I was reading Flirty's blog the other day when she made mention of Pen Pals and this got me thinking of the two pen pals I wrote to as a child. I should say that I was a child at the time and wasn't a sweaty man pretending to be a 12 year old. Just in case you read that the other way.
I cant remember exactly how old I was at the time but I assume I was young. Our teacher encouraged us all to get involved. So all us nerdy kids filled in the little form - ticking what we wanted in a Pen Pal. The cool kids weren't having any of it though. Why spend their nights and weekends writing letters to people they didn't want to know when they could be hanging out with and smoking fags with actual friends?
Every boy wanted a girl from America and every girl wanted a boy from America. These were the early 80's and Cyndi Lauper and Shalamar were all the rage. Shalamar? I don't know maybe it was Hall and Oates, the hell if knew what girls were into back then. The point being we all wanted to write to and more importantly get letters from America. America was super kwell to us kids living in the tiny provincial town of Armagh.
So we all filled in our forms and waited and waited and waited and waited oh we waited. Time moved slowly before the wonder of the internet. Cyndi Lauper wasn't so cool any more and Shalamar had been replaced by Gary Numan by the time we got our new pals addresses.
I struck Pen Pal gold, a girl from California called Chan! Chan? This was tremendous! Who knew somebody called Chan? Hell, who knew somebody from California? Never mind that the only girls I knew were the ones in my class and my sister and they all knew how desperately uncool I was. Chan, meanwhile, was on the other side of the world, thousands of miles away from my sensible boy shorts and "big truck" posters.
...or not as the case may have been. I fancied a bit of reinvention but didn't really have the wit or brains for it back then. I think the first letter went something like,
"Hello Chan, my name is "Manuel". I am 11 years old and I live in Ireland with my daddy and my sister. My mummy is in hospital, she is not well. I have a bike and a 5 cars and a fire truck and pet dog." (That was a lie, I had no dog. Oh the shame....)
I mean really you'd screw it up and chuck it in the bin wouldn't you and then go riding about in bouncy cars they way they do in California. But hell she replied! It was weird, I mean really weird. There was a sticker on the envelope, which in itself was weird, that read "Grody to the max."
Grody? To the max? What the fuck did that mean? Dad didn't know. My sister didn't know, not that she came out of her room to answer the question. She had sold her soul to Duran Duran so she was useless to me or was it the other way round? There was no internet with which to google such a thing. I so wanted to Grody, I wanted to Grody to the very best of my abilities. I wanted to Grody all night long, if grodying was done at night that is. Grodying to the max didn't sound like something I would normally do but I wanted to do it anyway.As long as grodying wasn't something you did with a girl I was on safe ground as I had little to no experience in that department. I knew girls existed but that was the height of my knowledge.
I worried about it.
I wanted to impress my new pall, which is probably the uncoolest word for chum since..well since chum, with my grodying skills. Her letter was full of glamorous and wonderfully interesting stories about people called Todd and Heather and Chad and all their wild parties. I only knew people called Sean or Orla or Seamus, there was a Jody in my class but that's as glamorous as it got. Now that I think back it was probably a crock of shit because how wild can an eleven or twelve year olds party really be? It's not like kids parties now days when it's all knives and alco-pops and drugs.
Thankfully there was a bomb near my house so my next letter was full of that and I got to bypass the whole Grody to the Max nightmare. I expected her return letter to be full of "wow's" and "goshes". But not a word of it! All I got was a one line palm off about people being shot all the time in her "neighborhood". Fuck that. I lived in Northern Ireland, we were interesting back then! But not a jot did she care.
She sent me a photograph after about the third letter. I had resisted such forwardness on the basis of it wouldn't be good for the chances of us getting married. She really need to fall in love with me before seeing me. She was hot, her hair was styled. This was a shocker as back then in Ireland there were only about 4 haircuts for girls, hair up, hair down, hair curly, or short hair. So hair that was styled was something else. I was well and truly out of my depth. How could I, a boy, hope to compare to this woman (aged 12) with her friends with fancy names and hair that wasn't cut by her mum or auntie?
I knew that things were beginning to wane after about our 6th or 7th letter. My stories about bombs and shootings weren't impressing her and that's all I had. Things were becoming difficult between us and then one day she casually wrote a line about her other pen pal, from England. Other pen pal? I was heartbroken. Was there nothing these English wouldn't steal? First our country and now our pen pals. I never wrote back....
Saying that I also had another pen pal, from Finland. But she looked like my Uncle Liam, so obviously that wasn't gonna work out either. I was such a fickle 12 year old.
Pen palls eh? Glad I don't do that anymore. I mean how sad must it be to write to people you don't know about the minutiae of your daily life?! Pfft....
So did you have a pen pal? Even better, do you still write to them? And hey Chan if your out there I hope your still Grodying to the Max, dude!