The Evolution of Pen Pals

I first started writing letters when I was 7 years old. I had just moved to NJ from Canada and I wanted to keep in touch with my cousin, so we wrote a couple of letters back and forth. Our correspondence was fairly short-lived and we fell out of touch until a couple of years ago when I found her on Facebook.

Christina and I started writing notes and letters to each other a few years after we became friends. It didn’t make much sense, really, considering we lived across the street from each other and hung out every single day, but it prepared us for when she moved 45 minutes away and we couldn’t see each other as much. Notes turned into multi-page letters which turned into “notebook letters,” which were just blank composition-style notebooks that we decorated with stickers and filled with anecdotes about our days and what was new in our lives (much like a diary). The notebook was given to the other person when it was full.

When I was in elementary school, during the Gulf War, my class participated in a pen pal program with the troops over in Kuwait. I was paired up with a woman named Claudia Pagan, and we became fast friends. We wrote each other often and even exchanged photos. Our letters became less and less frequent until we were only hearing from each other maybe once per year. I think I last heard from her sometime when I was in high school, and despite my best Googling efforts, I can’t seem to find her anywhere.

I used to read Seventeen and YM magazine religiously, and one of my favorite parts of both was the advertisements in the back. There always used to be at least one for pen pals – you would send in $5.00 or whatever it was for one pen pal, $7.00 for two, etc. Does anyone remember those? I’m guessing they don’t offer those programs anymore since hardly anyone actually writes letters these days. Anyway, I signed up for pen pals fairly frequently, which when I think about it now, was kind of creepy. I sent my information out there to some random company, who then sent it on to some strange girl (hopefully) who was also looking for someone to talk to through letters. Crazy. I know I had a lot of pals, but one that stands out to me was a girl named Katie Beers from Las Vegas – her name and location just seemed so exciting to me that I remember them to this day.

As the internet has gotten increasingly popular, I’ve naturally gravitated towards message boards and blogs and whatnot. When I was planning my wedding, I joined a message board aimed towards Disney brides. I met a lot of great and helpful women on there, and a bunch of us started a private board just to chat about other things unrelated to weddings and Disney. We became friends. A smaller subset of us eventually branched out and formed our own private board, which is active to this day. There aren’t many of us – 9 actually – but we’ve been friends for several years and I’ve met all but two of them in person. We’ve been to each others bridal showers, baby showers. We’ve had sleepovers, dinner dates, and movie nights.  We talk every single day, and although we don’t receive physical letters in the mail (although we do send each other Christmas cards and just-for-fun cards sometimes), we would most definitely be considered modern-day pen pals. But we are so much more than that; these women are my friends – we trust each other with the most intimate details of our lives, we support each other during the difficult times, and are there to cheer each other on when we succeed.

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