It should not come as a surprise that I’m a big believer in the power of the written word. I believe there’s power in writing down our intentions, catharsis in writing down our problems. I think communication, or lackthereof, is the source of more problems than not. I like the written word because it’s traceable; you can go back and see exactly what was said.
It should thusly not surprise you that I used to think that writing was also a valid, nay, a foolproof solution to many romantic problems. In my case, as always, I was deceived by pop culture.
Perhaps you’re one of the most pretentious, insufferable character in the history of literature, and you spend a great deal of time looking down on the country society you’ve been forced to acclimate to. Thus it should not surprise you (but does anyway) when your proposal of marriage to a member of that society you disdain is rejected. But, if you’re Mr. Darcy, you write a tell-all letter to Elizabeth that makes her realize you’re a much better man than she thought you were, and it all works out in the end.
You know how it’s awkward when you’ve been pretending to be a high school student and are falling for your teacher, who thinks he’s being inappropriate and gross, but you explain to him he’s not because you’ve been lying to him the whole time, and rather than be relieved that he’s not going to commit some sort of statutory offense or lose his job, he gets upset? This situation might seem unfixable, but it’s not! Josie just has to write an amazing article for her local paper explaining how much she loves Sam, and of course he will come to the football game and kiss her. Of course.
Speaking of deception, you know when you’re trying to drive a guy crazy for an article you’re writing, but he’s just trying to make you fall in love so he can win an ad campaign (seriously? how did I ever think this was a plausible plotline?), and eventually both of your deceptions are discovered? Well, if you’re Andie Anderson, you just go ahead and write that article, but make it about your feelings, Ben will definitely find you in a cab to stop you from moving away.
Let’s say you’re the most pretentious, insufferable character in the history of television, and you’ve been obsessed with this one girl since freshman year, but you can’t seem to make it in her high society world. As revenge and/or a money grab, you write a scathing tell-all about her and all of her friends, but then you also write a story about how incredible she is, and sneak it into her bag as she’s leaving town to escape all the humiliation you’ve caused her. You wouldn’t think this would work, but this is Serena van der Woodsen we’re talking about; neither logic nor resisting Dan Humphrey are her strong suits.
In fictional scenarios, you can pretty much always write away even the most horrible misunderstanding. And that’s why for the longest time, I really thought there was no romantic problem I couldn’t write my way out of. I really thought that for any person, for any situation, there were the right words that I could come up with to win them over, if only I took the time to figure out what those words were. It’s a mindset like this that led me to write a 50 stanza poetic ballad about my 8th grade crush and both turn it in as an assignment, and let my friends slip it into his textbook. It should go without saying that this did not win him over even remotely. In a less humiliating vein, it’s the sort of thing that’s led me to write painstakingly worded emails (and, let’s be honest, the occasional article) where I thought ‘well, if he just reads this, he’s totally going to get how I feel and be won over.’ You know how they tell you to do that thing where you write a letter to someone saying everything you wish you could, and then burn it? I wish I could say I’ve never written that letter and then sent it, but I’d be lying.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but it took being on the receiving end of that sort of correspondence for me to finally get how ineffective it is. A few months ago, I got an email that said pretty much verbatim the words my high school self dreamed about hearing from a guy, any guy. As an adult, coming from the guy in question, the situation was more of a nightmare. Turns out, it’s not always about the words, it’s about the situation and who they’re coming from and a whole bunch of other factors. I can’t sum it up any better than Vertical Horizon already has – “He says all the right things at exactly the right time, but he means nothing to you, and you don’t know why.”
I’m not saying to never say anything. I’ve stuck by my wordy weirdness for so long because on occasion, it’s worked out okay. I’m just saying it’s time to stay on the right side of the line between the bravery of a bold leap and the arrogance of a grand gesture. It is by all means worth making a move, if nothing else to avoid the regret of “Well what if I had just said something?” But if those words go ignored, it’s not because they lost their phone or because the internet’s being weird. No one in the history of ever has deliberately not responded to a text/e-mail/phone call/carrier pigeon from someone they really wanted to talk to. There are no other, better words you should be trying, it’s time to let well enough alone.