The 30th of December 1933 – Cleveland, Ohio

(found on an evergreen tree, wrapped around a half-chewed candy cane)

Clarence,

I’m not sure what might have provoked such honesty in you, but your last letter certainly came as a shock to me. I guess the two of us are closer than I had believed. I have always considered us to be somewhat casual pen pals, old friends that keep in touch to pass the time away. As such, and as far as I am aware, I had never made any particularly revealing statements about myself to you in my letters. Certainly, I don’t think you have read anything from me that would have given you such insight into what you believe is my character.

Now, with my caveats aired, I would like to thank you for telling me what I am. I really appreciate it. You see, I do not own a mirror, nor do I have any self-awareness or esteem, so I am wholly reliant upon other people, even people I would consider to be essential strangers – casual acquaintances at best – to inform me of what, why and how I behave.

Particularly useful to my process of self-actualization was the passage in which you described to me what you called my “thing.” I have included, here in my own text, a direct copy of your writing for demonstration:

Now I was particularly shocked, Harold, when you wrote of your firm’s Christmas party. It sounded as though the festivities became particularly rowdy, not that there is or is not anything wrong about that. But it sounded as if you yourself became particularly imbibed with the drink. Now, Harold, this came as rather a shock because I thought of you as one of me, of upstanding morals and free from that particular sin of rowdiness and partying and alcohol. I thought that was who you were. I thought that was your thing, like I had made it mine.

How dare you, sir! How dare you seek to deprive me of my humanity, my individuality! And how dare you attempt to simplify me, draw a neat little border around my being and pin to it a series of bland labels, things and characteristics merely because you want to make the world around you cute and manageable. I will, and will and will and will, hold you with only the strongest contempt because of this behavior, this childish attempt to affix me like a preserved insect in your collection.

Please Clarence – and keep this in mind – do not put me in a little box with my bland characteristics. Do not try to pin me to a line and leave me to dry out and shrivel in the afternoon breeze, just so you can watch and observe. And, certainly remember this, do not tell me what my thing is. Would that not be best left for me to decide myself?

So let me ask you, if you think you know so much about me: what, or who (if you consider yourself deserving of being considered a human being), do you think you are?

I am interested to find that out,

Harold

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