One thing J. and I share that positively baffles Supermom is an inclination to write letters. We both pride ourselves in selecting fine linen paper upon which to write, selecting the right writing implement for ourselves (mais bien sur I use a plume.) We spend time pouring over the way to phrase a thought, share a sentiment or convey our heart’s emotion. We would both sooner toss a mostly completed letter in the bin and start afresh than allow an ill-placed line to remain. By the time our names are signed at the bottom, we have created our own form of art.
Supermom sent me one of those texts on the portable phone Opie bought me the other day that read, “Fne w/me. gg, Lgn chewing Ts ft. ? u wnt b/c IDK.” I rang to find out if she had had a stroke.
Has language become such a burden that we must punish it with each staccato abbreviation? Has it always been that the idea is far greater than the way it gets conveyed? What if Abraham Lincoln stood at the burial grounds in Gettysburg and said “Listen kids, the folks that got the ball rolling would give you a big ol’ ‘atta boy’ for what y’all have done here.” What if MacArthur, during his final address to West Point had not repeated the powerful words “Duty, Honor, Country” but rather “Yadda, Yadda, Yadda?”
We can spend twenty minutes arguing with another driver about who had the right to a parking space but we cannot tell our friend “that was funny.” Instead we resort a series of acronyms that makes us sound as if our cheek has been numbed.
And it is not just what you say but how you say it. You be shocked to know the requests I get away with when I drop my voice and add a little extra breath (although this is not foolproof. The little old lady whose roses I ran over when I thought I could drive was not swayed in any way with this approach.) Clarice had a terrible row with Chef about the preparations for our New Years party last year. Things were thrown and broken, voices raised and strained. In the end, we had a stand off and quite a few misplaced tendrils of hair. I walked into the battleground that had been my dining room and began to speak. After a few meaningless sentences, I dramatically stopped and began looking around the room. When I had everyone’s attention, I clutched my throat and asked, “What is that magnificent smell?” Chef smiled and announced that a few loaves of her famous rosemary bread were about to come out of the oven. I placed a hand on her arm, smiled knowingly and repeated every point Clarice had made not 15 minutes earlier. All wishes were granted (her paycheck may have factored into that last bit more than my flattery.)
If you don’t like your language, pick someone else’s. Certainly you will sound like a pretentious twit but isn’t that better than being thought lazy? Don’t tap out your next missive and allow some tech company to second guess your poor spelling, pull out a dictionary, select the perfect words and put ink to paper. Mail a piece of you to someone you care about; let them feel you as their finger runs over were yours were last. Bridge the gap of distance with something shared by both of you, not a blip on a screen the size of a travel clock. Give them something they can wear next to the heart.
(Re-reading that last bit, it looks like I am making a much more salacious suggestion of what you should mail. Oh what the heck, do that too, just for kicks. Except not to your 84-year-old auntie, that would confuse her.)
My point is, darlings, if you have something to say, say it.