Friday, 25 July 2008

Grody to the max and other pen pal issues....

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.

manuel didn't have many friends as a child
which is unlike now of course.....

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?

Fuckers.

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 Cyndi Lauper wasn't so cool any more and Shalamar had been replaced by Gary Numan by the time we got our new pals addresses.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.

MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

...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!

33 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

skyjuice7 said...

Hi Manuel, I'm a new reader and like your interesting stories. :-)

I used to have a number of pen-pals. Started writing since I was like 10. I had 2 pals from Japan, 1 Russian, 1 Spanish, 1 Danish, 1 Swiss-Swedish, 1 Slovenian and a few from Malaysia.

I'm in my 30's now. Lost contact with most of them as years passed by. Still in touch with my Swiss-Swedish, Slovenian and Malaysian pals. Have actually met my Slovenian pal. She came to Malaysia for a visit, and I paid her a visit in Slovenia.

Keep the posts coming!

problemchildbride said...

You stopped writing to her? No! I bet she'll always wonder why. She probably spent ages working out what she said wrong...

I was add a wedding in North Uist once and I snogged a boy on the bus back from The Dark Island. He was on the cover of one of Runrig's album because he was the guitar player's first cousin and so I was star-struck. We wrote to each other regularly for about a year. He skooched his letters with Lynx deodorant which I'd mentioned I liked, and I skooched mine with Paris, sometimes to the point that the words in the middle of the letter would get all big and bleed into each other and we would have to guess what that bit meant. Deeply sad and I was mocked mercilessly when my stinky-letters arrived, but I loved getting post with my name on it, just for me, private. Looking at them years later, they were the most tame love letters ever written: "I wish I was holding your hand!" etc. Lordy.

problemchildbride said...

I was add a? I was add a? What the fuck is wrong with me?

Shut up.

Manuel said...

skyjuice7: Thanks and welcome, now that's commitment...huzzah for you!

sam: I'm sure Keith or Simon or whatever he was called helped her get over m loss to her life. I really love writing letters, there is something so genuine about it eh.....Runrig? hehehehehehe Lynx? even more hehehehehehe

Silverstar said...

The only pen pal I can claim was a guy I dated in college who went into the Air Force. We wrote for the six months of his basic. They were very scorching love letters. Unfortunately, my mother decided to pry, then decided to pry me away from him. Considering who I did marry, and how that turned out, I hope she regretted that action.

Manuel said...

silverstar: crikey.....I've opened old wounds....

Quickroute said...

I never 'add a' pen pal :-((
Sorry Sam - couldn't help it!

Medbh said...

Hee!
Manuel, I did have a pen pal back in my very early 20s. He was a prisoner in Florida that I met through some Wiccan exchange program. His name was Fritz. We traded a few letters until I asked him why he was imprisoned. He killed his wife! And I reminded him of her!
I moved.

MJ said...

My mum made me stop writing when my penpal in the Caribbean asked if I could help her come to Canada to live.

moosh said...

I had umpteen penpals when I was wee, but I do remember at school getting the form to tick the boxes of what we wanted in a penpal too - it was from the royal mail's Hola! penpal club. I got a girl from Texas called Shawn I seem to recall. It fizzled out as these things do when you're 11, but I recently got looked up on Flickr and Facebook by 2 penpals I had as a teenager. Perhaps Chan is out there pining for you still.

carine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
carine said...

according to urbandictionary.com, grody means:

'nasty, dirty, disgusting, foul, revolting, yucky'

so if chan was grody to the max, it's probably just as well you lost contact with the durty wee harlot.

x

(http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=grody)

carine said...

wikipedia:

grody to the max! – "as gross as he/she/it can be."

ah yes, i rest my case.

ok time to get out more carine

x

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_Girl

AnFearBui said...

Had a pen pal briefly as well, an 11 year old Girl in Milan. I'm telling you Manuel, Armagh was positively exotic compared to Donegal in the late 70's early 80's.

Manuel said...

quickie: bad lad....

medbh: fucking hell! oh that's too funny....

mj: so you moved to the caribbean then eh?

moosh: no, never gonna find out......never look back....

carine: it's all so weird.......

anfearbui: there was nothing man......nothing....

sheepworrier said...

Im feeling a bit grody right now - pints on a school night are never a good idea.

Our school wasn't posh enough for pen pals, we had cross-community shite instead.

Conan Drumm said...

There was boarding school and all manner of correspondence - love letters, valentine's cards [big deal in boarding school], girls met in the Gaeltacht, wry commentary sent to mates not despatched to boarding school gulags, ironic letters to family about my incarceration. I wonder if any it survives...

jennynib said...

