Get It in Writing

Posted: April 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Daddio, Holidays, Husbandry, Shopping, Style | 2 Comments »

You really should do something divine for me so I’ll send you a thank you note. Not because I need a favor or anything—though I’m not actively discouraging them—just because I got new stationery and it’s so damn fab-u-luss. My note card alone, without a word on it, should be all the thanks you’ll need.

I’ve been wanting to get my own stationery for about ever. And I don’t think of myself as indecisive. But every time I looked at all the options for fonts, colors, or even the damn paper liner for the envelopes, I’d get light-headed and woozy. I’d have to sit down and pour myself a bourbon to steady my nerves.

Add to that the size and shape of the card. Flat or folded? And the paper stock. I was flummoxed.

At one point I even enlisted my uber-stylish gay friend Larry to help me. No doubt he’d have strong opinions and excellent taste. We met at Gumps, a high-end department store that’s a San Francisco institution. But our field trip was fruitless. He flipped through the books and mocked half the designs. “Too Holly Hobbie.” “Too country club.” “I used something like that for my sweet sixteen party.”

And when the snooty saleswoman stepped away for a moment he whispered, “You can get this MUCH cheaper online.” So we left and went to lunch.

And I was sent back to square one. Stymied now by which website offered the best price, and left to fend for myself with my own inadequate straight-girl taste.

The thing is I’ve spent so many years working with companies on their branding that this kind of design decision is out-of-whack important to me. As if the recipients of my correspondence were some sort of customers with whom I was delivering an emotional experience that I wanted them to associate with me.

Absurd, yes. But I still couldn’t shake the thought that these cards would be a representation of me, albeit a small one. And I was gripped with the dismal realization that I had no idea who that ‘me’ was.

Perhaps other people don’t suffer identity crises when they buy note cards. At least, I hope not.

Or maybe Cranes is somehow in cahoots with the American Psychiatric Association. I mean, I don’t want to start some conspiracy theory or anything. I’m just saying it’s possible.

I watched one of those horrible fashion reality shows once where the husband of some poor sweat-pants-clad woman who’s altogether given up on herself sticks a team of fashionistas and a crew of hidden cameras on his wife for a week. And by the end of the montage of her myriad fashion faux-pas you find yourself screaming at the TV, “Could she at least COMB HER HAIR before picking up the kids from school?”

And then at a commercial you run into the bathroom and comb your own hair really quickly.

Anyway, one of the sniveling show hostesses said something about how people’s clothing choices tend to get stuck in the happiest periods of their lives. So, like, if your glory days were in the 80s, you still gravitate towards neon lime green FRANKIE SAY RELAX t-shirts when you’re out shopping.

I found this theory interesting. I do sometimes find myself reverting to a preppie fashion comfort zone. Sometimes I’ll look at a pair of Pepto-Bismal pink capri pants with royal blue clams embroidered on them and actually take them off the rack to the dressing room.

What’s scarier is half the time I go on to buy them.

And it doesn’t take years of therapy to know that this harkens back to my teen years. I don’t have any tattoos, but if I’d gotten one back then it would’ve probably been an alligator on my left breast or a ribbon belt of nautical flags around my waist. Thank God for my fear of needles.

So was high school the happiest time in my life? I had fun but, God, I hope not. I’ve been lucky to be blessed with lots of happiness. Hell, I was happy during both my pregnancies but have never considered buying elastic-waistband jeans while out shopping for a cute new outfit.

Anyway, when I’ve tried to come up with personalized note cards I kept finding myself reverting to that bad preppie juju. Yet I knew that a conservative navy blue monogram wasn’t what I was really looking for.

So thank God for Mark (once again), who deftly put an end to this whole quandary at Christmas. He researched old-world printers and found an exceptional authentic engraver in New York City. He even got the process started by working with an art director there to develop some initial designs. My gift allowed me to see the process through—coming up with whatever I liked.

Turns out I loved one of the typefaces she originally comped, and from there picking a color (orange) was easy. She matched the envelope papers to the font ink exactly, and in the matter of a few email exchanges and some samples sent via mail, I finally hammered out my personal stationery. In the end it seemed weirdly easy.

And it rocks.

Best of all, there isn’t a single whale, anchor, or martini glass on it anywhere.

A couple weeks ago I called my dad as if I was announcing I’d had a baby. “Guess what?” I gushed. “I got my new note cards today and I feel like the Duchess of Glam.”

“Ho ho ho!” he responded, the enthusiastic reaction reserved only for him and Santa. “Tell me!”

Dad, it turns out, takes his stationery VERY seriously. Since as far back as I can remember he was childishly excited about selecting letterhead for his law firm. He’d get the boxes from the printer and lift off the lids like a pirate opening a trunk of gold. He’d run his fingers over the raised engraving, remark on the heft of the paper, point out the watermark, then turn to five-year-old me asking, “So ho ho! Whaddaya think?”

To which I’d reply, “Can I get some graham crackers?”

I was perhaps the only eight-year-old to have her own letterhead as well. I had reams of the stuff in two colors—a pastel pink and a kinda minty green. The lettering was a darker shade of each color. My name and address was along the top of the paper, and on the envelopes too. I think I wrote a total of eight—maybe 12—letters (from the 200+ sheets I had), but Dad got a thrill out of the stuff.

I remember the year he ordered European-sized business cards. They were slimmer than standard ones, and extra long. “They don’t even fit in American wallets!” he declared triumphantly. Sorta like, fuck my clients of they can’t handle high style. If they wanted his cards on hand they could damn well buy European wallets.

So then, Dad was riveted by the news of this gift from Mark. (As if he needed more reason to adore his youngest son-in-law.)

“Send me a caaahd!” he urged in his Kennedyesque New England accent.

Dad is also a fountain pen collector. He has a crazy vast collection, and if you’re ever suffering from insomnia he can lecture you on the historical background and artistic merits of each one. (I’m sure he’d be happy to do this via phone.) He aims to “keep the aht of lettah writing alive.”

“And what kind of pen are you using with this new stationery?” he asked with reverence.

“Uh, Bic? Or… felt tip?” I stammered lamely.

“Now then,” he said in his we’ll-sort-this-out lawyerly fashion. “You send a me note cahd and I’ll find some pens—and I’ve got some wonderful inks—a brown Italian one that’s really first-rate. A real first-class ink. The cahds are orange? The brown could look quite smaht with them. Trust me.”

Within days four pens arrived in the mail. And once he got a copy of the card and was able to creative-direct an ink choice, a package with inks arrived too.

So then, here I am, exceptionally well-poised to send out a note. I’ve got the stationery, I’ve got the pen. I’ve even got some designer brown ink that’s apparently worthy of kings.

And I’ve got two great men in my life to thank for making me look so good. I really should send them both notes.


2 Comments on “Get It in Writing”

  1. 1 FAB said at 11:54 am on April 15th, 2012:

    What more can a woman want…wth a husband who knows his stationery and a father who singlehandedly is keeping penmanship, letter writing and the use of the fountain pen alive…not to mention having two beautiful children that both dad and granddad adore!

  2. 2 kristen said at 1:50 pm on April 20th, 2012:

    It’s true, FAB. If I just had a Cartier tank watch life would be complete!

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