Friday 17 May 2013

The Lost World of Pen Pals

I love flicking through my partners old White Dwarf, Your Sinclair and Computer & Video Game Magazine. I'm not reading them for the articles merely for the Wanted section. Back then humans were wanted, human contact was sought, not necessarily for romance, although some of the ads are questionable, but for friendship, to write actual letters to someone you have never met with the purpose of getting to know someone else out of your own circle. I think we all had pen pals, if you weren't seeking friendship from the back of a magazine you were being assigned a pen pal in your French class with the purpose of getting a better grasp of the language. You could actually apply for a pen pal, it was a big thing. I was a terrible pen pal, I think I had 4 in my lifetime, the longest lasting 3 letters.

What happened to having pen pals? You can still apply to be a pen pal but I doubt it's as popular as it was when it was in the past. Really the internet happened, it isn't as much of a novelty writing to someone in a different country as most of us speak daily to people in far flung places without giving it a second thought. We aren't as amazed as we should be, nor do we probe or find out more about others. In fact most of us spend most of our time online speaking to our doppelganger, I mean it makes sense we want to speak to someone with a common interest, someone that reflects ourself. I've made some great friends online, some I've met. Back when I was younger it was more random even sending an ad in to a magazines wanted section you would give a wider scope if you wanted a response and then you had no control over who you got, and applying for a pen pal through the forms you were given in school you were matched on your age and sex, you might mention you like to read or watch films but you weren't so specific, that was all that was needed.

Some of my favourite ads taken from White Dwarf 1986/7 Magazine, addresses removed to respect privacy:


Rather than desperate I like to think they are just very open minded


I wonder if any of these guys made connections and if they are still in touch with their pen pal? Maybe they even made a romantic connection? They could even be married to the person they met in the back of White Dwarf magazine.

Even if you did do a wanted ad in a magazine these days how would you feel giving out your name and address to the world? I know I wouldn't feel comfortable yet I talk about personal things online to anyone that will read.

I wish I had made more of an effort with my pen pals, I wish I could say after 20 years we were still writing letters but we're not, maybe the internet is my best option.

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