Sending All My Love to You: The trials and tribulations of writing personalized notecards in our digital world - Objects of luxury

At the beginning of 2019, I had the urge to start a couple of new habits.  This always happens: at the start of every year, I always want to proclaim resolutions for myself. Inevitably most of them fall by the wayside. The temptation to start over a new leaf is always captivating, but people are people, I am prone to promises I cannot keep. Be it working out, cutting back on drinking, and/or frivolous spending, the reality of the situation always hits me, and I go back to my old ways.

My 2019 resolution was to start sending thank you notes. I planned to send them for everything: for gifts sent to me, I would send a card in return. For every bit of work, I did with a contributor, I would give a note parlaying my gratitude. I foresaw this activity as something that would make me feel productive and turn me into a person whose goodness was innate: like I had been born this way. I wanted to turn into polished, gleaming person, made new.

However, when it comes to me, attempts to become a better person always come with a caveat. I can’t do it unless I have the perfect conditions that make it conducive to do so. In this case, I realized I was incapable of starting this attempt of being reborn as a new, good, me, because I didn’t have the perfect stationery set. I wanted something like the exact color of Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue on one side, on the other my name written in gold embossed ink in the font of what My Fonts says is called “Boutinela Script,” bordered by the same Hague Blue shade. The paper had to feel expensive but could actually not be prohibitively expensive: most of my money went to indoor spinning, and I wasn’t going to give that up for nice stationery.

Prolonging the Inevitable

Because this was 2019, and we were still allowed to step outside for frivolous reasons, I went into Noteworthy at the Podium Mall (on my lunch break). I spent so long mooching around the stationary display, opening packaged boxes to touch (and smell) the paper, that salesladies were probably glad to be rid of me. Before I left I asked the team that handled customized printing for what they could do. None of them could promise that my exact specifications were doable.

When my cousin got married, she chose The Write Impression for her invites. The tiny shop, located in Powerplant Mall, also handles personalized stationery, so I visited. What I wanted was easy for them to do, but was going to be too expensive, considering the brand is known for its luxury, bespoke printing.

The "Simple" theme by Kasali.ph
Printed on GSM Italian Textured Paper, Carmela Jayme’s Kasali.ph is beloved for their simple, well-designed options for personalized notecards. “A lot veer away from trends and want something timeless – which I love,” she says.

I also checked out Kasali, another website that handles wedding invites and personalized stationery. I emailed my specification, and proprietor Carmela Jayme (an avid note-writer herself, Carmela says she is old-school. “I like writing more than typing,” she says) said it was possible. I then forgot to follow-up, because more real-life events happened (my grandmother died so…personalized stationery stopped mattering. In hindsight writing thank you notes would’ve probably helped me come to grips with my emotions). Jayme began Kasali in 2017 after her brother-in-law asked for help with their wedding invitations, and eventually, the requests snowballed. “Same with notecards! A friend of mine asked me to just make her one. I’ve never made one before. When she started sending it out, people asked her also who made it and the requests just never stopped coming,” she says.

When I realized that the attempt to get my customization dreams done was just becoming an excuse for me to put off doing the act, I decided to get over it and just buy a packaged version with at least my initials stamped on the paper. Unfortunately, “S” happens to be a pretty popular letter for these matters (if my parents named me Ximena, for example, I wouldn’t have had this problem), so I just picked up a ten-card set of XOXO-engraved cards from the stationary brand Crane & Co.

In terms of the notecard writing, I lasted…one month. I wrote a thank you note to makeup-artist Effie Go for a cover shoot and while I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, I found the experience nerve-wracking. What was supposed to be pleasurable and calming felt pretentious. Did I maybe just not have it in me? Did I need more practice? How does one manage to do this effortlessly (in essence, how do I become like Alex Eduque, who says she enjoys writing and receiving thank-you notes because it gives her a glimpse into the writer’s personality)? After actually writing, you then have to give the card to the intended recipient, therefore risking the mortifying ordeal of being known. Effie accepted it even if I’m sure she was probably also confused.

