May 31, 2006
Why are men scared off by love letters?
I have oft had occasion to ask myself
BECAUSE I HAVE WRITTEN MORE THAN MY SHARE,
your share, and your next door neighbor’s share of them in my time and I’ve seen it all. I contend it’s not just the love that chases ‘em away (what man wants to be loved?)—it’s the graphic demonstration of it. Not only do you love someone, you’re ready, willing and eager to get in his face about it. It’s feelings made real, something you can hold in your hand. A volatile situation for anyone.
HIRE CYRANO DE BERGERAC
Most people who love you do not have the ability to write about it, and as discussed in Axfiles ’05 #2 it is a slippery slope even for professional writers to tackle love and eroticism without sounding tacky, banal or ridiculous, much less Joe Schmoe and Jane Doe. So most people, happily “conjoined” or not, are not going to receive a load of love letters in their lifetimes. People aren’t used to it, so it packs extra punch. I myself have received exactly one genuine love letter, from one of my best hang-out buddies in Philadelphia thirty years ago, a fellow Bach freak, but it was not to be. It impressed the hell out of me, though. The guy could write. I certainly held him in esteem over it.
WHY WRITE ONE?
It’s an opportunity to write. It’s an opportunity to engage in and breathe life into the dying art of letter writing. It’s an opportunity to communicate, and encourage dialogue. In the age of electronic communication, it’s old-fashioned, charming. In the age of instant messaging, it takes time, care, and thought. It’s an opportunity to state your case about your feelings without immediate in-your-face feedback—trust, tenderness, admiration, lust.
Of course you are free to say things you wouldn’t otherwise say but that are entirely appropriate in a love letter. But for me it’s mostly an opportunity to be poetically passionate and passionately poetic. Try it. Write a love letter to your husband, wife or squeeze. Out of the blue. Mail it. Put it in the inside pocket of the jacket he wears to work.
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT
Never type a love letter, oh no.
Do not under any circumstances spell “you’re” as “your.” In my book that sends you packing.
Be yourself. If you’re a gusher, gush. If you’re restrained and dignified, be delicate. If you’re shy, let your letter do the talking.
Avoid schmaltz at all costs. If your writing is saccharin, it could actually be a turnoff.
Under no circumstances do you dot your i’s with hearts.
THE THINGS I WANT TO SAY TO YOU DON’T COME IN WORDS
I loved a man; actually I didn’t have a damn thing to say to him, I didn’t care if we never said another word to each other. I just wanted to go in a room with him and forget about every other thing. Didn’t happen. But he still knew how I felt. Why? Because I wrote him a love letter, which is folded up like an origami lockbox in a tiny memory cell within the inmost convolutions of his brain. If he’s ever under the knife and the surgeon touches that part, perhaps he’ll eke out a meager subconscious thought of me.
AH, THAT WAS NOTHIN’
Obviously I would not write such letters if my feelings were not sincere, but at the same time I can’t take these things too seriously, no matter how melodramatic they may sound, or maybe because of that. I just watched a Seinfeld where Jerry was audio recording his stand-up routine and Elaine impulsively got on, disguised her voice and make some sexy remarks, stuff like, “I want to slide my tongue around you like a snake.” The guys were going Oh man! Oh God! Oh brother! When George told her he didn’t know she was so sexual she just threw it off: “Oh that was nothin’.” Same here. I churn that stuff out, it just rolls out of my ballpoint.
WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THIS?
Depends on your relationship with the writer. One guy, though he could not reciprocate, kept accepting my letters for years. That’s not a good maneuver, it sends entirely the wrong message, which is “I need your attention; there is hope for you.” Took me years and a cross-country move to U-turn out of that dead end.
Another guy I had the hots for saw me in a new light: “I was very impressed.” He was also intrigued and challenged, as part of it was in German. Led to a one-night stand in South Philly.
Another time a lover called me at dawn to ask, “Why are you so wonderful?” Another lover: “I feel very close to you right now.”
HOW TO RESPOND?
First of all, do. Get it over with and then you can both go on with your lives.
IF IT’S FROM SOMEONE YOU LOVE/LIVE WITH
Dramatic gestures deserve dramatic responses. Red roses and black orchids. Breakfast mimosas in bed. A weeknight at a four-star hotel. Don’t be stingy. Show your appreciation.
The response I secretly long for (which I’m pretty sure is a line someone said to George Sand in “Impromptu”: “Your prose would melt the Alps.” You are the woman for me.
HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU
That line was uttered by Carrie’s boyfriend Jack Berger on “Sex and the City” as a wake-up call to a woman who couldn’t understand what some guy was thinking, and is now the title of a book by a comedian/consultant and story editor from that show, Craig Bernhardt. It’s no doubt the most cogent explanation for the neutral, negative or lack of response.
NO RESPONSE SAYS:
Don’t care enough about you / won’t take the time.
Blip on my radar screen / already forgot about it.
You have freaked me out / I can’t deal with you.
You are eminently resistable / yeah, whatever.
Your letter was inappropriate / I can’t encourage you lest you continue in your pursuit.
Flattering, but dream on, girl. Have a nice life.
Let’s not risk our friendship.
Want to give you your due, but it’s unlikely I will think of you again.
Bottom line: I’m just not that into you.
Too bold. I’m the hunter, you’re the gatherer.
You took a risk and got clobbered. Better luck next time.
You’ve got to be kidding.
You actually sicken me.
I am not into you at all, far from it.
Stay away. At least 20 yards away.
DECLARATION OF LOVE:
If a guy can’t take a love letter in stride, he no doubt can’t take you, or more likely, me, in stride. Once again, my motto: If I’m too much for you, you are not enough for me. Who wants to waste perfectly good love/lust energy on someone who is scared of you, intimidated by you, indifferent to you, turned off by you, or, realistically, just not that into you? But now at least you know. Better than wondering and maybe missing out.
JUST SUGGEST DINNER
I once had an affair with a guy because he asked me to dinner. Not that simple of course, but it turned my fancy. He was a friend of a friend, Mitch, who had a crush on me (not to be) and we met a party Mitch took me to. I didn’t think anything of it. But later on he came into the bookstore where I worked, and we tried to pinpoint where we’d met. Oh yes, it was the party with Mitch, and we had a nice little chat. As he was about to leave he said, “Let’s have dinner.”
Take note of that. “Let’s have dinner.” Not “I was wondering, would you like to have dinner with me?” Not “You think we could we have dinner some time?” Not “How do you feel about dinner?” Not “Could I call you sometime?”
He was pretty cute to begin with, and the tacit assumption that I would agree, with the underlying confidence shown by not stopping to wonder if I would not, earned him beaucoup de bonus points. See, this is the type of aggression women look for, not the crude god’s-gift-to-you type. A definitive statement of interest with no pussyfooting. He earned even further points after dinner by stopping and grabbing and kissing me on Chestnut St. I love, love, love being kissed on the street.
Later on, I told a friend the story of how we re-lit the extinguished Eternal Flame in some park or other, whereupon he told me, “Gesture is your medium.” Then came the unpleasant task of informing Mitch that I was dating someone he had introduced me to. Been down that road a few times.
IF YOU ARE INTO HER
Bust down her door and give her the ride of her life.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU GOT THIS LETTER?
Love letters are by their nature kind of campy overstatements. Oh, I love you so much! Let me count the ways! Do you have to? In Axfiles 05 #3 I published a “hot love letter” I thought deserved to see the light of day after 20 years smothered in a black binder, but that was not really the hot one, the hot ones were to follow and I was going to post them here, but even for me they are too, too graphic to loose on the world just now. Not to fret, they will appear in the novel. Plus I must continue to tease you with the loss of my virginity, because contrary to popular expectation, it’s a tale I’m not eager to relate.
“It is too much, and not enough. But to love you–is everything.” A sentiment from that era, age 17.
THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER
But I share with you the recently unearthed Corazon Classic from 1997. I recall writing the letter—and especially the pocket square that inspired it—but not the language, and in reading it over, I astonished even myself, repeatedly exclaiming “Oh my God! Oh man! Oh brother!” as each new paragraph unfolded.
My outfit demanded a pocket square. I was lacking one. A certain fellow lent me his. The universe provides.
April 21, 1997
An average day on which a gentleman made me the emergency loan of a pocket square.
Corazon, I lie abed with my face wrapped in the black silk cocoon of your “natural scent,” and swoon with the perfume of secrets not yet told, in the heated crowded closeness of a sultry starry night with the moon fractured on the bay, and I wonder, do your sheets smell the same way?
