Oh! For a Time When Sexting Was a Love Letter

It started in the car yesterday as I drove the kids home from school. Chatting about the day at school with my son is very often like watching a python swallow a small buck – slow and torturous.

“How was your day?”


“What did you do?”


“You were at school for 8 hours; you did nothing in 8 hours?”

“I don’t remember what we did… I hurt my knee climbing the tree.”


And so it goes on. I ask about specific classes. I ask who he played with. I ask what games he played. When we got to this point in the conversation yesterday I thought for sure I would be able to draw out a multi-syllabic answer. You see, on Friday he had made a plan to meet some kids in the grade below him on the top field at first break (recess), to play his games. He had finally found a gang who wanted to be ordered around by him, who would lovingly and willingly obey his every command. So, I asked if he had met up with the acolytes.

“No. Gary blackmailed me into playing wrestling instead.”

I thought that perhaps he didn’t quite understand the word ‘blackmail’ but it turns out that he understood it perfectly. In an unfortunate ‘slip across the floor’ incident in the boys’ bathroom before first break, Gary had seen that he had forgotten to put underpants on in the morning. (I barely reacted to this. His father, 23Thorns, cannot remember where he puts his wallet, his keys, his netbook, his Galaxy Tab, his phone from one day to the next. It is no surprise to me or to my son even that as 23’s offspring he should forget something so fundamental in getting dressed.) But back to the bathroom…Gary threatened to whip my son’s school shorts off in front of the whole school unless he played WWF with him for the rest of the day. My son was in no way traumatised by the incident. He’s a smart kid. He weighed up the potential embarrassment against the potential game-domination pleasure and he made the right call. He wrestled with Gary.

My 3 year-old daughter was in the car with us though. She is not yet at the stage where she has any issues with public nudity. She couldn’t understand what all this fuss was about. Why the red-faced submission to Gary’s manipulation? I launched into a “private parts” discussion. My son nodded his head sagely as I spoke. At the end of my long discussion in which I thought I had been perfectly clear, the 3 year-old said, “But for girls it’s okay to show your panties.” I sighed audibly and prepared to start all over again, when the 8 year-old sage said to his sister, “Girls should NEVER lift their skirts unless there’s a mouse under it.”

Image source: New York Public Library digital collection

Image source: New York Public Library digital collection

My heart swelled with pride. We have raised a perfect little Victorian gentleman. And with that, I thought sex education classes were over with for the day. How wrong I was.

I turned on my computer after the kids had gone to bed and opened my Scrabble games. I started a game with 19 year-old Wayne and his opening move was really rather special.

It was not QUIZZED. It was not even a word. His opening gambit was to type into the chat bar the charming phrase, “wld u like 2 b my f**k buddy?” Good grief! Now, I’m not a prude…Okay, maybe I’m a little bit prudish. My tea shot out my nose and I called 23 over to examine the cheek. We imagined all sorts of witty retorts but in the end settled on “No, thank you.”

What I wanted to say Wayne was that Twitter and Facebook and texting have much to answer for. Passion in 140 characters is a hard ask and it is nigh on impossible to discern in a field of C U L8R and ROFLing and U’REs. Sexting with phrases like “f**k buddy” is just not sexy. Sexy is real language used with real skill or with real feeling. There are words so beautiful to say that I smile just to think of them.

So, for Wayne and his continuing education, and because it was just Valentine’s Day, and because real words are moving, and because it is simply nice to read a love letter, I’ve collected a few of the greats below.

A buck killed for you – Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn

About a dozen of Henry’s letters to Anne Boleyn survive. He wrote passionately, with great longing, and a little bit of saucy too. “…wishing myself (especially an evening) in my sweetheart’s arms, whose pretty dukkys [breasts] I trust shortly to kiss.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I rather like the following extract though. Partly because it’s less well-known than the letter the above sentence is drawn from and also partly because my father used to say to me when I was a little girl, that for me he would killa da bull. This is in no way intentionally creepy. It is simply a childhood association between the death of livestock and deep, endless love. hmmmm..I should stop talking now, shouldn’t I?

I send you this letter, beseeching you to apprise me of your welfare, which I pray to God may continue as long as I desire mine own. And to cause you yet oftener to remember me, I send you, by the bearer of this, a buck killed late last night by my own hand, hoping that when you eat of it you may think of the hunter;

and thus, for want of room, I must end my letter,

written by the hand of your servant, who very often wishes for you instead of your brother.

H. R.

“Violent impulses as tumultuous as fire” Napoleon and Josephine

Josephine and Napoleon

To say that Napoleon was a hot-headed might not need saying. He was also jealous and possessive but, boy, were his letters to Josephine worthy of more than 140 characters.

