Humor Magazine

The Writing’s On the Wall

By Dianelaneyfitzpatrick

handwriting of a serial killer

Here’s something that’s surprising about adult life: The style of my handwriting has no importance at all. How I write doesn’t mean a hill of beans, and no one gives a rat’s ass whether my capital F is all curly or is just a utilitarian printed F. This is surprising only to those of us who were sixth graders in the ’60s and ’70s.

When I was in sixth grade, I thought that the most time-consuming things I would have to deal with as an adult were – in no particular order – quicksand, the Russians, my grief over no longer being able to play Barbies and how I handled it, and the impression I made with my handwriting.

Not even close. Although the Russians have flirted with my Top 20, those other things have barely entered my mind since I became an adult, especially once I figured out that if you make a baby girl, you can get another 10 years out of the Barbie thing. Then someone said something about how kids these days have no respect .  .  . Oh wait, that was something different -  Someone said something about how kids these days don’t write anything anymore and handwriting has become a lost art.

I suppose I should have been a little bit sad. Not panicky, like some people – oh my god! We are losing our way of life! Kids will never know the school experience exactly like we experienced it. Which means their little lives suck, and America is doomed -  but I should have been a little bit nostalgic. Especially since I had spent so many years in junior high and high school working on developing a  bitchin’ handwriting style that was unique and reflected my personality.

That was back when I thought having an “i” in my name was a gift, added charm to my life, and opened up whole new vistas for me, particularly  because I got a dot. I didn’t steal an “i” like the Judis, Maris and Nancis. I had a legitimate “i” safely in the middle of my name. So unlike the Carols, the Barbs and the Janes, I got to choose whether to use a big, fat circle or a heart or a flippant little circle with a cowlick to dot my “i.”

I always got A’s in Penmanship and yes, it was a real grade that counted. It wasn’t a throw-away like Conduct and Gym. It was one of the academic subjects and it followed the same rules as Science and English. If you were one of the smart kids, you had good handwriting. And if you had good handwriting, you were considered smart. If you were a teacher back then and could explain to me how this worked for so long in society, please weigh in.

Sixth grade was about the time that the boys would start practicing their signatures so that they looked like a congressman’s. According to my Christmas cards, this is still a sixth grade phenomenon.

At about that time my friend Val (or was it Valeri by then?) and I experimented with holding our pencil between our first two fingers. We thought it made us look artsy, trendy, and a little bit beatnik. Val’s brother told us we looked like babies. So that was the end of that.

I guess it’s a little bit sad that today’s sixth graders won’t know the joy and agony of deciding how to dot their i’s, how to let their capital Fs reflect their personality, and how to hold their pencil in new ways that say Hey! Look at me! I’m different!.

But mostly it makes sense. Handwriting is not a tool anymore. Neither is a butter churn and you don’t hear anyone waxing nostalgic about that.

Mostly I feel sorry for the adults who have obviously affected signatures. We know they practiced writing their own names on old grocery receipts and doodled during Social Studies – I mean budget meetings. Ta da! Okay, here’s how I write my name now! Now let me fix us another martini.

After all that, you might sign your name once a month on a check to a hold-out company that still won’t take e-payments. I think we can all agree that your time would be much better spent downloading new apps on your iPad and getting a head-start on the martinis.

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Read more of Diane’s Just Humor Me columns anytime. We’re open 24 hours a day. Get new blog post notifications by signing up for our weekly e-newsletter. And if you like Diane’s blog, you’ll love her book, Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.


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