The first love note I delivered was in 1986, carefully written on miniature Hello Kitty stationary. The piece of light pink paper measured maybe two inches tall by one inch wide with rows of miniscule dots that made it ruled paper suitable for writing. It came with a miniature pencil hardly bigger than a toothpick. Sanrio items like this were prized acquisitions for me. In fact, the Sanrio section in the toy store in the mall was one of my meccas. I was fascinated by the tiny items that were made for a girl’s desk. I kept my collection of all of the Sanrio items I could get my hands on (which included images of Hello Kitty and of my favorite one of her friends, My Melody) in the bottom cupboard of my kitchen set in the corner of my bedroom.
The recipient of this love note was Joshua. He was a blonde-headed smelly boy that would sit across the kindergarten table from me and peel the skin off of his fingertips in large chunks. I’m not sure what social convention I became aware of that caused me to want to capture my feelings for him in words, but I think I realized that boys were to be paired with girls, and if I were to pick one, it would have been him.
I don’t remember writing the note, but I remember the size of the letters on the envelope. I don’t remember stashing it in my plastic flowered purse on a Sunday morning. But I do remember handing it to him across the table during our arts and crafts time in Sunday School when talking was allowed. I don’t remember his reaction, but I do remember this: I asked for it back.
Why? I wanted the stationary.
I took it home and erased the crooked words “I love you, Joshua. From: Andrea To: Joshua” and the words still remained in ghost form, the pale pink of the stationary also having been rubbed away where I’d toiled with the eraser. I placed the stationary back in with the other five envelopes and nine pieces of paper—the collection remaining intact to this day.
I had deep, strong feelings at that age, but this act was convention. This was me jumping through one of my first hurdles as a human being on my own. I didn’t keep the note for the sake of nostalgia. Just the paper itself. I think the act of using something so beautiful was more important than the recipient or his feelings. Nostalgia kicked in later when I began to save gum wrappers and flower petals from boys. I also kept a pair of overalls folded in my closet to keep the smell of cologne from a boy I got scandalously close to in a dark classroom one night at sixteen.
The miniature offering was the only love note I ever sincerely wrote. One of my high school boyfriends and I would write the silliest, risqué things we could think of in notes that we would hand off to each other when classes changed just to make each other laugh. When I opened a Christmas present from the boy that always gave me roses, and found a type written love note on top, I responded “yuck.” The boy I was in love with more than anything in high school and my first few years of college never knew it. I kept it all in a diary—the level of adoration and devotion of the enclosed writing still baffles me. I delivered a few passionate notes for my older sister, but never involved myself in the ritual.
I can’t be unique. You choose your level of vulnerability with these things. I choose to be humorous. Or downright nostalgic with the pieces of detritus I save from those I care about. I’ll talk about those feelings, but to communicate them to their object seems impossible. Love for me is private. Not a ritual. And hard to write down. I tried once before I knew what it was, and never tried again. My first attempt might have been a great fuck-you to the convention had I understood what I was doing. I’m almost proud that I valued the stationary as an object over the age-old ritual.