“Hi Leslie, I’ve been meaning to write this letter to you so many times but I never seemed to get to it.”
Perhaps the most important thing for a columnist who writes about her life to remember, other than not to accidentally post photos of my credit card numbers on Twitter, is that I’m basically hitting “Reply all” on my life, without any control over how readers are going to respond.
I always open my email with a mixture of excitement and the urge to cover my eyes with my hands like I’m in a horror movie watching some fool investigate a suspicious noise in the basement. The vast majority are of the “You go, girl!” variety, with some composed of well-meaning and polite dissent. Every once in a while, I get a random racist one, or those whose writers don’t seem to realize how truly horrible they’re being, like the reader who was disappointed at my inability to “hide my weight” in photos of my recent interview with Pitbull.
For the most part, the emails I get are sincere, encouraging and personal, like the above missive from Sheryl Barr of Loxahatchee, in response to my column about hiring a matchmaker to get back into the dating pool. That story is the third in a row that’s stirred up some hilarious, heartfelt feedback, and makes me glad to have this job.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my slow road to acceptance of myself as an inflexible but open-minded yoga practitioner, and how I’d learned to stop competing with other students. I also admitted that I was a slow runner who hoped to be faster than the people in the back of the pack in case there were bears chasing our particular 5K.
“I am trying to stop laughing so I can tell you how much I loved and relate to your column,” writes Marilyn Rudden of Palm Beach Gardens. “I am much older than you (77), take a power Pilates class and am constantly looking at the other, much younger and thinner participants to compare our actions. From now on I will always have a smile on my face as I will be thinking of you outracing a bear!!!”
I also appreciated the note from Janis R. Ehlers of Boca Raton, who writes that my words are “helping my motivation (to) try to step into a class this week…Yoga has been on my bucket list but I find classes quite intimidating. At LA Fitness I peer into the room and try to decide if there are a few people around my age and who look uncoordinated.”
I was moved by a story from Palm Beach Gardens painter Caren Hackman, whose journey to yoga as a way to combat the pain of a debilitating back injury led her to a career as a painter of yoga portraits. She says she related to “how when you returned to the practice, you realized that no one was looking at, and judging you, and that yoga is more about what good you can bring to your own mind and body through the practice. When I started to practice yoga for the first time…I was weak and inflexible. I stayed in the back of the room hoping no one would notice how inept I was. I looked at the students in the front of the class and wondered, ‘How do they do that?’ Soon I began to appreciate that my instructors offered alternative levels for many of the poses. But the biggest change was inside of my own mind.”
The most Zen response was from Carol Serwna, founder of Jupiter’s’s Barefoot Yoga Studio, who reminded me that “yoga is ultimately a unification and connection with God, who made each of us unique and wonderful. Once we realize this, or have it imparted to us, we will never again feel any need to compete, or worry, or be afraid. We will be free!”
Aww! My next column was full of advice to impending mother-of-twins Beyonce from a twin who’s braved the similar names, color-coded outfits and people who refused to tell us apart, and lived to not need as much therapy as one might think. Berry Lou Davis of Boynton Beach, who, along with twin sister Carole Sue was named by “our four year old brother (who) everyone in the family thought was a genius,” feels me.
“My mother died when we were 14 years old, and my father announced that we would always do things as she wished because it would keep her memory alive,” she writes. “We dressed alike until the day my sister married at 19 1/2. It had its advantage, since it aroused a lot of curiosity in new situations and made it easy to meet new people. The down side was that we were treated at home as one person, and we could not be more un-alike in every way. Having read a lot about how to raise twins, it is a miracle that we did not end up on a psychiatrist’s couch.”
Barbara Mandor of Boynton Beach and her sister Susan didn’t have rhyming names but still thought my column was “right on target as how people would always call us ‘The Twins.’ and not by our names. We were also called ‘Twinnies’ or ‘Twinkies’ (two in a package.)”
Perhaps the story that’s gotten the most response from you guys was last week’s Valentine’s Day column about venturing back into dating more than a year after the death of my husband, Scott. Paul Yakaitis, of Jupiter, thinks that I was “wasting my time” going through dating services. “Going through any service, there will be trepidation on the meet and trying a little too hard. And you are NOT really being yourself.”
He also didn’t think too highly of me asking for feedback from my dates. “Don’t look for what guys think of you! You know who you are. All that is patronizing as in ‘I’m making the decision about her.’ You know who you are, that’s a given. You know what a real man represents, and you haven’t met one yet. Don’t try too hard, let HIM jump through your hoops!”
Right on, man! Are you available to write dating site profiles? Not that I’m doing that anymore…asking for a friend.
Also concerned that I was rushing this thing is the sweet and honest Ruth Walerstein of Palm Beach Gardens, who believes that I’m “adorable, loving and too worried about being alone. The life you’re dreaming about is not in today’s stars. You’re still grieving for the past life you and your husband had. Stop looking, relax, enjoy your life with your son and when the time is right, he’ll walk into your life…..Don’t waste a lot of money trying dating sites or match makers although it did make for an interesting article.”
While I disagree that I’m dating to fill a space - I really am ready, guys - I was so amazed by the people who’ve gone through similar journeys, have the scars to prove it and want me to avoid those scars for myself. I feel hugged, guys. The email that most struck me was the one I began with, from Loxahatchee’s Sheryl Barr, who, like me, “became a widow at a relatively young age.”
After her husband’s death, she considered moving back to Georgia, where all of her family lives but “held off on making any decisions too quickly. I decided I wanted to make the most of my life, experience new things I had never tried before…I never joined any online dating sites because it just didn’t feel right for me. I went out with a few jerks, including someone I met at the singles group at church. I even tried a Christian speed dating event, big waste of time.”
Eventually, a close friend set Barr up with one of her co-workers, inviting them out with “a group who would go out to dinner & movies & I got to know Bob as a friend before he ever asked me out. Neither of us knew our group of friends were all trying to get us together. Anyway we did start dating & dated for about 2 years before he finally asked me to marry him; I had made up my mind a long time before that I wasn’t letting him get away.”
She added that when she and Bob finally got married five years ago, she used an idea from my actual wedding to Scott where I’d let my 87 bridesmaids pick their own dresses within one color scheme, and let her ladies “all wear the same dress but they chose their own color. You inspired me so I hope to inspire you also. You deserve someone who will love you & cherish you for the person you are.”
Wait…something in my eye. I’m not crying. You’re crying. Thanks. The electronic mailbag is always open. Unless you’re being racist or calling me fat. Then, you can just think it to yourself and move on.