Is There Any Way To Write A Love Letter Without Sounding Ridiculous?

When Governor Mark Sanford's love letters were released earlier this week (remember that story?) the internet was quick to tear his letters apart, often with hilarious results. But honestly, can anyone write a love letter without sounding really, really silly?

Love letters are a tricky business: they're meant to be intense, personal, and as honest as possible. But the art of transferring love onto paper is a task that only a handful of people have mastered: the rest of us often sound like we've been crying for three days while listening to Disintegration (though that may very well be the case, depending on the type of love letter). As a very dramatic teenager, I used to actually write love letters and tack on one of Shakespeare's most emo sonnets, Sonnet 65:

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?

O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Apparently, I just wanted everyone to know that my deep love for whatever-his-name-was would, I thought, live on through my wretched poetry. Good lord!

The last love letter I wrote was probably about 10 years ago. I was 18, and still pretty stuck in tortured poet mode, and I wanted to write one of those classic "I will love you forever even though we are at different schools now" letters before going to college. When I finished writing it, however, I read it out loud, and I was pretty horrified by how it sounded, because, well, it sounded insane. And not only that, but it sounded false. The feelings in a love letter are often words that we feel we're supposed to put down, expressions we've heard before, things we think the other person is hoping to hear. There is no real way to explain love, or to describe it, which is why so many people rely on poems and songs and movies to tack to their profiles in order to let the world know that their view on love is pretty close to whatever is being presented by a crew of hundreds of others.

That's not to say that all love letters are bad or stupid or poorly written: for the writer and the recipient, they mean a lot, they mean everything, and that's a lovely thing. But that's the weird thing about love letters, I guess. If you're not the one in love, they're just a silly collection of words that don't mean anything at all.

What say you, commenters? Is there any good way to write a love letter? Feel free to share your love letter experiences in the comments.

Earlier: The Mark Sanford Emails: A Textual Analysis