Love Letters Lost

His name was Simone Volpini and we met on a blistering August night in Paris.

The penultimate city of romance - Paris - an Italian architect and the promise of letters exchanged. It was too good to be true

I was dining in an over-sized bistro sandwiched between the tall, blond, brown-eyed Italian Simone and a handsome gay couple who had spent the day at the Musee D’Orsay. The couple and I quickly dove into conversation after one of the men compared my full pink cheeks and white skin to a Renoir — it was the only time I felt compelled to like and discuss Renoir. After they paid their check and bid me bonsoir, Simone asked me if I was American.

Simone was from Rome and was the only son of an Italian architect. He drove a white Vespa and was studying to take over his father’s business. He spoke little French and equally minimal English. I read Latin but spoke no Italian. We giggled through a conversation of muddled pig-romance-languages while we sipped our coffee. He called me his American Beauty and walked me out into the street to help me find a taxi. As I slipped into the car, he handed me a piece of paper.

“You will write me. Your letters will teach me English. I will teach you Italian, and then you will come stay with me in Rome.” A kiss on the cheek and we were both off into the Paris night.

Back home in the states, I wrote Simone a letter. His handwriting was atypical for an architect — messy and non-linear — and I could barely decipher the address. His letter was returned to sender.

Alas, I would not get to play the part of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

The sole letter I've received from a friend, celebrating our graduation from college 4 years ago. I still have it.

It had been years since I had thought about the love letter exchanges that never were, but then a chat with a guy I’d met early last week reminded me why I found the idea of a pen-pal romance so appealing.

“You’re working very hard to get me to go out with you,” I typed in the text box of gchat after having received a handful of flirty texts and emails over the course of the week.

“There’s nothing hard about sending you a text message or an email. I sent them on my way to lunch.”

Clearly, he wasn’t a smooth operator, but Chad had made a very good point: sending a one-line message while you’re working on other things is not very hard.

In the age of texting and sexting, we’ve come to expect constant and instantaneous messages of love (or lust). On the one hand, there’s something extremely romantic about receiving, at any time of the day, a note that lets you know your beloved is thinking of you. On the other, one wonders if this communication blitz doesn’t lack of bit of sincerity. If it’s so easy to key in an “I think I’m in love w u”  when you’re on the go, then do you really mean it? Texts don’t necessarily demonstrate commitment… sometimes I wonder if they might even be a sign of over-commitment.

Writing letters are hard. They require time and thought. They lack that benefit of instant on-screen editing and spell-check — your flaws are more evident. And it seems that sitting down with pen and paper is something we only do these days when we’re taking notes, that is, if we haven’t forsaken a legal pad in the name of an ipad. It was not so long ago that a letter, composed with pen and ink, was our primary means of communicating from afar.  We’re out of the habit of letter writing.

Call me old-fashioned but “Ever thine, ever mine, ever ours” reads so much better when it’s scrawled on paper.

I kept the letter I wrote to Simone and every time I travel to Rome, I stuff it in my backpack. It wasn’t a love letter, but just in case I run into a tall blond architect riding around the Coliseum on a white Vespa, I’d like him to know I didn’t take the easy way out.

Technology and Affairs of the Heart

Poor Sandra Bullock. Apparently, she received an apologetic letter from one of Jesse James’ mistresses via fax.

I didn’t know people had personal fax machines any more. Hadn’t the scanner and the PDF replaced them? Clearly, an “I’m Sorry” Hallmark card is passe. Perhaps, a fax retains more sincerity than an email or a facebook message.

The tabloid sites say that James met this Other Woman via MySpace. Remember those days when husbands used to meet stripper mistresses at strip clubs?

I know I’m not the first blogger to bring up the subject, but it’s amazing how technology has changed the way we meet people, date people, and break-up with people. We know we’re in an age of hyper communication. Thanks to our smartphones, we’re never out of touch. Gone are the days of landlines and dial-up modems only (yes, I’m old enough to remember late nights before wikipedia and craigslist). And gone are the days when our only means of meeting prospective significant others involved leaving our cozy apartments.

Let’s think about this…

If we want to find a date/one night stand/long term relationship we can log onto okcupid, match.com, eharmony, craigslist or myspace. We can find those “missed connections” from the subway platform or establish a flirtation through dating site aliases. Maybe we can coordinate a single’s night through a facebook group.

Then we meet someone and exchange email addresses, pins, skype names, or screenames. We go home and become friends on facebook and start following feeds on twitter or blogs on wordpress. We keep in touch/track movements through text messaging, bbming, gchat, AIM, and phone calls. Eventually, we announce that we’re “in a relationship” to the world through an avalanche of statuses.

And then we break up…

The breakup itself can happen through all the above forms of messaging. Apparently, the fax and the post-it note are also modern forms of communicating the end of the affair. In-person is always preferable, but thanks to technology, if that’s not convenient for you, a face-to-face termination can be initiated by video chat. In-person breakups are mandated only by rules of tact.

Then there’s the change of “relationship” status on the social networks followed by the defriend maneuver. Then we have to block his email address and delete him from our contact list.

There are so many things to keep track of… it starts to get a little overwhelming.

Especially for folks like me who, on top of her all the aforementioned “buddy lists,”still insist on keeping an actual hardcopy address book.  A left-click on delete is, in the end, far less messy than whiteout.

Good thing I switched to pencil…