I Had a Fake Pen Pal in High School

It sounds more pathetic than it is… at least I hope that's the case. In my Spanish class, we had to strike up a correspondence with someone living in a Spanish-speaking country. It was a long-term assignment, and I was so disgruntled with my tragic pen pal experience from elementary school that I didn't want to do it. That, or more realistically I just procrastinated intensely and found myself days short of a deadline without a pen pal, so I just decided to make one up.

Her name was Ana and she was from Madrid. I chose both of those proper nouns because they were the first ones I thought of that didn't have accents in them. Why annoy myself having to find the accent marks on the keyboard to type something like "María" when I didn't have to? I went about setting up a fake email account for Ana when I discovered a flaw in my plan. How, with just a few years of shaky Spanish, was I going to write an email that seemed plausibly written by a native speaker?

I approached my profesora after class. Since she wanted us to include all of our emails in our packet, I thought I'd take a moral stance, asking, "What if they're kind of personal?" This excited her. "Personal? Vicente [my "Spanish" name], do you have a new girlfriend? Are you flirting with your pen pal?" "I dunno…" I stammered, really thrown by her leap. But it worked! My profesora said, as nosy as she was, that it wasn't her business to read my private emails and that I could just summarize the relevant content in my own Spanish words instead.

Even if it wasn't my aim, I should have known that just alluding to a love connection would be enough to win my profesora over. She taught us a lot of relationship vocabulary words, had us write love letters in Spanish, and even had us to a video project where we filmed ourselves describing our traits and desires in a "dating profile." When she found out we had both a competitive hockey player and figure skater (one of whom went on to play in the minor leagues and the other went on to appear as Pocahontas in Disney on Ice) in our class, she had us watch The Cutting Edge in an attempt to make romance blossom. And she shared embarrassing stories (though she didn't seem to see it that way) about how she would secretly watch her crush by climbing his neighbor's tree.

The Ana rouse wasn't an easy one. I had to invent all sorts of her interests and personality traits to write about, too. Fortunately, her hobbies were things like futbol and fotografia and other vocabulary words that were in our text book. I'm sure it would have been less work if I had just found a real Spanish speaker to correspond with. But then again, nobody said that maintaining a fake Canadian Spanish girlfriend would be easy.

No comments: