Yes, go ahead and laugh. I was home-schooled in the USA until sixth grade, minus that one year I went to a classical Christian school, so we had to learn Latin. Obviously, mixing into a social setting when your only friend your whole life up to that point had been your sister is quite a challenge. Middle school was absolute hell, since I was a little prick who had no idea how to be nice and keep my mouth shut. High school went better, but I still began as an awkward guy and only slowly improved by senior year.
Then by the end of Uni I think I figured it out, especially in the last year of my career there. Just to give you an idea of how much my marks in the school of life have improved, I will reveal my emotional IQ test scores. First, in ninth grade, I received a 34/100. I remember specifically since it was so low, and I was unsure at all how to improve it and be social. I was sort of popular, but I was terrible at reading people. Then, two summers ago, I took it again. I had improved greatly, with a 66/100, but this is still not great. If I were a white girl on study abroad, I wouldn’t even be able to count to 66.
Last night, I was on the U-Bahn. The day began very very well, as I went on my first-ever date in Europe, and my first date in German. I’ve had dates in French and English, but this was a new obstacle. I have been becoming more perceptive and I thought I was picking up on sexual tension already at this meeting, but I didn’t want to think too highly of myself so I dismissed the signals. Plus I’m not that kind of guy. Usually. And I find sexual tension to be very, very fun. The day was shattered afterwards as I spent about an hour on Skype with my parents, revealing how frustrating everything had been getting as far as my job search and graduate applications. To calm myself down, I chugged a few litres of beer and went to Tango.
I was in no mood to dance so I lingered on the sides. On the way back, I, still moody and wallowing in self-pity, glanced round the wagon of the U-Bahn. I noticed that virtually every human reaction was being felt in that moment. A tall guy on the side was experiencing curiosity, checking out a girl as she got on. One man with a toque was experiencing absolute boredom, staring ahead without blinking as he drowned his ears with music. Another woman was overjoyed, seemingly excited from something that had happened or was about to happen. It was a menagerie of human feeling, and it seemed odd to me that I could pinpoint everyone’s emotions exactly.
I decided today to take the test again. Lo and behold, a 98/100 appears on the screen. So it was sexual tension, yesterday! So much the better.
That is all to tell you that home-schooling has its disadvantages, namely that it truly does take years to make up for the lack of social awareness. This is ironic since my mother taught me, and I am quite literally an exact copy of her, and she is definitely the most perceptive person I know, to the point you just want to wring her neck. She can tell if someone is going to be trouble from miles away. I, on the other hand, have always been oblivious. But those days are finally gone.
One great advantage to homeschooling was that I never had to wait for the other kids to finish. This was my greatest pet peeve about real school, since nobody seemed to care about learning and, thus, they worked slowly and reluctantly.
And one advantage, which serves me every day, is the topic of this post: my handwriting.
Handwriting is an intriguing topic for me. In ancient Chinese empires, and in Japan, later, calligraphy and handwriting were seen as windows into someone’s personalities. Calligraphic analysis was included as a necessary part of the civil service examination for centuries. In Japan, a similar approach was taken, and one could tell gender, age, and social status from handwriting.
I have studied handwriting analysis from a psychological point of view on and off during my brief lifetime. Whether you believe in it or not, I have had success analysing people through the way they write, and often can tell very specific things about them based on how they write.
My mother writes in cursive. Since she home-schooled me and wanted me to receive a proper education, she forced me to write in cursive. The classical school I went to for a year would only accept work in cursive.
So I was shocked when I arrived in middle school and high school, only to find no one can read it. Being the contrary and snooty guy I am, this only made me write more proudly in cursive. I decided everyone else could adjust to me.
But is that so wrong? There is a way English and other Latin-character-based languages are meant to be written! How much better to receive a note in cursive than one in print? It’s a sign of refinement, I think, and should be forced in schools. Canada, unfortunately, two years ago stopped teaching cursive at all. I am not sure I want to look up how it is in the USA, but the situation is definitely much worse.
In Germany, everyone seems to be able to read my handwriting. In the USA and Canada, few can read it unless they can write in cursive themselves, and they complain it’s illegible. In Germany, Hungary, and France, they all instantly say it’s beautiful and can read it, which is actually sort of a problem since I now have to be careful what I write. I suppose that reveals a fundamental difference between fully practical, no-nonsense North Americans and Europeans, who seem to have a finer sense for aesthetics. My Russian friend in Montréal, for example, claimed, “If you put a picture of your handwriting on Instagram with a filter, people would j*** off to it.”
Shout out to Michel from Russia, by the way.
But also I want to admit my handwriting is not perfect and I don’t want to seem as if I have a big head.
One of the ways I met people last week at Tango was through my notebook, which I carry round as a habit. I have a black notebook for sketching, doodling, and poetry, either by myself or someone else; I have a read notebook as a journal, in the sense of a ship’s log, to record what I’ve done; I have a small white one to record my expenses; and I have a large sketchbook. At least two of these is with me at all times. So people asked me why I had them at Tango, and I explained it’s merely a habit.
So now for the pictures!
This is my cursive. It has taken years to refine and is only improving, and becoming ever smaller. This is what I use most often to write, especially in my ship’s log or in letters:
This is a secret and exclusive look into my ship’s log. I go day-by-day, and sometimes throw poetry in as it comes to me. The poetry is always separated by large brackets and has a check mark when I’m happy. Have fun reading.
This is my handwriting in Russian. Russians never, ever print, unless there is some possibility any unclear letter will be detrimental to them, e.g. when they address a letter, it is often printed, but the letter is in cursive. This is the poem Silentium by Tyutchev, from my black scribble notebook:
Russian is annoying to read in cursive, and there are a ton of great examples on Google Images.
I almost wrote Gogol Images by accident. Please tell me you get the joke.
This is a poem I wrote about a cellist I saw at McGill University. I went to see Liszt and Brahms being played, and had a strong, visceral, gut reaction to the aura round one of the cellists. I am not sure what it was, since she was by no means the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life, but there was simply something about her that enraptured me and entranced me. This poem wrote itself:
I organise poems I write by stanzas, then reorder them if I’m not happy with the structure. That’s what all the numbers and brackets are.
My print has always been terrible. I hate printing and I only do it when something needs to be very clear. I could never find a way to make it more attractive, even with the help of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain‘s section on the subject. This week I decided I had had enough, and I sat down with a picture of architectural script. I seriously considered architecture as a course of study for a long time, but determined I was stuck where I was. But I realised that wasn’t stopping me from writing like one. After an hour or so imitating this and changing it a bit, I was writing like this:
Fragen, by Bertolt Brecht.
The quality is kind of gross even though the photos were very clear on my computer. I’ll figure something out to fix that.
I’m always curious to see other people’s handwriting and to analyse you secretly with it. And to steal little things from the way others write. Show me how you write, if you dare!