Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Edna Sanborn’s letter [Correspondence, May 1994] criticizing your March cover enrages me; she should buy Glamour if she only wants to see artificial, plucked-chicken women. I stopped shaving my armpits twenty-five years ago after seeing the light brown fuzz nestled underneath a dancer’s muscled arm and thinking it heartbreakingly appealing. The human body is a beautiful work of art. Women damage their spirits immeasurably by being at war with their physical selves.
Enclosed please find the first copy of The Sun that we received [May 1994]. Please cancel our subscription.
From the brochure that you sent introducing The Sun, I felt it might be a magazine that our preschool staff could pick up for relaxation during breaks. As it turns out, this is not the case.
My friend Jude turns forty-five next month. We have been best friends for more than thirty years now. I often quote from The Sun to her over the phone. I’m in California, she’s in Connecticut; we rarely get to see each other, but through letters and phone calls we remain very close.
I have long since canceled all my other magazines. The Sun is the only one I want. Often I’m amazed at the timing of its arrival. When I’m feeling emotionally or spiritually depleted, I come home and there it is waiting for me.
So I’m giving Jude a gift subscription for her birthday — a perfect present, I think.
After subscribing to The Sun for years and spending $150 on back issues, it’s time for me to make a decision. Do I want to continue reading a magazine that smacks of a wild adolescent whose hormones are running rampant? Your excessive use of four-letter words is more juvenile than judicious.
Fifty years ago John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell, and Tennessee Williams shocked the nation by depicting protagonists fluent in the use of four-letter words. The words that made these authors rich and famous are now so commonly used that they wouldn’t raise the eyebrows of a Sunday-school teacher. Their redundant use is more ludicrous than laudable.
In two weeks I will be forty-six. I am finding that I must look deep inside myself to find the truth of who I am, however painful that might be. The Sun is helping me in this process. I have recently submitted work on two Readers Write topics; it’s the first time I’ve ever sent anything for publication. The pieces are part of my hidden past, and releasing them to you lightens my load somehow.
I feel a kinship with The Sun’s contributors that I seldom feel anywhere these days.
I am a loyal and enthusiastic subscriber of The Sun, and I intend to remain one. However, as I lifted the lid of my garbage can to throw away the latest issue [May 1994], I noted how the smell that met my nostrils corresponded with my feelings about the new Sun. It stank.
I’d seen my mother’s copies of The Sun in the bathroom and by her bed. Recently, while brushing my teeth, I picked one up and began reading. At first I was drawn to the Readers Write section; it gave me a glimpse of the private lives one doesn’t see when passing strangers on the street. But the more I read, the more I enjoyed everything. I started to carry a few issues around in my bag.
One morning I asked my mother if we had any copies I hadn’t read. She said there were some in a box in the back of the shed. I went out in the snow to check. I hadn’t put on a jacket or gloves, and my fingers began to go numb. I found the box. A whole stack of issues was just sitting there in the cold.
I thought I should take just a few inside, but I couldn’t leave the rest. So I picked them all up and hugged them to my chest. To think they had been sitting out in the shed for the last five years, waiting for me.
Cancel my subscription and send me whatever money there is left over. Rejecting three of my pieces makes for strike three. The next time we meet, you’ll be asking me, rather than the other way around.
If you read my letter in the April 1994 issue of Townsend Letter for Doctors, you’d find out why nineteen out of twenty publishers rejected William Faulkner’s short stories. You’re stupid, dull, overworked, and incapable of accepting anything that doesn’t celebrate brushing the crumbs off the table, you asshole.
Go fuck yourself.