The U.S. Postal Service should have a law that makes it illegal to post your own mail for at least six months following a breakup. Under this law, you must turn over all your mail to a close friend who will sift through it, extracting anything that looks like a love letter ( or hate letter ) to your ex-lover. Postal police will patrol mailboxes with orders to 'shoot to kill' any lovesick fool reeking of bargain-bin chardonnay and cheap sentiment who attempts to mail an envelope filled with overwrought prose and unfulfilled longings.
Someone has to be responsible for keeping you from making the terrible mistake of pouring your heart out ( in writing yet! ) to someone who feels indifferent toward you at best and hostility toward you at worst. You sure as hell can't be counted on to be responsible for yourself.
I couldn't help thinking of the last time I mailed a post-breakup letter this week when I learned that the woman I sent it to had committed suicide. My first thought upon hearing about her death was 'Oh, God, I hope she had the sense to burn that letter I wrote her.'
Before you start getting some sick ideas that the letter had anything to do with her death, let's get a few things straight:
a. It was a nice letter, not a mean one.
b. It was sent many years ago, and we had hardly any contact since that time.
c. I'm really not the type of person anyone would ever kill herself over. Would you kill yourself over a person whose first response to your death was to worry that one of your relatives might stumble across some stupid love letter she sent you? And then had the supreme bad taste to write a column about it?
The worst thing about mailing a letter while in a state of emotional distress is that you cannot get it back. And, believe me, I've tried. I've had my share of I Love Lucy moments where a friend has held onto my legs as I tried to dive in a mail slot to retrieve an ill-advised letter that tried to convince a woman to rethink her ambivalence about me.
Email has made self-humiliation-by-words an even more dangerous and immediate threat. However, I'm old-fashioned enough ( and just plain old enough ) to believe that if you really want to make an impact, you slap a stamp on it and mail it.
The result is always the same. After squeezing your heart all over a piece of scented stationary and rushing out of the house to mail the letter at midnight, you wake the next morning in a cold sweat, hoping it was all just a bad dream. You delude yourself that maybe the letter will get lost in the mail, but the post office always seems to come through in matters of the heart. ( Damn them! ) Still, since she never ( ever! ) calls you after receiving the letter, you fool yourself into thinking that she never received it. But then you have a chance meeting with her and she cuts her eyes in that way that makes you know that not only did she get the letter, but she also read it to her friends and they spent hours mocking you and your silly emotions and grammatical errors.