Dec. 29, 1795

I awake all filled with you. Your image and the intoxicating pleasures of last night, allow my senses no rest. Sweet and matchless Josephine, how strangely you work upon my heart. Are you angry with me? Are you unhappy? Are you upset? My soul is broken with grief and my love for you forbids repose. But how can I rest any more, when I yield to the feeling that masters my inmost self, when I quaff from your lips and from your heart a scorching flame? Yes! One night has taught me how far your portrait falls short of yourself! You start at midday: in three hours I shall see you again. Till then, a thousand kisses, mio dolce amor! but give me none back for they set my blood on fire.

I have not spent a day without loving you; I have not spent a night without embracing you; I have not so much as drunk a single cup of tea without cursing the pride and ambition which force me to remain separated from the moving spirit of my life.

Josephine! Josephine! Remember what I have sometimes said to you: Nature has endowed me with a virile and decisive character. It has built yours out of lace and gossamer. Have you ceased to love me? Forgive me, love of my life, my soul is racked by conflicting forces. My heart obsessed by you, is full of fears which prostrate me with misery…I am distressed not to be calling you by name. I shall wait for you to write it.

“Come closer to me. Come closer. I promise it will be beautiful” Henry Miller and Anais Nin


These two were wildly unconventional but they sure could write!

Henry to Anais on March 21, 1932

Anais, I don’t know how to tell you what I feel. I live in perpetual expectancy. You come and the time slips away in a dream. It is only when you go that I realize completely your presence. And then it is too late. You numb me. […] This is a little drunken, Anais. I am saying to myself “here is the first woman with whom I can be absolutely sincere.” I remember your saying -“you could fool me. I wouldn’t know it.” When I walk along the boulevards and think of that. I can’t fool you – and yet I would like to. I mean that I can never be absolutely loyal – it’s not in me. I love women, or life, too much – which it is, I don’t know. But laugh, Anais, I love to hear you laugh. You are the only woman who has a sense of gaiety, a wise tolerance – no more, you seem to urge me to betray you. I love you for that. […]

I don’t know what to expect of you, but it is something in the way of a miracle. I am going to demand everything of you – even the impossible, because you encourage it. You are really strong. I even like your deceit, your treachery. It seems aristocratic to me.

“I kiss you passionately” Tsar Nicholas II to Tsarina Alexandra


I had a purple hardcover book which contained in it the letters between the Tsar and the Tsarina. I seem to have lost the book in one of our moves but I remember parts of it so clearly. Theirs was such a beautiful love, Nicky’s and his Sunny’s.

I have finished my book, and shall certainly read it aloud to you and the children when I return home

My dear little Sunny, I am burning with impatience to see you as soon as possible, to hear your voice, to look into your eyes…

I think that separation actually makes love stronger and mutual attraction greater.

My joy, my Sunny, my adorable little Wify, I love you and long for you terribly!

Your old hubby


“My Angel, my everything, my very self” Beethoven to his Immortal Beloved

And then, most heart-wrenching of all Beethoven’s famous letter to his Immortal Beloved. We don’t really know who the intended recipient was (although there are many guesses). The letter was never sent.

Good morning, on 7th July. While still in bed my thoughts turn towards you my Immortal Beloved, now and then happy, then sad again, waiting whether fate might answer us – I can only live either wholly with you or not at all, yes I have resolved to stray about in the distance, until I can fly into your arms, and send my soul embraced by you into the realm of the Spirits – yes unfortunately it must be – you will compose yourself all the more since you know my faithfulness to you, never can another own my heart, never – never – O God why do I have to separate from someone whom I love so much, and yet my life in V[ienna] as it is now is a miserable life – Your love makes me at once most happy and most unhappy – at my age I would now need some conformity[,] regularity of my life – can this exist in our relationship? – Angel, I have just heard that the mail coach goes every day – and thus I must finish so that you may receive the letter immediately. – be patient – only through quiet contemplation of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm; for only by calmly considering our lives can we achieve our purpose of living together.- be calm – love me – today – yesterday – What yearning with tears for you – you – you my life – my everything – farewell – oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your Beloved

L.Forever thine forever mine forever us.

23Thorns to TracyLovesHistory

when we were 2

Yup, it’s my husband’s Love. And Bacon post. Or at least part of it.

How can you potter around in the evenings for a week or so, not fighting or ignoring each other, but busy with your own things; books, TV shows, blogs, computer games, only to walk past each other in a passage and be electrified by a simple touch, a hand on the stomach or an arm brushing an arm, and feel your heart quicken like you were eighteen again, and share the word for it with someone who loves pie.


How can you stop, unseen, behind someone, as they wash the dishes or bend to pick up a scattered toy, and see the graceful curve of their neck, or the fall of their hair over their face, and be reminded, even after all these years, that you have not seen all of them yet, and share the word for it with someone who loves lolcat pictures.


