Pen-friendship and present day teenagers

By Ahmet Abdulaziz …..

The other day I was listening to “Sealed with a Kiss” sung by Jason Donovan.  This is one of my favourite songs and I listen to it frequently.

Though the most famous line of this song is “sealed with a kiss”, which has been repeated again and again, but the other day I was struck with yet another line of the song.

“ I’ll send you all my dreams every day in a letter Sealed with a Kiss”

For me and to most of listeners from my generation it is a common way of expression of one’s feelings.

But does the new generation understand what the words “ every day in a letter”, mean? To put it more straight, let me ask another question. “Does the new young generation (teenagers) know how a letter is written and sent”?

I am afraid the majority of youngsters have never posted a letter. They are the generation of the computer age. They have grown up sending messages on either their personal computers and now on mobile phones.

I am a member of a number of groups of teenagers on Facebook. I put up the same question in a number of groups. Interestingly, as expected, most of the participants had not written a letter. Obviously they had not sent any letter by post too. Most of them had never visited a post office.

This is why I say that they (present day teenagers) cannot understand the feelings expressed in the song. For them it is difficult to understand why does the writer of the song promise to send a letter daily . They cannot  understand the extent of desperation hidden in these words.

Writing and posting a letter in fact is a process that ends for the sender, when posted. But at the same time sending the letters is the start of the process of waiting.  In the pre-computers days, the period between the posting of the letter and also receiving the reply was very important. Unlike the present days, when one gets the reply instantly, the sender of the letter had to keep in mind the period that the letter would take to reach the receiver, the expected time that the receiver would take to write down the reply, and the period it would take again to reach to the sender.

It used to be a long period of waiting, which the sender would have to pass through, with varying feelings. The sender usually would remain calm for a few days after posting the letter, but as the days further passed by, the sender would become more emotionally disturbed.

I remember , during late 1960s and 1970s I used to have a number of pen-friends in different countries. I had been writing to them, and would wait for the reply. I  do know how terrible this process of waiting used to be for me. I always wondered why my pen-friends were not replying to me in a reasonable time.  I remember I had been too quick to pen down and post my replies, but my pen-friends had not been so.

But this was the way I used to think in those days. But now I can understand better. In those days I had perhaps not been counting correctly the time that a letter usually took to reach to the destination. I had always thought that my friends should have been writing the reply immediately after receiving my letter but this would not have been so in every case. But I was not too patient in those days.

I remember I used to have two pen-friends in Philippines, one in Japan, one in UK, and a number of friends in Turkey.

As I recall now, most of our letters used to carry the same information, week after week, month after month. But we never got bothered by reading and writing the same again and again. The repetition of the same topics never made anyone upset. The exchange of photos was not so common as it is now, mostly because there was no online transfer of photos in those days. Every photo used to pass through a long process, to be in its final shape. So it was not very common to send many photos to each other. Maybe one photo in a couple of months, used to be the practice then.

There used to be pen-friend magazines, carrying details of people of all ages from various countries, interested in pen-friendship.  The new generation have various online sites where they can find new friends, but they cannot understand how different it used to be in those days, when we had had to visit the bookstores to find new pen-friend magazines. The process of selecting friends on the basis of their ages, gender and hobbies, was never an easy process. Once some new friends have been selected from the magazines, the process of writing letters would start.

Writing the first introductory letter used to be the same, to all the new possible friends. Once the letters had been sent, the process of a long wait would start. I used to wait too eagerly for the reply, though knowing that the other party was never obliged to respond. Even knowing this very clearly, still almost daily I used to wait for the postman with great anxiety. I can still see myself getting excessively desperate and depressed, seeing the postman passing by our house, without any letter for me.

In fact most of the present day teenagers, have not seen a postman. They  do not know the way the letters had been distributed by hand from house to house.

I accept the present day youngsters also pass through the same phase of waiting, to receive reply to their messages, but I am sure it is very very different from what my generation used to go through some 50 years ago.

Here is the song “SEALED WITH A KISS”.

Though we’ve got to say goodbye for the summer
Darling, I promise you this
I’ll send you all my love every day in a letter

Sealed with a kiss
Yes it’s gonna be a cold, lonely summer
But I’ll fill the emptiness
I’ll send you all my dreams every day in a letter
Sealed with a kiss

I’ll see you in the sunlight
I’ll hear your voice everywhere
I’ll run to tenderly hold you
But darling you won’t be there
I don’t want to say goodbye for the summer
Knowing the love we’ll miss
Oh, let us make a pledge to meet in September

And seal it with a kiss
Yes, it’s gonna be a cold, lonely summer
But I’ll fill the emptiness
I’ll send you all my dreams every day in a letter
Sealed with a kiss