Corazon, my needs overwhelm me. My heart strains to pulse to the rhythm of yours, but misses a beat. My arms reach into darkness and embrace only air. My tortured lips taste only the flesh of memory, the dream of desire. My thighs thrash and twist through sheets to wrap around an image only, the phantom of ghostly despair. The night yawns in silence around my sighs.
Corazon, my breast is alive with fire like Vesuvius, the turmoil spreading like lava through my loins. A volcano may smolder for ages on end, but one day can’t help but erupt, as is its nature, and mine. Can I be blamed if I can’t control my raging sensuality which paws at your door like a tigress on the loose? Check the peephole, Corazon, and beware, lest it swallow you whole. I could eat you alive, suck the marrow from your bones and the fillings from your teeth, the gold sliding down my throat to nest and rest at the bottom of my soul. I am ravenous, eaten up with frustration, imagination, the realization that nothing is written.
Corazon, I wanted you first over martinis at Puccini & Pinetti. As you bit the olive off the toothpick, I felt your teeth pierce the meat of me. My tongue tingled to trace the curve of your lips that rolled around the lucky green orb, breaking it open to expose the slippery red heart of the matter.
Jack the black sphinx with full moon eyes queries my enchantment with the square. I breathe it in like an oxygen mask, as if I can’t sustain life without the scent of a man. I nestle it between my breasts and it blossoms out of my bra like a black orchid, exotic and fragrant as a hothouse. My black body suit forms a vase of luscious onyx. As my breasts rise and fall, the petals open and close like the secret sacred lips of love. It is closer to me than you have ever been, Corazon.
I slip my sleeves and straps down my arms, and the black blossom blooms between white hills in the curvaceous landscape of my neck and shoulders. I slide my top all the way off and cover myself with your scent. We are intimate. The silk your hand enfolded now caresses my breasts, an exquisite torture of texture and smell. It passes over my skin like fingertips. I learn my curves anew as if your hands which held this silk hold me. Black silk and white flesh perform an exotic dance of courtship, slipping by each other, briefly intertwining, pulling away, pressing together, resting.
Corazon, my desires overwhelm me. I am that hothouse where the black orchid breathes. I am ruled by Venus, goddess of love. My desires overwhelm you. I am Vesuvious, I can’t hold back—I don’t want to—why should I? The fire rumbles deep within me.
“Are you in love?” Richard snaps, as I pause at the fridge, inhaling you still. Caught.
“No,” I quickly aver, thinking, “I’m not allowed to be. What would be the point?”
The point is to live and to feel. To risk and to relish. Drink and be drunk. To smell and to swoon, to hold and be held, to cherish and delight, to inspire and excite, to kiss and be kissed, to love and be loved. To live, not hide. To run to, not from. To thank God for the present, kicking the yapping dog of the past from your heels, while not stumbling over the future. To welcome the moon and the breeze and the bay and the woman in your arms, before she walks away.
I dream of the sweet sculptured hollow of your throat. My tongue curves right into it. I can taste the salt and the scent and the oils of your skin, the barb of stubble, the beat of pulse. I could eat your for dinner, dessert and breakfast. The feast will never end.
Passion is my stock in trade, Corazon—my currency, my coin, my nourishment, my fuel. Without it there is no life—no song of the bird, no burst of sunrise, no music of the spheres, no kettle on the hearth. Will this black orchid shrivel from the lack of it, or open under the sun of love’s heat? Will you give life a chance to be good to you, radiantly, splendidly good to you, explosively so, or serene as the bay on a still day?
Corazon, Corazon, life is short, love is precious, all is fragile, like your glass heart. Is its beat so far off from mine?
Your Venus, Your Vesuvius, Czarina Alexina, Queen of Hearts.
P.S. Don’t pop your cork, Corazon, this isn’t a love letter. Just a sample of what you’re missing.
YOU ARE HOLDING HISTORY!
Reportedly (9 years later) Corazon did pop his cork. We laughed about it over dinner. But ah, that was nothing. I cranked it out. Sometimes I am tempted to send people copies of my letters, and keep the originals myself. Some people simply do not know how to handle and preserve literary artifacts! At least the recipient of the above retained the original “in script,” as he called (that’s my handwriting) in his lateral file under “Personal.” Indeed!
AND BY THE WAY, “MARK MARSH,” THOSE TOO-HOT-TO-LEAVE-LYING-AROUND LETTERS YOU RECYCLED?
You haven’t seen the last of them!
The black orchid blooms again.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls
Scared of you!
copyright Alexandra Jones 2006