Dear Annie: When I was a 21-year-old assistant English instructor (an “intern”) at a summer program for high school seniors in New Hampshire, I developed an interest in one of the students. She was 18. The relationship was completely chaste, but we were clearly attracted to each other and spent time talking outside of class.
That fall, she sent me a newsy letter in Ohio, where I was working. It included her hope that I remembered her. I must have written back, having broken up with my long-term girlfriend, because I received a second letter saying she would “give anything to have a go at a relationship.” I kept both letters, along with many other letters from my former girlfriend, two male friends and four other young women.
Fifty years later, I’ve been very happily married for 46 years. Our children are grown, and we’re preparing to downsize, which means sorting through two shoeboxes of old letters, among other things. I sent one of my male friends a packet of the letters he sent me when he was on a fellowship in Europe for a year. I’ll probably do the same with the stack of letters from my college roommate.
But what about the women? The woman in New Hampshire has such a distinctive name that I know I can contact her on social media and ask if she would like to see her letters. My wife does not disapprove. She knows I’m not trying to rekindle a relationship.
I don’t want to do anything that might seem creepy, but I also prefer to avoid double standards. If any of my former girlfriends offered to send me the letters I wrote them many decades ago, I would enjoy walking down nostalgia lane before discarding my own letters.
What do you say? – Trip Down Memory Lane
Dear Memory Lane: It is wonderful that your wife does not disapprove and that your intentions are pure, but I would say no. Throw the letters away so you don’t risk rekindling an old romance.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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