I am an obsessive reader of tabloids. I know all the story lines, I know everyone’s kid’s name, and I google William and Kate when there’s a week with no news of them in print.
So it’s no surprise that I came across this letter that Beyonce wrote to Michelle Obama. (I google the Obama girls all the time. I love their poise and their normalness which is probably closely linked to the dearth of information I can find on them.) The letter was surprising not because they are friends. I already knew that. But because the letter looks like it’s written by an illiterate. Until the signature. That signature is someone who signs a lot of stuff. But it’s clear that she probably doesn’t sign a lot of letters.
I taught myself to analyze handwriting because I have terrible social skills, so I need all the help I can get, and handwriting is a good way to get information about a person. This handwriting conveys complete lack of authority, pervasive disorder, but a great sense of self and good social skills. Clearly she’s not an intellectual. She’s more focused on relationships than book smarts.
I’m not going to go into all the detail, but here’s just a sample: irregular spacing of the paragraphs shows an inability to establish order in one’s life.
But look, whatever: Beyoncee clearly has enough talent and drive to pay someone to establish order. So it’s not like this is bringing her down.
I noticed the note because I would have assumed that a woman as successful as Beyoncee would have a more educated, refined look to her writing. I have thought for a long time that teaching penmanship is a waste of time. I know, deep down, that all workplace materials are typewritten, and it’s not like any kid is going to be 15 and not know how to write.
I also know that the standard we have for what is “good” penmanship reward kids who will be poor performers at work. For example, classically good penmanship, with even, slanted cursive, is the handwriting of a perfectionist. And perfectionists are too uptight to get work done well and are also at high risk for depression. The other type of “good” penmanship we reward is the handwriting of a bookworm. The business world does not reward book knowledge, which is why high grades do not correlate to high performance at work. (High grades probably only correlate to good penmanship, actually.)
Beyoncee is an example of what happens when you don’t focus on penmanship: you get a high performer whose handwriting doesn’t look it. I could use this as a cue to get myself focused on making sure my kids have refined handwriting. Because telling you simply that they don’t is not doing justice to how bad their handwriting is.
But it doesn’t matter to me. Beyoncee is amazing. She’s accomplished and respectful, and a great model for how to have a career and a kid. And I guess, now, she is a great model for the idea that penmanship is irrelevant in the age of computers.
As I write this, I confess that I am thinking that I’d be so embarrassed to write like Beyoncee. But then I realize, it’s not that I don’t like her, it’s that her writing is the writing of a performer, not an intellectual. Her handwriting is not right for me just like her hairstyle is not right for me. Handwriting is who we are, and that in itself is good reason to give penmanship a rest. Kids will write in the style of who they are and that’s how it should be.