The platform for sharing family trivia and photos was the annual Christmas letter, sent snail mail.
All too frequently, that communication went to those like myself who didn't gave a damn about all that: that is, family joy.
My dog, cats, and myself were content living our bohemian lives off the grid. That was also a time when the term "Christmas" could be used.
Had Facebook not been invented, though, likely we recipients would have joined and filed a class action lawsuit about Christmas letters as a public nuisance. The defendants would have ranged from the happyclappy family units to the U.S. Postal Service.
What was most infuriating about the letter was the tone. Or, at least how I, a former English major and doctoral student and then a professional corporate ghostwriter/speechwriter, experienced it.
For instance, Sally Conroy Fullman and her husband Christopher E. Fullman would reach out about three weeks before December 25th. That early mailing could have been arranged to ensure our full attention. What I took in, like an arrow to my heart, was a tone of some official body transmitting a needed message to underlings. That would have been in keeping with whom they had once been.
At Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, when I was a freshman, Sally was a senior and president of the student council.
The counterculture was at the door but the barbarians hadn't yet broken in. Therefore, Sally had the aura of authority. And newbies like myself bowed before that. Somehow, later in real life, she didn't seem to be been able to shake off the aura.
Her husband, Christopher E., had been the priest who had taught me the required course in the Bible Freshman year. Although from PA, he enunciated words British style. A poor kid from an immigrant family in Jersey City, New Jersey, I was in awe.
Later the two authority figures - Sally and Christopher E. - married after he left the priesthood. Usually when you lose official titles you adjust to being like the rest of us. That seemed to be a rite of passage they didn't take.
So, when I opened the dreaded letter (why did I even open it is an issue I sorted out with my mindfulness coach) what seeped out was the experience that the senders were passing on joy to oppressed characters from a novel by Charles Dickens. Was I reading in or was there an assumption that I badly needed an injection of joy and they were taking on the mission of delivering it?
A series of re-locations got me off even that carefully maintained mailing list. Facebook provided the final solution.
Daily, sometimes several times a day, there would be photos of whatever and narrative. Now, fortunately, the world has tired of all that and in the past two years Facebook's monthly page views plummeted more than 4 billion. Since we have an unfriend option, there was no justification for filing a class action public nuisance lawsuit.
The last bits of snail mail I received from Sally were multiple announcements of Christopher E.'s death. I didn't reply. Again, I blushed in shame that their authority personas had somehow pushed me into the less-than space.
Reflection: Who were we back then that we simply didn't have a lawyer inform the joyful Christmas letter creators to cease and desist?
Contact Jane Genova for an appointment email@example.com.
“Over-50: Outsmarting Your Comfort Zone” https://over-50.typepad.com/over-50/2018/05/outsmarting-your-comfort-zone-free-book.html
“Over-50: The Four Monsters in the Mind” https://over-50.typepad.com/over-50/2018/04/ageism-bites-.html