Today it seems like anybody can get any girl anytime. Sometimes boys date girls for a long time and the parents do not even know. They really find out when the wedding plans are on the way. Not so 25 years ago. Back then a young man who was desirous of making a formal relationship had to start with a letter that read something like this:
Estimado Señor Pablo, (Dear Mr. Pablo)
With all due respect that I have for you, I send you this letter to ask your kind permission to visit your house. Your daughter, Rosita, and I love each other and we would like to make our relationship a formal one. We have been courting each other for about a year and I would now like your permission to visit your house if you are kind enough. I promise to respect you and your family and to visit at the specified days and time that you may grant me. I really love your daughter and I beg your kindness in allowing me to visit her at your home. I shall appreciate your reply to inform me when I may start visiting.
With this letter, Antoño, who has been courting and seeing Rosita at the park and at parties, announces to Rosita’s parents his good intentions towards their daughter. She also thinks that Antoño is a gorgeous man with a good future as a fisherman and she encourages him to ask permission to visit her formally at home. For his part, Antoño also wants to make formal his relationship because he is already 21 and she is fifteen. She has been his “enamorada” (girlfriend) and now wants to make her his “novia” (fiancée).
Twenty five years ago, Antoño would write this letter in his best handwriting or have a confidential friend do so. He would place it in an envelope and send it to his future father-in-law with some kid on the street who charged 25 cents for special delivery. If he wanted to look good and gain favor with the family, he would send the letter with the little brother of the girl. Some bold young men took the letters personally thinking that this would really gain the admiration of the father-in-law. Trust me, even that did not work at times.
This custom of letter writing to request visiting privileges and rights to a girl’s home was common 25 years ago. It was a required and necessary practice. A father would feel offended if a boy would start coming to his house without this formal letter and without his formal consent. After receipt of this letter, the father would then do several things. He would inquire whether the daughter also loved the young man. He would discuss with his wife whether she consented to this relationship. He would also talk to the young man’s parents to find out whether they knew and approved of this relationship.
He would also inquire whether this particular young man has written and sent other similar letters to other parents or whether he was a “don Juan” (Casanova). Once satisfied with his investigation, he would then respond with another letter. This sometimes took a week or two or even a month. During this long time the young man was in tension and almost in fear. He, of course, would be his best self. He would dress well and pass often by the girl’s house. He would not drink, smoke, curse, nor swear and tried to be a fine gentleman. And then finally, one day a little boy would approach him with an envelope with a reply letter. And then the nervousness and tension increased. This could be a letter of rejection or a letter of acceptance. In our next week’s episode, we shall have those two letters and what followed consequently. Wow, the fun of fighting for your girlfriend twenty five years ago!
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist