Tag Archives: Alice Thompson

Here, Dear, Alone With All Your Letters

As you start to write, visualize the other person and talk to him, then write the words down.  Write the sort of letter you would like to receive.” Helen Valentine & Alice Thompson Better than Beauty

I have long been a letter writing advocate.  How I adored getting an envelope address to me, whether at camp or at home, a postcard from the shore or a card from my grandmother.  Oh, and the love letters!  My favorite.  Every man I’ve ever loved has sent me love letters, many of which I still have.  My boyfriend, Geza, who had silver eyes and jet-black hair, sent me a letter every single day when I was at the Silver Bay Young Writer’s Retreat, all full of the longing and poetry only a teenage boy can have.  Martin wrote his in gold gel ink with J-Pop song lyrics, Catch with green ink and Sin City quotes, Mike in spidery ballpoint pen on loose leaf paper.

In college, Ian wrote me twice a week, packing his envelopes (which he made out of ads, because he’s an artist) with clippings and postcards and all sorts of goodies.  My friend Liz and I primarily communicate with letters and have since we graduated.  Our whole lives are written down for each other, records of our changing careers and movie star crushes, highs and lows, new boyfriends and new apartments.   After all, you can’t send an Uglydoll in an email, like my friend Corey did to announce that, heck yeah, she was moving back to New York after five years working for NASA. (Yes, my friend is a rocket scientist).

A few years ago, I was at a conference in Bloomington and I met this guy, Jake.  We wrote each other a few weeks worth of long emails before I suggested that we start writing letters.  That was three years ago.  In that time, I’ve read about his grad work and graduation, job searches and play rehearsals, meeting Anne, getting engaged to her and marrying her.  We’ve never talked on the phone and only exchange emails when it’s something time-sensitive, but we know everything about each other’s lives just through words put on paper. We have this recorded history  of each other when I, for the longest time, only had a vague recollection of what he looked like.   

(Read his blog Video Game Underworld.  It’s awesome.  Somewhere I have the letter where he was asking me how he should do it.)

Find or make some awesome stationary (I made postcards out of CD liner notes with brown bag paper glued on the back) and write a letter to a friend. Ask them to write you back and get a pen-pal thing going.  Get some kooky postcards (I have some Onion front pages that always get a laugh) and mail them to everyone you know, just for fun.  

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Purse Envy

“No matter how neat a woman looks, a sloppy, overfilled purse is a dead giveaway.” Helen Valentine & Alice Thompson, Better Than Beauty

I have always lived out of my purse.  Working long hours, sometimes two jobs in one day, I had to make sure I had everything on me–bus fare, discman/CD, my uniform(s), my notebook, pens, lunch–because if I didn’t, I was out of luck.  I carried big, ugly bags, usually black, basic, utilitarian, covered in pins and patches.  I did have one sweet one that I made out a tie and this great houndstooth fabric, but it didn’t hold much, so it didn’t get used very often.  A nice handbag was an expense I couldn’t afford and a hassle I didn’t need.  I was a modern, liberated woman, I didn’t need no stinkin’ handbag!

About a year ago I decided that, damn, it, I was modern, liberated and worthy of a big bright beautiful statement purse.  I went straight to TJ Maxx and bought a cute little fuchsia Betsey Johnson hobo bag for $24.  And I instantly felt more confident, like a woman instead of a college bimbo.  And I could still fit what I needed in there–my cell phone, iPod, a notebook, a pen, some Dr. Pepper lip gloss, a wallet.  (I also have a houndstooth Betsey bag that Ian got me for Christmas, and a big bold leopard print Betsey tote that I use when I travel.  First time in my life I’ve had more than one purse in rotation!)

But even that’s too much stuff sometimes! 

I have always envied my friend Lexa for a variety of reasons–one, she is pretty and blonde and wildly successful and secondly, she always looks so polished and put together, with this wonderful elegance that only NYC women have.  And the last time I saw her, she was carrying a slim envelope clutch purse, and I was so, so jealous.  I keep meaning to make one, but I suffer terribly from ProCraftination, the symptoms of which are me buying craft supplies and then never actually doing anything with them.

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Lot of Spaceballs References This Week . . ..

But I did keep that style tip in mind when I went out for brunch with Rachel, Nina and Tiffany.  I took only what I needed to survive–a twenty, my license in case I wanted a Belini, my fan and my Moxie lip gloss, all of which fit neatly into a #10 envelope-sized red leather clutch purse Ian’s mom brought me back from Costa Rica.

How classy a girl looks with a clutch!  It draws attention to her lovely hands, makes her look charming and delicate, a bit mysterious.  What could she possibly have in that little thing?

In an age where we’re expected to be tied to our smartphones, which have our entire library/record collection/work/social lives stored on them so that at any moment you can be reading a work email while talking to your mother and making arrangements for the babysitter, to go out into the world free of all those things, trusting and living life as it was happening (brunch was lovely!) was a completely liberating experience!