The Value of the Written Word

So why do people write thank you cards? In the era of social media, where a quick Instagram DM is easier, a text more convenient, a WhatsApp notification painless (but not safe, so download Signal!), it sets you apart from the crowd and lends you an art of gravitas. New York fashion publicist Cristiano Magni told the New York Times that it has become part of his routine. “It is so important, in a digital world, to have the dignity to sit down and write something in your own hand,” he said.

Margaret Shepherd wrote an entire book about the subject, titling it The Art of The Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication, which shows you just how much importance she places on the act: it is like we are on our way to excavate a lost, ancient world, which in many ways, I suppose feels like it (funnily enough, the book also includes a list of excuses as to why people won’t start writing notes; the list does not include “inability to chose stationary” as a reason but it does mention handwriting, another thing I remain insecure about, but this is a whole other article). In the book, she wrote about the pleasure on the part of the receiver of the note. “In contrast to a phone call, a handwritten note doesn’t arrive demanding to be read when you’ve just sat down to dinner; it courteously lets you know who sent it before you even open it…in contrast to e-mail, a handwritten note looks and feels personal.” More importantly, whoever you sent it to will know of their importance to you. “It announces beyond doubt that the reader really matters to you. Your handwriting ensures that the words will be read and thought about in a way that can’t be mimicked by print, e-mail, or voice.”

It also, let us be honest here, helps the truly vain in some of us (i.e., me) extoll our vanity in a socially acceptable way because only people with a healthy sense of self would take the steps to personalize their stationery, write a note with their best handwriting, and use their best pen to do so. “Furthermore, the handwritten note does more than inspire the reader who reads it; it inspires the writer who writes it. Your words will not only look better when you write them, but the act of writing enables you to choose better words,” says Shepherd. “You’ll probably be pleasantly and mysteriously surprised to find that the flowing line of pen and ink lets you express yourself in ways that key tapping just doesn’t allow.”

Peer-reviewed scientific journal NeuroImage published a study which found that after a short period of gratitude-writing tasks, participants’ brains were still wired to feel thankful, three months after the study had ended. In summary, The Science of Us contributor Dr. Christian Jarett wrote that it boiled down to gratitude’s self-perpetuating nature. “The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.” Carmela concurs, telling me the experience is always enjoyable for her. “You don’t just write a notecard as casually as you would text. You think about it first and it is more meaningful. Also, showing love and affection with friends and family increases oxytocin – one of the happy hormones!”

The Kdrama line from Paper & Prints by Unico features beloved actors like Hyun Bin, Park Seo-joon and Lee Min-ho
“I started the Kdrama line in June 2020. It was (and still is) a HIT! I was hooked to K Drama too during the start of the quarantine,” says Sylvia Ruiz-Reyes of Paper & Prints by Unico. Other popular designs include Floral Designs, School Series and Disney Princesses.

Realistically, all we want out of life is to experience contentedness and gratitude, and after 2020, a giant heap of happy hormones. For last year’s birthday, an aunt gifted me with a set of personalized stationery from the brand Paper & Prints by Unico. Started by Sylvia Ruiz-Reyes in March 2011, her internet-based shop recently made major strides, in large part due to the K-Drama line she started selling at the start of quarantine (nothing makes people think of what we are most thankful for than being stuck at home, safe from the possibility of death). My stationery set features Park Seo-joon (the Itaewon Class version) and looking at it is enough to make me feel kilig. Ruiz-Reyes agrees with Shephard’s assertion that handwritten notes are more meaningful for the reader. “I guess writing personal notes on a personalized notecard elevates the value of the gift or the message even more,” she says. “It feels like ‘pinaghandaan/pinaisipan’.”

Alex tells me that as a sucker and stickler for stationary (Magni told the New York Times that Anna Wintour is the same way), “Nothing says “love” to me more than a handwritten note on nice paper.” Armed with this knowledge, I am now excited to start writing thank you notes again. I have come to realize that gratitude doesn’t have to feel pretentious or overwrought and in the end, it isn’t about me (even if my motivations have more to do with…me than anyone else). It’s the receiver who will open the card and read what I have to say, and hopefully be pleased by my earnest efforts.

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