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Cyrano in 140 Characters or Less: The Art of the Love Letter—and Email

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These days, not even poets are squeezing their hearts into love letters. We live in a fast-food world. And while love still isn’t something you can order from the drive-through, modern courtship is a reflection of the way we live: fast, easy, and a little out of control—like a quick email, an instant message—or a throng of twenty-first century Cyranos Twittering their 140 characters.

  Lesson Number One: Why Woo?

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls;
for, thus friends absent speak.
~John Donne

Why write a love letter at all? Why not a phone call, or just wait until the next time you see each other? Love notes are a terrific way for busy people to keep up with each other. You can scribble, “I love you,” in soap on the bathroom mirror. Or text it when you’re stuck in traffic or a boring meeting. Your lover can read it—whenever s/he has the attention to give it. (Don’t demand an instant reply. Instead, imagine her/him reading it and rereading it. Savor the image. Criticizing for not responding or not responding “properly” is like buying your love a box of expensive Belgian chocolates and then spitting on them as you hand it over: a fucking waste.)

There are as many reasons to write love letters are there are lovers who write them. And just like lovers, love notes have their own overt and hidden agendas. Common love note styles and their reason for being:

The Love Letter Agenda
• The Pitch (be mine)
• The Romantic Renewal (stay mine)
• The Commemoration (happy anniversary/birthday/Thursday)
• The Substitute (long distance intimacies)
• Foreplay
• Solitaire for Two (“I’m just jacking off to the idea you really think we might ever meet/fuck in person, Sucka.”)

The most common misunderstanding via Internet romance is when erotic correspondents have different agendas. If you have never had the experience of tossing The Pitch (“Please won’t you be my true love, wife, mistress or fuck buddy?”) to someone who is actually playing Solitaire for Two, then the chances are good that you just bought your very first computer. Congratulations.

The Substitute (a.k.a. I’d fuck you if I were there; until I am this will have to do) can do double duty as Foreplay. Think of it as a way to keep your dinner warm until you can come home and eat it. Remember for Foreplay to be effective, you have to keep up the pressure. Just like in real life, you can lick your girlfriend for three hours, but if you get up and go watch a football game, you may find she’s lost interest when you come back. Then you have to start over. Or worse. If you let your dinner get cold for too long, someone else may eat it.

A word of advice on The Commemoration. Don’t celebrate Thursdays. S/he won’t remember the weeks of sweet nothings and love poems you wrote. S/he will only remember the Thursday you forgot.

  Lesson Number Two: Spies in the House of Love

Words are sneaky little bastards. If they’re not working for you, they’re probably working against you; revealing too much. What are they saying about you? What you don't want it to say is:
1. I’m really creepy desperate
2. I thought you were someone else.
3. Shit! My wife/mother just came in the room.

  Lesson Number Three: Ms. Manner’s Guide to Smutty Netiquette

If it’s e-mail, a quick spell check can be as hot as a pinch on the nipple. (Much hotter than an oinch on the nipppr.)

If it’s chat or in real time, consider using a cheat. It’s easier to cut and paste your fave phrases from Notepad (“That’s so hot!” or “Come for me, Baby ”) than type reliably with one hand. Why else would they call them hot keys? This is particularly useful technique if you’re a playah, and have multiple chat windows open. It’s also a great way to remember (copy and paste from chat *to* Notepad) the things s/he says that really push your buttons.

Emoticons are like vibrators. Use them with care. Too much just leaves her numb, irritated and unable to orgasm.

Only leet when leeted to.

Most important: Care enough to learn where the caps lock key is. It’s hot to SHOUT or whisper at the right second. But if you’re going blind... Dude! ...change your font size. DON’T WRITE ALL IN CAPS. NO ONE LIKES THAT. IT’S REALLY ANNOYING.

  Lesson Number Four: Twitterpation

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.
~Walt Whitman

In shorter messages you have to make every word count. Use pronouns. Use verbs. Five juicy words are better than five tweets broken mid-sentence and which have to be read backward.

If you must be verbiferous then blog and tiny url. Preset messages make phone text fast and fun. (Homework for playas: Yes, the same preset message or macros can keep 10 booty calls as primed as one and save the strength in your fingers for the actual hook-up. Beware the Twitter, as all your followers can see what you tweet to whom. S/he likes the myth that s/he’s the only one you say “Rock the Casbah” to, even though she knows you too well to believe it.)

  Lesson Number Five: The Medium is the Message

The age of technology has both revived the use of writing
and provided ever more reasons for its spiritual solace.
Emails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls,
even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u.
~Anna Quindlen

All written communications—including this one, Dear Reader—are a strip tease. They reveal (hopefully provocatively and skillfully) what you want the lover/reader to know, see or like about you. Or they reveal what you know, see, or like in your lover.

If she likes to be called Kitten, then be sure to refer to her claws and the ways you intend to make her purr. If you love your car more than anything, then push his/her bare skin against the vintage leather and fuck her/him in the back seat, even if in real life, you’d never let a breath let alone a bodily fluid in the sacred popemobile. It’s fantasy. It’s about what makes you hot.

Know your audience. If you don’t know it, research. If your playmate is a beekeeper, a Yankees fan or an avid gardener, you’ve inherited a new playground filled with pervertable toys. Don’t dive in the deep water if you can’t swim. Don’t use lingo you don’t understand, or pretend to be an expert in something you know nothing about. It just makes the real expert scornful. Telling your Yankee fan he can run your bases until you let him “touch down” may not have the erotic charge you hoped. Instead admit or [italic |claim[ ignorance. Letting your expert teach you can be very sexy.

The medium is the message. Email is good for stories. Also questions, quizzes, links. Which is to say don’t be afraid to borrow on the good material that’s reliably gotten others laid or kept conversations (or relationships) going. Use quotes, poets, song lyrics. DO NOT claim to be their author. There is a special circle in hell for plagiarists.

  Final Lesson—

—is this: A successful love letter is one that achieved what it set out to achieve. It won the heart or the day. Isn’t there a faster, easier way? Probably. Why bother writing well if you can do it all wrong and still get off?

Why write well? Because the love letter is creased, worn with rereading. (Or saved, burned to disc. Memorized both literally and technologically.) Long after the affair is dead, we will revisit the grave with fresh flowers for those letters that whisper and whimper “come fuck me.”



As someone who plays only online, I've written many racy e-mails, chats, and tweets. Love letters on paper still have their place, but using a writing instrument such as a pen or pencil causes my hand to hurt after a short period of time. However you choose to profess your feelings, there is an art form to it.



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