The last love letter I received–and by love letter I mean the physical, handwritten, may or may not be on specialty paper, may or may not be scented with the sender’s perfume, one–was last December 2015. Even then, handwritten, physical letters were such a rarity that it was almost a source of pride for the receiver and an investment for the sender.
I remember letters stopped becoming “a thing” towards the end of my high school (around the year 2012) when palancas ceased to be these small, colorful pieces of paper to be given personally on the day of the recollection and became continuous messages spamming one’s e-mail or Facebook messenger to be printed out by the receiver a day before. That day I received that letter from my friend, which accompanied his Christmas gift to me, I felt flattered, giddy, curious, and most of all, excited. It was then I realized I was feeling an interesting medley of emotions I had not felt in a very long time.
There is a sense of novelty and genuineness that comes with writing a love letter, or any letter, for that matter. I mean novelty, not in the sense that it is “new”, but in the same way that monocles, pocket watches, and actual city maps instead of Google maps are becoming prized possessions (see Scribe Writing Essentials: Unique Items and Great Gifts for the Creative); and, genuineness in the sense that there is this aura of authenticity and vulnerability that only a letter can evince.
Letters are gifts in its most thoughtful form. In the same way that we take so much time choosing the perfect gift for the special people in our lives, writing a love letter in itself is an investment. We try to find the right words, take into account how they would feel if this word was said or if this sentence was arranged this way, and going through the effort of putting together all those words into the proper form to make sure the receiver gets what you’re trying to say. As opposed to simply cashing out to buy a gift or merely taking seconds to type out a brief message online, the stakes that come with writing and giving a love letter are much higher. It is the giver’s soul that is put on display–to be viewed, adored, and criticized. The words etched in paper weigh so much, and yet they are priceless.
And, perhaps, that is what makes love letters so special: knowing that all those words are yours.
When you give someone a letter, it’s more than just a piece of paper with ink on it. You let the receiver in on your thoughts, what you feel, who you are. With a love letter, you expose the truth made real through a letter with thoughts made permanent by ink. What makes love letters so beautifully powerful is that it works in much the same way as poetry.
Love letters, like poetry, are a paradox. There is so much more being said in the so little that has been said. And like any good poem let off into the world by its creator, it evokes some feeling, some spark, intrinsic only to you. The letter, containing the words of the one who wrote them, is now yours. You are left to process what is written and to make what you want of it. When you decide to give someone a letter, in a subtle way, you are entrusting yourself to that person, as if saying, “My thoughts are now yours.”
Letting others in on who you are has never been easy, or in some cases, neither is it favorable. The very thing that makes art what it is is the exposure of the creator’s vulnerabilities, strengths, and being to make something uniquely beautiful in all its truth, as in dance, music, and poetry. Letter writing is no different. In fact, it is probably the simplest form of art. There is no choreography, intricate rhythm, or symbolic form needed; all that stands between you and the other person are words full of meaning.
The art of letter writing is as demanding as it is generous. For the sender to even be able to give a part of himself, he must first take the time to sit down and think about what he wants to say and how he wants to say it, but with the advent of technology, you barely have to sit or stay put to compose a message, and thus writing has become a lost art. But as with all art, it is able to bring a whole crowd to silence, and is able to make an individual feel, which instantaneous, half-minded messages simply cannot do.
So…why don’t we write love letters anymore?