Let's face facts: LEPeeps are just more awesome than most people. I'm sure part of it is to do with having "found my tribe", but I don't think that's all. I keep wondering why intimacy seems to spring up so much more easily in my penfriendships than in my other friendships. Is it because 'real' subjects are so much easier to discuss in writing? Is it because I am meeting people within the context of a community, rather than in isolation like elsewhere in life? Do I look for different kinds of 'proof' of meaningful relationships in person? Am I missing stuff in one or the other kinds of relationships, or both?
What I do know is, I wish my day-to-day looked more like LEPland, and I know I'm not the only one. And, of course I wish that people around me were kinder, more truthful, more generous, more dependable, and more thoughtful to me, but I can't change them. However, I can change myself, and I'm just as interested in bringing the spirit of LEP out into the world. So - how can I learn to treat my friends like my penfriends? And how can I find that LEP-style connection in person?
Yours, with postage paid,
Worst Pun Girl x
Dear Worst Pun Girl,
“Friendship,” while a great word and often a great experience, doesn’t quite capture the nuances and emotional attachments and spectrum that non-sexual relationships (or even sexual relationships) take. It’s a word that is used to describe both accord between nations and the bond I have with my long-distance sweetheart whose private bits I sometimes (consensually) touch when we are together. There’s no one true way to be a good friend, but you can be a good person. You’re thinking about the quality of the relationships you surround yourself with, so you’re on the right path.
If you want the people around you to be kinder, more truthful, more generous, more dependable, and more thoughtful to you, be that to them. Set that standard. And then, the important next step: determine your boundaries. If the people you have chosen to be your intimates don’t hold a mutually agreeable standard in return, be okay with letting go and creating space for new friendships to blossom, or letting the nature and expectation of those friendships change. Not everyone is in your world to be An Amazing Dependable Friend Under Any And All Circumstances. Sometimes a friendship will be fleeting, and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll play the long game, with varying degrees of contact and spurts of BFF-ness, and that’s okay too.
Now to get to the heart of your question, which was “How can I learn to treat my friends like my penfriends? And how can I find that LEP-style connection in person?” You are gaining a higher level of intimacy in your pen friendships because you are more intimate with your pen friends than your non-pen friends. Maybe you are less embarrassed; the delay created by writing / mailing / traveling / delivery gives you space and courage to be vulnerable because there isn’t an immediate reaction to your presentation of self. Thus, your pen friends receive the details of your daily life, of moments not shared of social media, of the inner workings of your brain. You’re in the mood to communicate when you write a letter, as opposed to being beholden to a birthday party or a pub lunch on a day where you really just want to hide in bed. It’s exhausting just to get dressed and get out of the house, and when you’re already tired, you don’t have as much energy and receptiveness to build relationships.
Examine why building relationships via writing letters works for you, and apply those lessons to your non-letter friends. Is it the can-do-anywhere / pick up where you left off aspect of letter writing? Perhaps you can jot down a list of friends that would be up for last-minute no pressure hangouts when the mood strikes you. Surely they’ll be flattered to even be asked, even if they decline. Is letter writing what you prioritize when you have a free spot in your schedule? Set aside some time in your letter reply pile to write a notecard to a friend, even if you saw them last week or haven’t seen them in years. Be the same sort of intimate to your non-letter friends as you are with the pen friends you haven’t met in person yet. Practice being vulnerable to the people you know in person. Open those doors; tear down those walls. What's the worst that could happen? Is it really that bad?
Also consider that your ‘pen friends’ *are* your friends, even if you have yet to meet. It doesn’t make the relationship any less meaningful or valid simply because an in-person meeting hasn’t occurred. Pen friends are probably less of strangers to you than some of the friends you don’t exchange letters with.
And as always, be brave and be honest.