Last week, my friend Anna emailed me to tell me that her parents were cleaning out their house in Hong Kong and had sent her two large boxes of her stuff to sort out. Because I have known Anna since 1987—which is the longest I have known any of my friends and, actually, anyone who is not technically a family member—I was fairly sure I knew where she was going with this, and I was right.
"Pretty much everything in those boxes," she said, "is a letter from you."
(If you would like a laugh right now, please refer to this hilarious picture of Anna sitting on my lap in front of a Christmas tree, when we are both—I am approximating—eight or nine years old. Marvel at the abundance of stonewashed denim in that picture! It takes up, like, forty percent of the frame. Impressive, no? Also, what are we doing?)
Apparently Anna had been laughing all afternoon while going through those boxes, and so took a few photos of the things she'd found because she wanted to share her joy with me. And I, in turn, want to share my joy with you. Like, for example, this very serious illustration of some new dance moves I'd just been taught by my friend Debbie. Whether Debbie herself was also being serious in teaching me these dance moves—or is in fact still laughing uproariously about the time she convinced me to actually do this with my body in public—will never be known,* but I thought they were worth sharing anyway in case you're thinking of hitting the club this weekend and clearing the dancefloor with your sweet new grooves.
*(I mean, yeah, I guess I could ask her on Facebook or something.)
Be honest, did you try any of those just now? You did, didn't you? I know I made a few attempts at "The Click" myself, but apparently I'm just not as limber as I was aged sixteen because I couldn't quite get the hang of how to "click your pelvis round three times," exhilarating though it sounded. I did appreciate my helpful little illustration of the stick figure's "pelvis going out of joint," though, as well as the bizarre instruction to "put an expression on your face like you are in severe pain (this will be relatively easy.)"
And how about "The Flex"? Anyone manage to nail an expression that shows you're "concentrating very hard and, at the same time, try[ing] to look cool"? Man, being sixteen is exhausting.
As though a cheat sheet for 1996's hottest dance moves wasn't enough excitement, Anna also a enclosed a picture of what is probably my first known—and, let us all hope, only—drawing of Sean, whom we'd met together earlier that summer.
I had drawn this for her, apparently, "so you don't forget"—excuse me, "SO YOU DON'T FORGET"—and I am actually pretty impressed with the level of detail I managed to capture. "Nice hair complete with sideburns," for example? "Sexy eyes"? "Pumas"? Those were some keen powers of observation happening during the three seconds I actually spent with him, and I am certainly very grateful that I remembered to include the all-important "knee brace" in my creepily accurate depiction. (It wasn't some weird 90s trend; he'd just had knee surgery after a snowboarding accident. Which is more than I can say for "pager.")
My favorite thing, however, was the one-page fax Anna had saved from me, which was obviously sent sometime around the dawn of email. Once we realized letter-writing was too slow a medium to communicate our important teenage thoughts to each other, you see, but before anyone really had their own email account, Anna and I used to stay in touch during the summer vacation by sending faxes between Connecticut and Hong Kong. The risk that some other member of our family might see our most personal and intricate thoughts—and, what, try and imitate our dance moves?—was a concern, sure, but the speed with which we could consult on important matters like how to impress boys with knee braces and pagers was worth the potential embarrassment. Plus, we both just made sure to plant ourselves in front of our respective fax machines when we knew a missive might be coming in and scream "DON'T PICK UP! IT'S A FAX!" as soon as the phone started ringing.
At my wedding three and a half years ago, Anna—who was my maid of honor—gave a hilarious speech in which she recalled the golden summers of faxing, in particular the way she would stuff the seven-foot reams of paper I'd sent her into her bag and pull them out to read on the bus. (This was back when faxes just came on one long continuous shiny sheet of paper, not divided into several neat and tidy pieces like they did later.) The one she found the other day, however—and had kept, presumably, because it heralded such an exciting turn of events in the world—was the one where I'd decided to branch out into this new-fangled thing called "email" and had faxed her the following request:
What is your email address (or screen name or whatever)? I want to try emailing you!
Fax back as soon as you can!
Don't you just love the urgency? The general fuzziness around how one might actually communicate via the computer? The request that she fax back to let me know she got my fax so that I could then attempt to email her? Oh sweet, precious, innocent 1990s. What a lot of paper we must have all wasted back then.