I really love bacon. I might even write a poem about it. My wife, though, is just going to have to wait until the English get invaded again, and someone brings us some bigger words.

So, there let me end Wayne’s lesson in passion and the writing about it. Never use SMS speak. Don’t swear. Buy a thesaurus. Punctuate and capitalise.

Ladies, keep your skirts on, unless you spot a mouse or a smart and funny wordsmith.

56 thoughts on “Oh! For a Time When Sexting Was a Love Letter

  1. Wayne’s only hope is to focus on Henry VIII’s dead animal angle. “I drove over a rabbit yesterday. Wld u like 2 eat it?” Love is sure to follow. Thanks for including me in such lofty company!

  2. Loved the “nothing” response from your son about his school day. When I met with a room full of parents I once asked what their kids said about their school day, and in unison, the packed room shouted “nothing!”

    • Every single day! Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. My daughter is chattier than my son though. If I listened to her version of a day, I would have about 30 minutes of activity over the entire day as opposed to the boy child’s 0 minutes.

      • Imagine, for one moment, the primary teacher’s viewpoint too. The long hours, planning, executing and tidying up after a varied, coherent, challenging series of lessons. The lying awake at 5am, plotting something exciting. The excursions, at weekends and in the evenings, to a weird range of places to find props and people to fulfill these plans. The joy when it goes well and all 30 of the kids in your class are lit up, listening or taking part. The soul-shrivelling knowledge that they will 95% of the time go home and say ‘nothing’. 😉

        Great post, by the way!

      • Thanks!

        On a much smaller scale, we often do wild and exciting things on the weekends: hiking, bone-collecting, fossil-hunting, picnics, visits to granny, swimming in her pool, general crafty/ arty stuff, dancing, grooming the dog. Son then comes home from school with his writing book. In it: This weekend I played Zelda on the Wii. I sometimes want to send the teacher a note saying that we are not deadbeat parents but I’m hoping that she knows he did actually step away from the TV games, in the same way that I know she didn’t actually do nothing for a whole day at school.

        Hope you guys were safe and warm in the heavy snows.

  3. With the advent of social media the love letter has gone down the drain, it is quite sad isn’t it.
    No bundles of love letters waiting to be found in attics in years to come, only the possibility of finding your nannas old mobile phone, getting it going and finding inappropriate pictures that she sent to someone who wasn’t your grandpa! Eeek! 😉

  4. Ha – it’s so true. It goes on and on as well – I’ve heard our 14 year old tell his granny on the phone he’s done ‘nothing’ for the holidays and thought, well, we could’ve saved ourselves a lot of time and money there!
    On the other hand…we have a classic ‘News Jotter’ in our possession from when the 14 year old was 8ish. It is from the early weeks of my relationship with his dad – when we hadn’t actually told anyone about it yet – and says something like ‘Miss Braithanlithe came for a walk with us then drank too much wine so she stayed the night with dad’. (My now-husband’s strategy having been to explain in advance to the boy that it wasn’t okay to drink alcohol and drive, so I might perhaps be staying sometimes if I wanted to have a glass of wine with my dinner!).
    Thankfully he was being taught by a friend of mine at the time who summoned me to her room then fell about laughing (and kept it out of the official jotter samples periodically viewed by senior management for the rest of the session).

  5. Oh! This post is why I think your blog is about the best thing on the interwebs: chatty & silent kids, crude teenaged internet strangers, Victorian manners, romantic husband, Napoleon, Beethoven, two very different Henries, all rolled into one post.

  6. Oh, wow. One of my favourites is still ” How do I love thee, let me count the ways”
    Now, going off at a tangent, but a bookseller will understand this – why is it that booksellers (not all) sound bewildered when you can’t find an ISBN and say “What’s the title?”

    • Ooh! Love poems! Maybe I can do those next. e e cummings always works for me. Of course then I would have to write a whole paragraph for Wayne explaining why sometimes you can forget to capitalize 🙂

  7. I, too, have been wooed by words on a page, typed up so neatly and starkly on the white paper, yet filled with passion and beauty. The “modern” text-speak can never hold a candle to the letters I have received and hold dear.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Thanks for reading.

      I have a box of old letters at the top of my wardrobe – love letters, birthday cards, silly notes passed to me in class at high school, letters from my dad, letters from old friends. Sitting with them and reading them is one of my favourite rainy day activities.

  8. LOVE this post! 😀
    My 4 year old and 3 year old are also “nuffin” doers over the day, no matter what we do or don’t do. It gets a little disheartening sometimes but I think kids live in the moment so much that unless they are in the middle of the exciting activity they really do forget.
    When my husband and I first got together we wrote each other letters. He traveled back to the UK where he’s from for a 6 week holiday and once, after running out of fuel in the motorbike he wrote me a letter from the edge of the M6 motorway. They’re all floating around somewhere still I think.
    Gone too is the passing of notes in class. SMS’s under the cover f a book just don’t cut the mustard of passing notes via classmates and hoping that no-one is holding a grudge against you and gonna dob you in to the teacher.
    < and 3 doesn't hold the same romance as a drawn heart either. ❤

    • Thanks.

