In the 1980’s, while growing up in the foothills of North Carolina, I briefly corresponded with a pen pal from England.
A girl of the same age. We didn’t exchange photos, only letters which began through a school project. A transatlantic inspiration.
In fairness, I’d never seen an airmail stamp and was very excited to receive the thick, tumbled envelope from afar.
Now, I don’t remember her name. It may have been Katy.
(I’m pretty sure that was it.)
But, I do recall two of her questions:
-Did I have blond hair?
-Did I surf?
My replies: I had brown hair. I lived in the mountains. The waves were too far.
If I had been a little less sincere, I may have concocted a more creative, tubular dudette response to keep the letters coming.
Instead, our correspondence faded and no foreign friendship blossomed, as she had brown hair, too.
Our teachers’ hopeful cultural awakening did not occur. I also had MTV. I knew what she thought I was: American.
Years later, I did end up living at the shore.
My hair went from brown to purple, blue, green, fuchsia, and back to sun-kissed brunette.
I never surfed. I swam a lot.
Floated in the waves, apart from the sandy coastline, connected by salty depths with the rest of the world.
Observing America for myself.