Dear Fancypants: Be brave and be honest.

Welcome to Dear Fancypants, a monthly advice column on penpals and other philatelic things. Dear Fancypants will run the first week of the month. To submit a question, contact

Dear Fancypants,

I am wondering if you could please provide me with a little bit of advice when dealing with a penpal (non-LEP) who seems a tad pushy and seems to have very strict ‘guidelines’ in terms of reply time, letting her know the MINUTE the letter arrives etc. I have received daily messages from her asking when her reply will be posted, even though I had explained that it would take me a month or so to reply due to ‘life’ at the moment. It’s gotten to the point where I feel a panic attack coming on whenever I look at the envelope sitting on my desk and I get stressed when I receive a prod from her. How can I reply nicely that I don’t feel the ‘click’ that I would like with my pals and that I don’t think I can write with her?

The last thing I want to do is upset anyone, but this is a hobby and it shouldn’t be stressing me out, right?


Hi, Anxious.

The breakup stage of any relationship is often the one met with most terror-- even if it's the outcome you ultimately want.

Early on in my most recent incarnation of penpalling, a correspondent of mine asked for any advice I could give on non-monogamous and open relationships. I asked my my then-life partner what his advice would be. His response was, "Be brave and be honest." The simplicity of it floored me. Really, this advice can be applied to all sincere relationships. Be brave: have the courage to live the life you want (in this case, one free from things that cause you anxiety that you can control). Be honest: tell your pal you will no longer be writing her. They go together, really: you need bravery to be honest, and honesty if you are to be brave.

There is no way to control what someone else feels, nor would you want to do that, but you can strive to be kind. Send along a notecard to this person. Let her know that, while you've enjoyed writing with her and getting to know her, this will be your last missive because you don't think you're a good fit for her style of penpalling. You'd like to free up space in her life for someone who can respond more often and quicker than you can, and at the moment you need a month in between letters. Use "I" statements. Make it about what *you* need, not what her shortcomings are.

There is no guarantee that her feelings won't be hurt, but you're being honest about what you need and want in life, and you owe that to both of you, as well as your other penpals.

Captain Fancypants