Today’s writing prompt from NaBloPoMo is “When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer?”
I learned cursive writing from Ms. Stuckey in third grade. Jon Newton sat beside me, and we pretended the lowercased “s’s” were people climbing to the top of a diving board’s ladder and jumping off. The “D” was my least favorite letter to make. The “K” was my favorite. I liked writing in cursive, and I tried out many different styles. For a time I wrote in script that was slanted far to the right. Then I tried the big, bubbly letters and dotted my “i’s” with small circles. I remember showing a new style I’d developed to my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Meyer, and announced that this was how I was going to be writing from now on. God, I was such a nerd.
Through the years, I got a lot of compliments on my handwriting. At the end of a calligraphy class in seventh grade, my home room teacher chose me to write a thank you message in calligraphy to the volunteer who had taught the class. I’ve addressed my sisters’ wedding invitations. The admiration is ironic to me since I suck so, so much in every other area of artistic expression. I actually had to go to summer school for art in first grade. I’m not crafty at all, but I can write your name real purty.
Or I used to could. Nowadays, my handwriting has gone the way of my ability to draw anything other than stick figures. I blame computers. In high school, all my papers were written longhand on notebook paper. I don’t remember typing anything on a computer. In fact, I wrote all day, every day. My freshman year of college I sometimes used a word processor to type my English papers. A few of the girls on my floor had computers. Most didn’t. We still wrote most of our papers out longhand.
Eventually, I started going to this new land of wonders called a “Computer Lab”. Disappointed that I didn’t get to don an actual lab coat upon entering, I sat down to type my first paper on a computer. I had written the rough draft out on notebook paper that was scribbled all over with revisions, arrows, notes and variations on how I would write my new last name if my boyfriend and I got married. I had typed up most of the paper on the computer when the power went out in the lab. I lost all of it. A sinking feeling of doom, disappointment, frustration and straight up pissed-offedness overtook me as I sat in front of the restored but blank white screen, whispering obscenities. The computer looked blandly back at me and answered, “Welcome, young one. We are here. We are many. Resistance is futile.”
By the time I graduated from college, I rarely wrote anything by hand anymore except for bad poetry and notes to my professors, asking for extensions. I had a computer in my dorm room into which I shoved floppy disks with blue and red labels in order to obsessively click “Save” approximately 1,342 times while typing a paper.
Nowadays, my handwriting is just shy of atrocious. And I can’t write for too long before my hand, like an overweight teenager, starts whining and bitching about having to work so hard. If I sit down and make a sincere effort, I can reclaim some of my old penmanship glory. I enjoyed addressing the wedding invitations, and sometimes I’ll write Evie’s name for her in pretty script. But, really, I long for a keyboard. I can type pretty fast. Unless someone is watching me. Then my fingers freak out and act like they’ve never even seen a keyboard before.
I heard the other day that schools are not teaching cursive writing anymore. That means Evie will probably never write out her name on pretty pink paper and tape it to her bedroom door. She’ll probably never write in longhand a love letter or a poem. Her handwriting will probably be limited, like mine, to lists on the backs of envelopes. I despair of this, but I don’t know exactly why. For people who’s handwriting is akin to that of the scratching of chickens, being able to type is a lifesaver. And it’s a uniform way for everyone to communicate.
Maybe that’s it. It’s uniform. It’s Times New Roman and Courier New. There’s no style. No distinction. My grandmother’s, my mom’s, my dad’s, my husband’s handwriting is instantly recognizable to me. It’s a unique extension of them, an expression of their personality. It’s something their hands made.