I DON’T KNOW about your mail, but mine is 98 percent bills, catalogues, and junk. That, I suspect, is why people are so thrilled when I send them a real card or letter. Gratitude is not why I do it, though. First, I adore cards and stationery (I even seek out the most interesting 44-cent stamps; my latest crushes include Katharine Hepburn, Adopt a Shelter Pet, and Abstract Impressionists—see usps.com, where new issues include Sunday Funnies and Negro Leagues Baseball ). Second, I think there are occasions—condolences, illness, bad news at work/in life—that call for an actual, palpable message, not an e-bulletin. It’s a matter of dignity, of taking the trouble. Finally, I write with a pen differently from the way I do on a computer. Because my missive takes longer to get there, I am more ruminative, less quick-and-sparkly. Because it takes longer to shape the words, I choose them more carefully. As I write, I think, and emotional corridors open up that remain closed when I’m dashing off an e-mail. It’s simply another level of communication.
Not that I am putting down e-mail. When speed is of the essence (I forgot a birthday or want to respond instantly to some thought or event), electronic is the way to go. A few months ago I was introduced by a friend to paperlesspost.com, which offers really elegant e-stationery—including lined envelopes!—for cards, announcements, invitations, and the like (upon registering, one is supplied with a generous helping of freebies). There are also a million greeting-card sites. I like jacquielawson.com, home of cozy, inventive animated cards from the UK, often starring a dog named Chudleigh or assorted teddy bears ($12 a year). Sounds cute, is cute. But if you’re allergic to cuddly, stay away.