It’s Thursday, Thanksgiving 2019, not Wednesday. A lot has happened, even more than before, and I promise to play catch-up in the next few weeks. Today I’m catching up on yesterday.
Growing up, I received mixed messages about communication. My parents, the saints they are, have never been ones to speak directly to an issue. Confrontation isn’t something they seek out, and hard subjects aren’t discussed until they absolutely must be. It’s a placid existence that comes crashing down when bad news finally has to be shared.
They carry that burden until they can’t any more, which is a blessing and a curse. Anyone who’s seen The Farewell knows well what I’m talking about. Not knowing means life goes on, while knowing and not saying is a test of fortitude that some handle better than others.
The mixed message is the result of me being raised on romantic comedies. Pretty Woman, Notting Hil, The Wedding Singer, You’ve Got Mail — in each, the leads are indirect as people just getting to know each other are, become more direct as they get to know each other, then they reach a point in which they lay it all on the line with brutal honesty, with the situation generally ending happily ever after.
I promise, this connects to Hellogoodbye’s “Dear Jamie…Sincerely Me.” Allow me to plead my case.
“Dear Jamie…Sincerely Me” was the final track on Hellogoodbye’s 2004 self-titled debut EP. It was a little five-track wonder, despite the fourth track being a weird gag (turn your volume down if you dare click the link).
The songs were infantile in their structure and content but were catchy as all hell, and as a Huntington Beach band, they caught on as an opening act around Southern California. I saw them at least three times unintentionally back in the day, but I was hooked by the poppy songs about high school longing.
What set “Dear Jamie” apart for me was how perfectly it captured that feeling of being filled with a trillion things to say and not being able to say — or write, or type, or anything — what you really want to.
I was stuck in that first rom-com stage, the one where my parents existed most of the time. I had things to say to people for whom I had strong feelings. I’d try to write them out and find myself staring at an empty Word doc. I’d say hi on AOL Instant Messenger and ask how they were doing but never open up the way I wanted to. It was frustrating, to say the least.
Dear Jamie this envelope will represent my heart
I’ll seal it, send it off and wish it luck with its depart.
This stamp will be every action that carry my affection
Across the air and land and sea
Should I trust the postage due?
To deliver my heart to you?
I’ve never mailed a love letter before. I would imagine the waiting would have to be the hardest part — sealing up your emotions and sending them off with no certainty when they will arrive, if they will arrive to the right person, and what the reaction will be when the right person gets them. It’s just as agonizing in person, but the reaction is, obviously, immediate and probably terrifying. I got to this step once in high school, with a small spectacle of inviting my crush to the winter formal our senior year.
She said yes because she didn’t want to ruin the spectacle — which involved the public delivery in class of a modified version of William’s letter to Jocelyn in A Knight’s Tale with me showing up after she had read it — but ultimately admitted she didn’t actually want to go with me. There’s a lot to unpack there, but the point relevant to this post is that it took a lot for me to get there and it failed. So I shied away from exposing my vulnerabilities after that.
As I grew older, I came to understand that it wasn’t me putting myself out there that was the problem, it was expecting things to work out like in the rom-coms. I didn’t and don’t need to perform grandiose acts of romance to engage with the object of my interest. Getting to know them, testing the waters, and being honest seem to work better than attempting to recreate a movie scene.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. The end of the song gets to that, with its simplicity:
Give you all I can
Flower and a hand
I hope this helps you see
Signed Sincerely me.
It’s sweet enough to give you a cavity, but it’s not a bad way to go, a flower and a hand or some equivalent. That’s enough to graduate to that third and final step of putting yourself out there. Nothing’s guaranteed, but at least you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you allowed yourself to be honest and vulnerable.