In May of last year, I had this sudden whim to google “pen-friend” and see what came up. I remembered in seventh grade how our teacher came in and told us about this pen-friend club where you paid to receive four pen-friends. I was so excited when I went home and asked my mum for permission and the required money. She was not too excited about the money, but allowed me to do it since everyone else in the class were allowed to. Weeks went by. I dreamed of receiving a British pen-friend since I was already an Anglophile at the young age of 14. The other girls soon had their British pen-friends and I felt rather sad that I had not received anyone. Then all of a sudden I received two pen-friends. (None of us received the promised four pen-friends!) A young man called Angelo from Sicily, and a young girl my own age called Régine from France. For years I corresponded with the two of them. I have always loved to write! Régine was sweet. She would always include a chewing gum with every letter. Sometimes she sent a box of cookies that arrived all in crumbs. Her parents were bakers and both she and her three siblings went in to the baking business in one way or the other. I followed her through courtship, wedding, babies, troubles with the children and we even have sporadic contact today, especially around Christmas.
Angelo was something else, entirely. The first letters were outright insulting. He declared that all Swedish girls are whores and the streets are full of prostitutes. He was about two years older than me, and he made me so angry. I took up the fight. I was going to set him straight about Swedish conditions and morals. We had it all sorted out after maybe a year? He sent me postcards of Sicily in every letter. He drew me the most amazing pictures! Mainly fountains, but also statues, windows with ornate decorations, you name it. He drew everything he saw around him –what an artist! When I went as an au-pair to London at age 19, he scolded me and told me to go back home. One should not leave one’s country. And then he started the old stupid statements again. His friends had been to Sweden and the streets were full of prostitutes. If they found any, they must have known exactly which streets to go to. There is one in Stockholm and one in Gothenburg. You really have to know what you are looking for, and really be on the hunt for them because, of course, it is against the law to sell and to buy! This time, I dropped his so-called friendship like a hot potato. I was not going to have this discussion again!!!
I guess, when I went on the Internet and googled pen-friends, I expected something like what we signed up for back in seventh grade. All these different sites came up. Many ask for quite a bit of money. Many are for e-mail friends only. Just for the fun of it, I signed up with one called Global Pen-friends. You get to send two messages for free to anyone else who has signed up. They can answer you and give you an e-mail address or street address, OR they can ignore you. After your two messages, you can send virtual smiles. But if both persons sending virtual smiles to each other have used up their two messages, they can never contact one another unless you pay 15 dollars. While I’ve waited to see if anyone would send me a message, I have checked out some of the people just for the fun of it. And I have made a very strange observation. The site is full of singles! Nothing strange in itself since they obviously have more time on their hands to sit and write. But then you realize that they are abusing the site thinking it a great place to find a partner. Why else are men in their late 40s asking specifically for ladies 20-35 years of age to write to them? What does a balding man who is totally out of shape, think that he has in common with a 20-year-old? He expects an intelligent conversation with such a person? That they can trade life experiences? Share the same tastes? The only reason a 40+ man is looking for a girl in her 20s is for sex and children. She must be in child-bearing years! Why else does a man request that age of his pen-friends? A man who says that looks doesn’t matter! Right. Because he himself does not look like one of the boys in One Direction! So, the girls are supposed to ignore his beer belly and thinning hair. But he wants firm breasts, a flat stomach, legs that look great in a mini skirt! And above all, a very fertile uterus!
Let’s abandon the discussion about pen-friends for a second, since these men obviously are not looking for anything of the sort. Most 20-year-olds live for Facebook, Instagram, and if they are great looking, they are going to be out there on the social scene looking for boys their own age, not boring middle-aged men! What about women my age? Some of us really try to take care of ourselves. We follow fashion as much as our bodies will allow. Let’s face it, a 40+ woman will be sneered at if wearing a mini skirt and other youthful clothing. She will look cheap and dressing younger than she ought, people will say that she refuses to accept her age. And she will most often look pathetic. But if a woman of 40+ has looked after herself as well as she can, which is not too easy if she has gone through pregnancy, I must admit if she dresses nicely and keeps up to date with things, the above wishes of her male peers condemns her to a group of pudgy old men of 60-70 years of age. It’s those men that are looking for women in their 40s! Am I the only person that feels distraught at this age fixated world? I am sorry, but I think there is something seriously wrong when a man writes in a pen-friend ad that he does not want to communicate with anyone older than 35, when he himself is say 49!
Am I the only one that react to this? That I find it disgusting? Because if you want a PEN-FRIEND, be it for e-mail or snail mail, the only thing that matters should be common interests. Age in itself does not matter. But there is a difference in sitting with small children and their problems, and with children having left the nest. There is a difference if the one person burns for history or want to chat about what they have just read, and the other person hates history, or is not really in to reading at all. Or one person believing in God while the other one is an Atheist. Or where one pen-friend writes ten page letters, but receives only a half A5 sheet back or a postcard. It becomes too much of a one-sided conversation to be meaningful. Isn’t the purpose of it all to fill one’s life with a friend, whom one has not been able to make in one’s local surroundings?
Just for the fun of it, I have, in the past, put myself up on different sites to see what comes out of it. It really is depressing! All innocence seems to be lost. Where are all genuine people? Are there no decent people who just want friends? Real friends? People that care about books, writing, film, music… Shall I tell you what my experiences with these sites are? “Hello Sweetie… Darling… Gorgeous…(I never post a photo!)”, “Hello Girlie…” This group of senders have all been in their 20s. There was even a 19-year-old. And all have been male. Where did they live? Ghana, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia. Then we have the group in their 30s and I am not going to write what they said after the above salutation phrases. It had to do with sex and/or describing their one attribute. The men in this age group wrote from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai. So, I draw the conclusion that the pen-friend sites are the new dating sites and are regarded by a certain part of the world as a good way to get a green card to a more affluent nation than their own?
So, I must say that I am very, very disappointed in the pen-friend sites. On the one hand, you have Western men in my age group that want to correspond with women half their age. Then you have the men from Africa and the Arab world, as young as my oldest son, that want a Swedish wife for two years, no matter if she looks like an old dish rag and is twice their age, so that they can prepare the way for a proper Muslim girl and their families to arrive later on. Where are all the females in all of this? Well, the ones my age are grandmothers, and certainly do not contact me! And when one did, from Global Pen-friends, neither one of us had any messages left to send for free!