An Open Letter to Open Letters

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Dear Open Letter,

As is traditional for the format, I’ll start by expressing that it’s with deep regret that I write this to you.  I used to like you, Open Letter.  There was a time when you were useful; necessary, even.  But things have changed and here I am now, addressing you both privately and publicly with no clear intention as to what I might achieve by doing so.

Unable to cast my ego aside for even a millisecond, I’ve decided to grant you an audience as you read this, Open Letter.  You won’t know who they are.  I won’t know who they are.  Actually, considering my blog stats at the moment, ‘they’ might not even exist.  However, the very hint at their possible presence is enough to create the sense of drama I need to give this letter gravitas and, Open Letter, I do believe in your heart of lettery hearts, you want and need to hear what I have to say about you and what you’ve done (and not done), don’t you?

Yes. I thought so.

You see the thing is I have a bone to pick with you, Open Letter.  In this crazy life that Michael Buble sings so well about I find myself with not one but two email accounts, a Twitter feed, a Facebook account for work comms, a mobile phone, a landline and a letterbox that an inordinate amount of shit-mail finds it way through, demanding I sort it in pursuit of information that might in some way be relevant to my actual life.  I have also more recently acquired a WhatsApp app and an Instragram account.  Additionally, I have two children who come home with raggedy bits of paper from their school with (a) information about how I am supposed to steer their way into a secure future and (b) what their choices are for activities week and school t-shirts that they refuse to wear anyway.   I’m sure that you’re starting to see my problem here; there are the things I want to deal with, there are things I have to deal with and then there are just the absolute heap of fucking shite things that totally waste my time and concern me less than the price of jellied eels but demand to be dealt with nonetheless.

Can you guess which category you fit into, Open Letter, in 2016?  CAN YOU?stamp

Of course you can’t.  If you could I think we all know that this line would then be the natural stopping point for this open letter and, as we all know too, this open letter simply isn’t long enough, self-involved enough or whingey enough yet.  So I’ll continue and ask you to bear with me because, yes, that too is traditional for the format and I’m nobody’s deviant.  Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.  At least not in public anyway.

But I digress.

Open Letter, I’m not sure if I ever told you about the time I was walking through Cameron Toll shopping centre and a man was nearby his wee stall and shaking his can asking passers by if they’d like to donate to Guide Dogs for the Blind.  The woman who was walking in front of me hadn’t noticed the 12ft rigid photograph he was standing beside which featured a blonde labrador wearing a harness and happily leading its owner across a busy road.  She also hadn’t quite caught what the fundraiser had said when he’d shaken his can at her.  She stopped in her tracks and asked, ‘whit is it yer wintin money for pal?’ He smiled and replied, ‘it’s for Guide Dogs for the Blind, hen’.  She paused a moment and tilted her head to the side before nodding then replying, ‘Naw. I dinnae like dogs pal’, then walking off to carry on with her  life, apparently without a care.  Now, it may surprise you to hear this, Open Letter, but, in a way, I bloody well admired that woman.  She asked a direct question, got a direct answer and gave a direct response.  She took no prisoners.  She didn’t think too much about the entire malarkey.  She just thought about what she liked and didn’t like, said it like it was for her and went about her day.

Life would be simpler, Open Letter, if we all behaved in such a way.  If we all said the thing that matters to the person whom it most matters to or where it stands to make an actual difference, life would be simpler and more efficient.  Some previously pissed around things might – at last – get done.  We’d fanny about less and see a few more results, like in Scandinavia and Germany.  We’d get more good shit done with a whole lot less angst and misdirected, wasted energy, basically.

The thing that’s pissing me off, you see, is that while everyone is writing open letters their time might actually be better spent writing a real letter if they really want a real result.  It’s a novel idea, I know, but bear with.  I acknowledge, of course, your shock in reading this suggestion.  Open Letter, friend of yesteryear, this bit must be hard for you.  You’ll have realised straight away that what I’m proposing would mean your death.  I’m sorry and yet simultaneously not sorry at all.  Think of it as liberation.  Stuff would get done but you’d cease to be.  It’s hard, I know, but do you think you might consider it for the greater good?  You’d almost certainly be remembered for quite some time for your selflessness, don’t you think?

Shall I tell you how I (we) got here?  In the last six months I’ve seen open letters to the following;

  1. The terrorist organisation who call themselves ISIS
  2. People who don’t pick up their dog’s shit
  3. Jimmy Savile’s ghost
  4. Three of the Kardashians
  5. Chris Brown
  6. Jamie Oliver
  7. George Osbourne
  8. Mother Theresa
  9. A man who worked on a fish counter in Morrisons

and, finally,

      10.  The entire population of America.

It’s all left me with the feeling that open letters are the thing we do when we can’t actually be arsed doing a proper thing.  Reading open letters alongside all the other comms in my life has, basically, started to take up way too much time and my willpower is futile in the face of outrage.  Just like with chocolates, if open letters enter my mental space and awareness I will consume both despite knowing full well that both things do not actually bring me joy and are fairly disruptive to my bowels.

So yes.  We’ve arrived at the crux of things now.  I’m leaving you, Open Letter.  You’re not allowed in my brain or my browser anymore.  People say that sometimes the 140 character restriction count in a tweet isn’t enough and in reply I say to them today that actually, it’s fucking plenty.  If you can’t make your point succinctly, is it a point?  You wouldn’t take the point of a pencil and try to make it wider and flatter, would you?  No, you wouldn’t.  Because that would make it more fragile, less useful and entirely cocking pointless.

I’ve written this to you today, Open Letter, because it was that or use Twitter (again) to tell people it’s really bad form to Tweet at people and tell them how to Tweet but could they please all stop tweeting links to open letters.  The last time I did that I disappeared into a black hole of irony for a fortnight and banging around in there with Donald Trump’s claim of being diversity-friendly was less of a barrel of laughs than you might lightheartedly assume, I can tell you that for free.


Heather x

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