Wednesday, February 15, 2006

... back when I wrote letters via snail-mail to pen-pals...

Did you ever have pen-pals?

My best pen-pal was this girl from Sweden... not sure when we lost touch - probably around the time we both went off to university. Re-established contact briefly, exchanged e-mail addresses, but again - dropped out of touch. :-( I found her e-mail address late last year and dropped her a line again, but, no reply :-( I still know her original snail-mail address by heart, maybe I can drop her a line there again, and see if I can get anywhere... if ever I do make it to Iceland, I might as well include a trip to Sweden too, eh? Would be cool to meet up one day...

Another pen-pal was this girl from the U.S... she wasn't the best at keeping in touch, and wrote only occasionally, and moved around frequently. But when I got to the U.S. for studies, I finally did drop her a line at her most recent address. Which actually reached her!! She called me, but I was about to head out the door for a football game... got her number, called her back, got an answering machine, she never called back, I didn't follow-up, and now I would have *no* idea how to hunt her down. She may no longer be in the San Francisco area, and no longer with the same last name, cos I couldn't get very far searching the white pages... Bummer.

I might have been "assigned" others, but none ever caught on like Asa & Becca.

Not sure *how* I had gotten them... while I know I participated in a pen-pal placement agency that required payment in terms of an international money cupon or something, I think my main source of pen-pals was from writing to "Dear Pen-Pal" a service provided by the tv show The Big Blue Marble.

Anyways... after the Olympics in South Korea (1988?), I wanted a pen-pal from Turkey, all because I thought Naim Suleymanoglu was sooooo cute (hey, I was a teenager! it made sense to me then!!).

I got assigned a guy, don't remember his name.

So I wrote him, and as I usually did, enclosed a recent photo of me.
    The photo was taken in ~1987? : Me leaning against the shelves in the corner of my room, garbed in a slim-fit purple-&-green (Wimbledon colours!!) "baju kurung" (the traditional dress of Malays); I was looking mischeviously into the camera, this half-smile on my lips.

Yes, I really liked how I looked: it was a great ego-boost for me to see a pic where I actually liked what i saw. So I wanted to share that photo, of course. Wanted the Turkish pen-pal to like me.

... but can you guess the result?

It really gave me the creeps:
Bad enough that the Turkish guy (let's call him Naim, shall we?) wrote back in very childlike handwriting... But the letter also contained crude stick-figure drawings of a boy & a girl holding hands, with captions like "Naim and Lynne together forever" and "Naim [heart] Lynne"!!

My reaction: *W*T*F*??!

I refused to reply Naim's letter. So what if I wasted some $$ in getting him as a pen-pal... didn't want to be exchanging letters with someone who claims to love you based on a photo... It had really freaked me out!!

Also, I decided that no matter how much I liked that picture, I'd just keep it to myself from now on, no need to "show off" to anyone.

.... aaaaaanyways.... I was just thinking, in this day & age... teenagers are no longer doing snail-mail pen-pal type communication... instead they are communicating in chatrooms, blogs and IMs... just not the same thing... there's no "physicality" to it compared to getting a solid letter in the mail, y'know? And then they are now falling victim to online predators, exposed to so many things too early in their lives.

.......... Glad I'm not a teenager in this day & age!


  1. LOL! That photo experience was funny, didn't he bombard you with letters after that? Anyways, back when the word computer and internet was still science fiction, snail mail was the only way to make contact with pen friends. I had a couple too from Europe and the US but lost touch because of postal inefficiency.

    I still do prefer to send snail mails now and then to special friends. Mailing a handwritten letter, although 'old fashioned' is more personal and honest, in my opinion, than one that is sent through cyberspace. Problem is, my handwriting sucks! LOL! :D

  2. Wow! I haven't heard anyone mention The Big Blue Marble before. I loved that show when I was a kid. Recently I tried my luck with Pen Pal-ing with mixed results.

  3. Odd that just through some clicks of the keyboard and I'm brought back over 20 years ago to when I used to watch the Big Blue Marble. I sent in my information and requested a girl from Ireland or just the UK. They didn't have one my age so sent me a girl in SD. She and I wrote to each other faithfully for nearly 15 years or so. We both got married, I got divorced and then "came out of the closet" a few years later - that was the last I heard from her.

    While writing she also gave me the contact of a young gentleman in India. He I not only wrote but one day - in my first apartment, I called India! It was the most exciting (and most expensive) call I had ever made. His plan was to go to college in the US - I have no idea if that ever happened. We just...fell away.

    Now, in the age of emails and IMs - txt messages and blogs, I hardly ever receive a letter in the mail. Or pictures - real pictures that the person had to give away to you as a gift.

    So to Sudhir and Brenda - thanks for all the lovely letters you sent, the postcards and pictures - I still have them all in my hope chest as lovely memories.

    Thanks Big Blue Marble and Dear Pen Pal! And thanks for posting this blog which brought it all back.

    Jen Graham (Philly, PA)


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