I wrote to a German girl for years in school and we got on FAMOUSLY!

So much so, I harrassed my folks to send her a plane ticket so that she could spend the summer with us.

BIG mistake.

After a week, she started to bug me. After a fortnight her nit picking got on my boobs bigtime. After a month I f*cking LOATHED the bint. After two months, I began to twitch every time she even spoke to me.

I've blocked out the third month on the advice of my psychiatrist.

We don't write anymore...

Kitty Cat said...

Grody to the max? Feckin Valley Girls, you were well shot of her Manuel!

jen said...

Never had a pen pal. Don't know whether I'm relieved or sad!

Used to write a comic strip with my best friend when we were teenagers tho'. Every week one of us would continue the adventures of Michael Stipe, Morrisey, Alex the Cloud and the Evil Brussel Sprout. I cannot believe I just told you that. Still have the embarassing evidence somewhere... Might be time to burn it.

jen said...

Never had a pen pal. Don't know whether I'm relieved or sad!

Used to write a comic strip with my best friend when we were teenagers tho'. Every week one of us would continue the adventures of Michael Stipe, Morrisey, Alex the Cloud and the Evil Brussel Sprout. I cannot believe I just told you that. Still have the embarassing evidence somewhere... Might be time to burn it.

Blondefabulous said...

I had one back in 6th grade, but the service we used only matched girls to girls and boys to boys. Yeah...boring. But I wrote to my new friend from Coloumbus Ohio for at least a year or two before boys, junior high, and Tiger Beat took over our lives and squeezed hand writing friends letters out.

conortje said...

'there was a Jody in my class but that's as glamorous as it got' that really made me chuckle :-) I had an australian penpal who I even met up with as an adult. And she was HOT. Completely wasted on me of course!

Ed said...

I had a couple penpals, one from Blackrock and one in Liverpool. Seriously...Blackrock, like, 2 hours away!

But in those days (i think I was about 11) that may as well have been one zillion miles away, I don't think I even got as far as Belfast until 15, and that was to see an orthodontist.

Yeah, they had really styled hair and cool clothes. We didn't have any of those things in Newry. Bowl haircut complete with cows-lick was the look to sport...

Native Minnow said...

This story is so freakin' funny. I've never done the pen pal thing (unless something like that was assigned in school - I don't remember). It's too bad that things didn't work out between you and Chan. But honestly, if people got shot in her neighborhood all the time, she probably ended up being a crack whore anyway.

genivieve said...

I've been reading your blog for a little while now and figured I should comment and tell you how much I do enjoy the laugh everday! So there, I did.

I remember in elementary (primary) school we had Russian pen pals. It was exciting because we were writing to other kids of who spoke lived on a different continent than us. I had another girl as a pen pal, but I could never understand her letters. She would write some in English and the other half in Russian.. so needless to say I don't think we ever understood one another. It's funny because I remembering thinking "why can't she write/speak english??!".. realized later, it is for the same reason I cannot speak or write Russian..

MFG said...

barf me out, like, gag me with a spoon. I am suuure.

Bet she's still hangin' out at the Galeria, more probably workin' it.

Crispy said...

You have the memory on you like an elephant. did you not have a wee mexican pen pal too?
Any hoo, remember my penpal Shaun Westbrook from Kamloops in BC Canada...I so wanted to go to Canada...

savannah said...

how sweet! when i was that young, the nuns were collecting our pennies for the pagan babies, not encouraging us to write to any of them! *snickering*

xoxoxox ;-)

Anonymous Boxer said...

I would have loved to be your pen pal, Manuel. Bombs blowing up and a fake dog are some of the things I asked for and that's why I didn't get one.

OK, I'm lying, but still.....

and you took me back with the "Grody to the Max". Ha!

toast said...

thats a beautiful post manuel - but i would like to re-iterate the previous callers point about donegal in the 80s - jesus the signs on the way in said 'donegal, twinned with rwanda' - maybe if our esteemed leader wore a 'gordy to the max' badge this would help prevent that other moon-faced twat from storming his way to being our next leader?

i never had a penpal, there was a very good reason for this- letter were teh_gey even then

smason357 said...

I had an Irish pen pal in the 70's. Her name was Pat and she lived in Cork. I finally gave up writing to her because I often could not make out her penmanship. It wasn't messy, it was just...Irish I guess.

I remember her asking me if we had a lot of Indians in Indiana.

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