a lot of those but as I got older, I got a lot more picky. There are safety issues with giving your address to strangers, of course, but more importantly, you really need to have a connection with someone to be able to write letters that are several pages long. Letters, even more so than small talk, can be really awkward and full of uncomfortable little silences between the lines.
My favorite penpal for years was a girl from Australia. We wrote whole novels to each other and really clicked because we shared the same humor. But then we ruined it all by becoming friends on Facebook. Or at least I think that’s where we went wrong. We started writing messages on there instead and it just wasn’t the same. Our letters took months to write and send out. In a year, we made it to perhaps three or four exchanges. But once we had taken things to the Facebook level, it was so hard not to fall for the ability to reply within a few hours. And even harder not to get used to that. Messages came faster and faster, got shorter and shorter and were less and less thought through. In the end, I think both of us had a hard time not to take it personal when we were taking a few days or weeks to reply. It’s a real shame but none of the things you could take back just like that.
After that, I started the odd attempt to find new penpals and found it really hard. Penpal websites are full of people who want to find other people from all over the world to practice their languages at best. Which is a really nice idea but I’m just not very good at that. I just really like writing letters, thinking about what I want to tell the person, how to put it all, then send it off and wait impatiently for a reply. It’s so nice to find a long letter from a nice person among all the bills and bad news in my mailbox.
But still, I got tired of looking. Whenever I updated my profile, it would appear on the frontpage of that website again and I’d get seven million emails, some nice, some obvious scam, but never really anything that made me feel like I was talking to a person I could really connect with. So I gave up on it. I haven’t updated my profile for years now and to be honest, I forgot about it all. Until sometime in October when I got an email from a guy telling me he’d found my profile. At first, I thought it was spam but then read the email anyway. What he wrote sounded like he really knew something about me. It was all there, my love for music, books, etc. It made me remember all about that dreaded profile. And it also made me reply in an instant because it was so crazy how much we had in common, how easily we could get into talking. But we both agreed that snail mail was so much nicer so after two or three emails, we exchanged addresses. (Don’t try this at home, kids! Normally, you shouldn’t hand out your home address to strangers so easily.) I agreed to write first and I did so right the next day. And then spent weeks waiting impatiently. Until I found a thick envelope in my mailbox yesterday.
Now, let me tell you, I know I’m a girl. It’s so easy to wow me. But this new penpal of mine made me smile like an idiot while I was reading his letter. Not in a crush-kind of way. But we have so many interests in common, share opinions and can just talk about things forever, especially music. I felt like I was sixteen again and rambling about my favorite bands to someone, then hear theirs. The way we talk, it’s straight out of a Nick Hornby novel, I swear. And yes, there was a squeaky “OMG, he likes my favorite band!”-moment!
I’ve never really shared this with anyone. I have an old friend who I used to fangirl with a lot but we haven’t done so in a while and even then, we usually just listen to each other’s newest obsession but never really find ourselves on the same page. While at the same time, of course, he and I can also talk about other things. It’s only been two letters but we’ve already written about deep, painful things that happened in the past and even then, what he has to say makes me smile because it all seems so sincere.
Let’s just hope I won’t mess this up again. No Facebook this time!