A ruthless criticism of everywhere in existence

Amber A’Lee’s long-distance love letters, #1


In this monthly series, an anachronistically sentimental millennial writes elaborate love letters to friends and paramours who are far too far away. All intimate tokens of tech have been republished with the permission of the recipients. Names and identifying details have been redacted to protect the guilty. 

Dear [REDACTED, against their wishes],

My wanderlust inflamed by romantic failure, I have decided I absolutely must spend money I don’t have on plane tickets I don’t need, to run off to a city I have no business being in. I want to buy them soon, before I either come to my senses or succumb to some undignified degree of depression. I want to go in early January, when everything is tired and spent.

Berlin was my original first choice, but my German is non-existent and every Berliner I know is actually Irish and will have returned to Dublin for the holidays. It would be a difficult city to navigate alone, and I dislike the idea of having to rely on Teutonic hospitality (although I suspect that at any given moment 90% of German citizens are actually refusing to match pace with the locals in the streets of NYC, probably in those awful fucking square-toed loafers they seem to love so much).

I adore Dublin, which is home to a murder of stalwart, hard-drinking feminist comrades who I’d love to see. But you can cover the whole city in a day and I’d prefer to see some place new before clinging to the Samuel Beckett Bridge like a maudlin rhesus monkey so I can safely vomit into the Liffey (again).

Everyone who has suggested I go to Moscow alone despite neither speaking nor reading the slightest bit of Russian is an unbelievable idiot, especially [REDACTED], who should frankly know better after the Russian government framed him as a neo-Nazi despite his being so visibly and obviously Jewish and Chinese. I mean really, no one has ever looked so simultaneously Jewish and Chinese as [REDACTED], and if I were him I’d be personally insulted by such a phoned-in smear job. Truly the decline in the quality of propaganda since the fall of the Soviet Union is downright dispiriting, but there you have it.

Paris is out, as it reminds me of my ex, and I fear a trip would send me straight into the arms of the Caliphate. I assume heartbreak is not an insignificant factor in the radicalization of young men, and at the moment I cannot help but see the appeal of suicide-bombing Thomas Piketty, with his Tory haircut and his terrible tiny teeth. Fulvous too. (Also, as we have discussed at length, the French are terribly, pathologically unfunny, for some reason.)

All of Canada is likewise unfit, as they are vicariously incriminated by their bilinguality.

And anyway, I want an ocean separating me from him and here, so Mexico and South America are also out.

I have at least two nice New York media girls beckoning me to Greece, but as far as I can tell, Athens is currently packed full of American men trying to write novels. Beside that, I’m not overly keen on ruins and crystal blue waters — they make me feel like I’m in an expensive commercial for a perfume that would give me a headache.

And speaking of novels, now that Elena Ferrante had been outed, I assume Italy is just teeming with literary girls praying to catch a glimpse of our very own Neapolitan Salinger. I have deactivated since the break-up, but I hear Facebook is all abuzz with righteous men defending her right to privacy. I find it a bit presumptuous that anyone would think an obscure female Italian novelist is in any real danger of actually being hounded (does the 2008 graduating class of Sarah Lawrence really swarm people?), but I suppose there’s nothing good male feminists love more than a woman who doesn’t want any credit. Besides I’d get fat off the carbs, and I’m far too culturally Protestant for all that art, at least half of which appears to be moon-faced Madonnas.

Sarajevo looks lovely, but if my childhood best friend’s mother’s husband knew I went to Bosnia without seeing Tuzla and the countryside I’d never hear the end of it. I will not be guilted by family friends into visiting lesser cities, much less bucolic scenery. (Please, I’d rather drink hemlock.)

Budapest is dead to me as all of Hungary reminds me of my ex, which is tragic because that city always looked so magical in pictures. Then again, so did he.

Madrid is too “historic,” meaning it suffers from architectural schizophrenia. Catalan Art Nouveau on one street, Castilian baroque on the next, Bourbon on your left, Moorish on your right. That’s a lot of bedlam to brave just to go see Guernica.

Everyone I know in Istanbul is a Maoist, and also I think the cocaine would be too accessible. (I assume these two facts are not unrelated.)

Havana is too romantic; I’m afraid I’d accidentally end up getting married (again).

You’ve spoken ill of Scandinavians, but to be fair you describe nearly everyone as “the absolute worst people” so your judgment might be a bit harsh by my own very tolerant standards. I do like Stockholm, with all the islands and Mälaren and the sea, the marzipan buildings of Gamla stan, all lit up over the water at night like twinkling semlor floating in the snow. However the people there are too attractive, the women even more so than the men, and as an American I do not travel just to be reminded of my shortcomings. Also I concede your point that their attitudes toward sex are entirely too healthy and shameless to ever really be erotic. Wholesome feminist sex has novelty value, but I just can’t believe it’s what anyone really wants when their body is humming with lust.

So, I was thinking of [REDACTED], or maybe some combination of [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. The only only person I know in [REDACTED] will be visiting her parents in the US, but it looks adorable and [REDACTED] speak English (sort of). You will probably be in [REDACTED] though, right? It would be nice to see you.

I’m cuter and sweeter in person, if you’ll remember, and I’m a real fun girl. So, if I visited, in early January, would you have a little time for little me?


Amber A’Lee