I went to a Catholic elementary school where penmanship was taught with an iron fist. When people mention my unusually attractive print, I joke that it’s the best thing the Catholic education system gave me. Maybe it’s not actually a joke. Most of my memory pertaining to my Catholic schooling revolves around uncomfortable uniforms, wandering nuns and being reprimanded for slouching while kneeling in church.
Why do Catholic schools still stress that cursive writing be taught? Did Jesus write in cursive? Is there an eleventh commandment I’ve forgotten about, “Thou shalt not forget The Palmer Method?” Either way, Catholic institutions do always seem to be a few decades behind the times, so I guess it’s no surprise they would have an aversion to those darn fancy typing machines.
When I transferred to public school in fifth grade, my handwriting stood out among all other boys’. Their words were sloppy and smudged. Mine were pristine, the edges crisp. They treated the lines of the paper as mere suggestions as to where they should write. I took their slovenliness as a personal offense.
My handwriting was more akin to that of the girls’ of the class. I thought, “Ah yes, not only am I terrible at every sport, but my penmanship is overtly feminine. This will make it easy to make friends with the guys.” Maybe I didn’t think that exactly, but I like to imagine that as a fifth grader I had an amazing grasp of sarcasm. Also, I don’t agree with the notion that penmanship can be either feminine or masculine, just like I don’t agree that blue is inherently male or pink is inherently female. But these are the rules that the elementary school students constructed, and I had to play by them.
I was ashamed that my handwriting was so neat. It was just another characteristic of mine that distanced me from the boys of the world. I used to intentionally write clumsily so that it looked like any other boy in the class wrote it.
As an adult, I’m proud of my orderly print. Sometimes it’s become somewhat of an affectation. I’ve deliberately changed the way I write my capital E’s so that they now are more curved and look like backwards 3’s. My lower-case T’s now adorn a hook at the bottom of them like in the Times New Roman typeface.
These changes are a pretense; they are not natural. My handwriting is something I own, and I have the right to alter it if I deem it aesthetically pleasing. At least, that’s what I tell myself to justify any ostentation.