I inherited many traits from my mother. One of them was her love of everything royal. She loved listening to any story that featured the British Royals. I, too, find myself interested in the little tidbits of information reported by the news or gossip columnists – not really caring if the facts were accurate, but I’d reason them all out in my own head. Yes, I was riveted to the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan. It was marked on my calendar, and I spent nearly every commercial break calling my sister (who does not care as much as I do), arguing about what was just stated during the interview.
As if my opinion really mattered about any of this?! My life can’t be further removed from that of a royal, but as I’ve stated many times, I grew up watching Disney and, in the 1980s and ’90s, Disney movies centered around a princess who met her Prince and lived happily ever after in the end. I get swept up in all the hoopla of it all and feel that with the PhD I have in Disney Princesses, I have a right to comment on the Royal family. But this column has nothing to do with the royal family. I brought up the subject because, while I listened to one of Prince Philip’s biographers eulogize him last week, he commented on the Prince’s courtship with Queen Elizabeth. It got me thinking.
People have been falling in love and marrying one another for thousands of years. Rules of dating have evolved and changed with time, whether you think they are for the better or for the worse. Dating is different now from when it was in the early 1900s or even in the 1800s. And I am referring to dating in general, not only shidduch dating.
Through the middle half of the 1900s, people in relationships would write letters to each other. It was their only form of communication when distance kept them apart. Oftentimes, the letters were long and covered all topics from opinion on current events to how they spend the days pining away for the other. Many such letters between “famous” couples have been published. I’ve read excerpts of such letters either when I was studying in college or just out of curiosity. I find these letters fascinating, not just for how long they are, which means it took time to write such a letter (ink and quill), so the devotion they had for each other was very apparent, but also for how they wrote, the words they used. The language used to express their opinions and feelings is beautiful to read. I feel like I have a glimpse into the lives of these people, almost as if I am intruding because of the beauty of the language expressed in their writings. I now think of how we communicate today, and the recent texts sent to my husband. The texts are one or two sentences, usually about dinner, the children, or running an errand. Yes, there are heart emojis thrown in, but compare them with the letters written in the last two centuries, pitiful. Has technology made us lazy? Dare I say, have we lost the poetic way to write and speak to one another, even those whom we love?
Personally, I have always been a fan of letters and writing to others; I had pen pals growing up, wrote thank you notes for my bas mitzvah (as well as my sisters’), wrote and mailed thank you cards for my vort, wedding, and after I had my children within one week of receiving the gifts (and I did the same for my sister – cat’s out of the bag for all of you who have ever received a thank you card from my sister; it was me the whole time). A text that thanks someone for a baby/ wedding gift that can be cut and pasted to whomever gave you a gift, to one person or to 100 people – I have a few choice words for you, but this is neither the time nor the place.
It is said that for years before and then after their wedding, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip communicated through letters. Prince Philip was in the Navy at the beginning of their courtship (and through the first years of their marriage). And if we all remember correctly, there was a war going on in the early 1940s. The royal couple didn’t get to know each other by taking a royal carriage ride to the pizza store or even taking a stroll in the courtyards of one of the palaces. Theirs was a long courtship, when at times the only way to communicate was through correspondence.
Excerpts taken from Prince Philip’s letters to then-Princess Elizabeth:
“I am afraid I am not capable of putting all this into the right words and I am certainly incapable of showing you the gratitude that I feel.”
“I wonder if that word is enough to express what is in me. Does one cherish one’s sense of humour or one’s musical ear or one’s eyes?”
So sweet! I eat this stuff up! I love it.
In Mark Twain’s letters to his wife Livy, he let the humor and love he had shine through:
“What we will lose of youth, we will make up in love, so that the account is squared, and to nobody’s disadvantage. I love you, my darling, and this my love will increase, step by step as tooth by tooth falls out, mile-stoning my way down to the great mystery and the Sweet Bye & Bye.
George and Martha Washington’s love has been well chronicled through the years. After George’s death in 1799, Martha burned George’s letters, stating that he was always in the public eye and his letters were the one thing about her private life she was able to control. After Martha’s death, three letters were found underneath a drawer in her desk; and from them, we can further see into the deep love and respect they had for each other. When the country is at war and you are tasked with being the General and all turn to you for reassurance, strategy, and guidance, to whom do you turn for love, support, and reassurance? To whom can you voice your concerns? George had Martha.
As I am within a few Minutes of leaving this City, I could not think of departing from it without dropping you a line; especially as I do not know whether it may be in my power to write again till I get to the Camp at Boston – I go fully trusting in that Providence, which has been more bountiful to me than I deserve, & in full confidence of a happy meeting with you sometime in the Fall – I have not time to add more, as I am surrounded with Company to take leave of me – I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change, my best love to Jack & Nelly, & regard for the rest of the Family concludes me with the utmost truth & sincerity.
I hope those reading this continue or begin to use their words carefully and lovingly. When texting or speaking with someone whom you are dating, why abbreviate and use slang? Yes, some people will think that those who write or text out the actual word are “weird” or “strange,” and to those I just say what a pity and it’s sad when you think someone who has a way with words is thought of as “odd.” In the words of someone I know, why do they have to prostitute the language and look down on others when they speak correctly. The English language can be a beautiful thing; but the choice is up to you.
Hatzlachah to you all.