s I was preparing for a move recently, I found a stash of love letters from old girlfriends. As I read them, I came to the conclusion that most love letters are really stupid. That's no reflection on the writing skills of my ex-girlfriends. The love letters I've written are just as inane as theirs.
Every love letter I've ever read ( or written ) has been crippled by forced sentiment. The writer, charged with the impossible task of expressing their feelings without sounding a. ) needy; b. ) narcissistic; or c. ) simply insane, usually plays it way too safe and the letter comes off like one of those insipid verses Hallmark likes to print over a glossy photo of a couple walking hand-in-hand on a desolate beach.
I have a hard enough time recognizing my emotions, let alone writing about them. I am not—how you say?—in touch with my feelings. Anytime I am approached by an emotion that cannot be easily characterized as contentment or irritation I become confused and slightly agitated. The foreign emotion and I engage in a mad game of charades, as it pantomimes its way across my nervous system as I desperately try to identify it. By the time I finally figure out what it is, the frustrated feeling has grown weary of the game and left me. And I am left in my default emotional states of contentment or irritation.
What really amazed me about the old love letters that I recently unearthed was that I didn't remember any of them. It was as if I was reading them for the first time. You'd think that they would have had a lasting impact. After all, the authors had clearly struggled mightily to convince me of their feelings and took the big emotional risk of stuffing their hopeful heart in an envelope and entrusting it to the U.S Postal System.
At the time I received these letters, I must have been thrilled. Who wouldn't be? And, yet, when I read them now, they sound manipulative and false, as do most bold declarations of emotions.
Maybe it's because deliberately choreographed displays of emotion are never as effective as spontaneous acts of caring. It's the unexpected flash of vulnerability that is truly touching.
Case in point: I received an email recently from someone who I like very much. The problem is that she is just as controlling and guarded as I am. We have been locked in an emotional stalemate for years, neither willing to make the first move. Our relationship has been built on a series of carefully crafted ambiguous emails and chaperoned social outings where we communicated exclusively in smoldering stares.
We've seen each other only a handful of times over the past decade, mainly because our meetings are so frustratingly intense that we each need long recuperation periods before we regain the emotional wherewithal to meet again. We'll go for years without any contact, and then, there it will be... that name blaring out like a siren from my email inbox.
Last week, I received a cool overture from her camp--an invitation to dinner. I waited several hours before responding, as I always do. I don't like to appear anxious.
And, then, almost immediately, came her response. She answered so quickly that she forgot our game of studied indifference. Instead, she sent a message filled with fret about how I'd get to the restaurant and offering several transportation options.
OK, so it wasn't Byron. But that two-sentence email touched me more than any love letter I ever received. It was simple, sincere, and showed me that, even when she tries to hide it, she cares.
You got somethin' to say to me? Contact me through my web site: www.jenniferparello.com