mercredi, février 11, 2004

Handwriting on the Wall

I had a strange thought today while I was putting away my things in my office, preparing to go home. I had been playing a CD a friend had copied for me on my computer. As I took it out, my eyes fell on the words she had written, "Bellydance Superstars" (no snide remarks, please). I realized I had never before seen her handwriting.

We've been good friends for over a year, spent countless hours talking, seen each other every Monday for belly dance class (she's my instructor - see, there is a good reason for the CD) and generally know each other pretty well. But it's almost a chilling thought that I wouldn't be able to recognize her handwriting if I saw it somewhere. If she were in trouble and could only scrawl me a note asking for help, I wouldn't know it was her. (I realize this is silly, but you see my point here.) There is an essential part of her identity I am missing. Her hands wrote that, and I don't connect it to my impression of her. I suddenly felt as if I didn't know her at all.

My friend and I have never sent each other a postcard, exchanged letters, or scribbled a note and surreptitiously passed it to each other in class under the watchful eyes of the teacher. Even when we first met, we gave each other business cards, or I typed her info into my PalmPilot. Well, there was that one evening after dance class when we sat at her dining room table and hand wrote out our New Years resolutions. But she read me her list, so I actually never saw the character of her "t's" or the force of her "r's."

We might actually be living in an age where "hand" write becomes a necessary qualifier.

Knowing someone's handwriting is so much a part of knowing them. When you look at the script and how it is formed, you think, "His hands wrote that," and your mind wanders to how the side of his palm would always be ink stained because he wrote left handed and at an angle, slightly smudging the "Te adoro" at the bottom of love letters, which better conveyed the intensity. And then you realize his handwriting is the only proof you have left that his hands wrote that.

The way a person writes contains clues to their person. I've noticed some of my really artsy friends have metallic architechtural handwriting I much envy, in all caps with the "a's" becoming designer triangles. Then there are all the expat friends, of which the belly dancing one is a part, who have that cool, foreign way of making the "m" more of an upside down "u" and the "p" not closed all the way.

The French, and I imagine many others, even have an entire profession centered around analyzing psychological characteristics of people from their handwriting : graphologists. It's why some still write cover letters by hand. Then again, you also attach your photo to your resume so they can analyze your facial features. Or see if you're ugly. I'm sure if I had ever had to hand write my cover letter, I wouldn't be waiting for a French work visa right now. I might be classified as a sociopath. I constantly change between script and cursive; I have an uncanny inability to write "y's" - they get run over by what precedes or follows - and my "r's" end up looking flat and smushed out. Sometimes I don't even recognize my own handwriting. Now there's a cause for concern. Good thing I'm typing this. And then there's the photo. Yikes. I am horribly unphotogenic. I hoard the photos of me that turn out well.

I especially dislike the way the left part of my upper lip always manages to get stuck on my upper teeth, pulling it up and giving me this crooked smile. One day I passed the refrigerator door where I had put up an old passport photo of my father's when he was in his twenties and looked like a cross between Omar Sharif, Rupert Everett and Jeremy Irons. And there it was, that telltale crookedness. And I suddenly didn't mind that I had it, and smiled to myself, askew.

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