      I ran out petrol this week too actually. It was the first time ever. I didn’t write a love letter though. I stomped around angrily trying not to look as embarrassed as I felt at having made such a massive traffic jam.

      Do you remember “for you eyes only” on all those notes passed around class? Such fun!

  9. Roared with laughter at all of the above. I have tried varying the question to; ‘How was your day?’ in the hope of eliciting some response. Sadly, the universal answer to that is ‘fine’ from all 3 daughters, 14, 12 and 9!!

    • Oh dear! I thought my daughter was going to be the family’s saving grace. You know, long chats over tea and Madeleines with deep insights into the interpersonal dynamics of playground politics. Sigh.

  10. lovely! it’s been too long since i’ve visited and this just lifted my spirits. although i’m the wordsmith, not my husband, he is quite handy with haikus. much better than henry the eight’s pretty dukkys comment, anyway.

  11. Never use SMS speak. Don’t swear. Buy a thesaurus. Punctuate and capitalise. – Now that’s some wise advice.

    I shudder to think of how Henry’s letter to Anne might have looked today.

    “can i kss ur brsts?”

    There would have been no marriage.

  12. I love your blog, its very interesting at times and funny at others. My nephew is like your son and answers with one syllable only, so you can imagine what he is like on the phone!!! He is 6 years old. If my sister wasn’t there to prompt him with the answers then there would be a deathly silence lasting for ever!!!lol

    • I went to Australia for a conference a few years ago and the conversations with my son were torturous. He was so excited to hear me on the phone but so incapable of chatting. I listen to my husband talking to friends on the phone occasionally and fear that boys never grow out of the inability to prattle on for hours (or minutes even!)

  13. You are a rare treasure, and you aren’t wrapped in aged paper…yet 🙂 This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. Definitely Freshly Pressed material. Oh, wait, you already are…but they missed this one! You deserve two! (And don’t laugh, I follow someone who actually received two FP’s–and you thought life couldn’t get any better in the wordpress world!) 🙂

    • Thank you so much. I am so pleased you enjoyed it. I was hugely surprised by my Freshly Pressed-ness for the following one. As for the lightning striking twice, my madly funny husband (23thorns) has also been Freshly Pressed twice. Read his blog, you will shake with the giggles and marvel at his skill; I did. We’d been married for almost 12 years before i knew he could write.

      I thought I didn’t stand a chance at even one Freshly Pressed but now that it’s happened, I fear the competition is ON!

  14. I have just found your blog, through Mr 23 thorns, and I loved reading your excerpts of these passionate, and sincere, love letters. Like your good self, though I sometimes despair of the modern need for speed, rather than expression 🙂

    Mr Night Owl (I know what you mean about men and their wish for anonymity) isn’t much of a letter writer, but I couldn’t find a more romantic man. He always brings me the first flower of the season, the first wild strawberry, the first blackberry – in fact, the first of anything he finds on his many rambles – if that means the first Otter spraint, or the latest in a series of dead things, I’ve learned to take them in the spirit meant, rather than screaming in horror, and fainting away like some vapid victorian maiden (us Night Owls are made of much sterner stuff than that) 🙂

    Thank you for such an entertaining Blog 🙂

    • I am pleased you found me!

      The first blackberry sounds too wonderful for words. As for the dead things and the dirty things, we too went through a stage where the 23 household smelled like a charnel house. We have a little nature reserve just around the corner from home. There are some buck, a few tortoises, and up until quite recently an exploding population of thousands of dassies. The huge numbers of them meant that many were dying from disease and lack of resources. Every trip to the park involved the defleshing of a recovered dassie carcass in a varying state of decomposition. The park recently culled a huge number of the dassies and I am pleased to report the remaining population is happy and healthy. We didn’t find a single carcass on our recent visit 🙂 thank heavens! I don’t know if I could have borne the smell in a winter house with windows closed to the cold.

      • We went through a similar phase when myxomatosis hit our rabbit population very badly, a few years back. Thankfully, like your dassies, we now have a very healthy population, which is just as well, as hubby catches a couple every winter, just to re-live his childhood, post-war, when rabbit was frequently on the menu 🙂

        As for the dead and dirty things, I recently insisted that, if hubby wanted to show me the more gruesome evidences of his rambles, then he could easily do this through the window – and he actually listened – so now I can look forward to the first picking gifts with a lot less apprehension, and much more pleasure 🙂

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