I've been thinking about love letters.
The explanation is easy enough, really. I've been cleaning out my flat. Trying to make space, to de-clutter, to look less like I live in a ruined book warehouse or a storage closet at a fading liberal-arts graduate school. I've been emptying out storage bins and throwing out enormous amounts of old papers. I suppose I hate doing that. I was trained to do History and Law, and I was trained to believe that archives were key, that the past is more important than the present. I know--- space is important, minimalism is good for the soul, and it's a bad thing to live on the edge of hoarding. It may be that at my age, the past is what you have instead of a life. Nonetheless, it's time for a de-cluttering campaign. And there've been love letters found amidst all the debris of my life.
The letters themselves date from all across my life. I found a couple of faded ones with stamps that date back deep into the last century, letters from girls when I was in my teens. Some have foreign stamps and add "USA" or "Oesterreich" under my street address. Those are written on airmail stationery, and I'm fairly certain that's not even made any more. Different handwritings, different inks, names I remember from long ago.
We don't do love letters any more, do we? Few enough people even do letters. I've been told that even e-mail is fading. We text, these days. Something as short as possible. We live in a time when people use "TL;DR" as an actual, non-ironic statement. You can guess that I hate that. Of course I like letters. I like the ritual of writing them--- choosing stationery and ink, sealing them with wax. I like it that it takes time for them to arrive. I like it that you can have them to remember and re-read down the years.
Now it does occur to me that in the age of the gender wars, love letters may not be regarded as a good thing. I can see the outrage machine of the Social Justice Cult gearing up to make that parrot-squawk "Problematic!" call that signals that moral evil has been uncovered somewhere.
I can hear the attacks in my head. The gender warriors will regard love letters as "entitled". After all, to send a love letter can be spun to mean that you're imposing on someone else's attention and time, that you're expecting (or demanding) a response, even if that's only some kind of emotional effect in the recipient. Isn't telling someone how you feel about them a demand that they "perform emotional labour"? Can't telling someone about your hopes and fantasies about them in a love letter be spun as something "non-consensual", something like cat-calling? It's all-too-easy to imagine that the gender warriors would hate love letters. They hate all the rituals of romance, after all. They disapprove of courtship and seduction, of the idea of exchanges. They really hate the idea of fantasy, of course. And anything traditional or archaic.
Let's make a note about that. The gender warriors and the Social Justice Cult hate the past and everything about it. That's something I'll never understand.
In any case, now... Love letters are open to attack by the gender warriors. They're probably a dying art anyway. They take too long to write, they require too much effort. And while couples might discuss "relationships" these days, they don't discuss courtship and seduction; they can't risk sharing dreams and fantasies.
I found small stacks of love letters in my storage bins. Some were bound in ribbon. All of them were parts of my past, memories I hated losing. Some were gently romantic, some were passionate, some were clever and witty, some were full of fairly graphic erotica. All were...hopeful. That's a part that's as key as promises of torrid encounters. They were hopeful; they were promises of a better future. That's something that makes tossing out old love letters doubly painful. You lose the memories, you lose the proofs of your past--- and you lose the promise of a future.
The letters that have been swept up in my de-cluttering may not have been re-read in years. But they were always there: proofs of my past and promises for futures that never arrived. I'll miss them, miss the idea that I had a past worth remembering. As a gentleman of a Certain Age, I may never have the chance to write more. And that's not something I want to consider.