For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with writing utensils that borders on unhealthy. In middle school, I was always the student with multiple freshly sharpened pencils, as well as pens in both blue and black, ball and roller point. I never understood how my classmates could come to class without a pen, since I always had at least seven or eight by my side. I looked forward to the beginning of the school year each fall with the same anticipation that most students reserved for June, because I would get a chance to go to Office Depot and pick out new pens. The year that all the gel pens hit the market in the big way is burned into my memory (1993).
I found the unrealized potential trapped in the barrel of the pen intoxicating. If the green ballpoint wasn’t able to let loose my creative flow (or, more often, effectively capture my social studies notes) I would switch to purple gel ink. If all else failed, the brown inked fountain pen was always there, as a last resort.
It took me years to realize that other people didn’t have the same relationship with their pens and pencils as I did. People would ask to borrow a pen in health class, and I would find myself handing over a reserve Bic Stik, knowing the chances were high that the lendee didn’t value writing instruments the way I did, and would probably walk out of class with it still unconsciously grasped in their hands.
So much did I pay attention to writing implements and the people who used them, that in college I started giving pen “readings,” trying to intuit bits of someone’s personality or character by their favorite pen or pencil. Most of the time I was closer than you might think.
By the time I graduated from college, I had amassed more pens than one person could use in a standard lifetime and I found myself giving handfuls of them away at graduation, along with a coattrack, white Christmas lights and an orange table. There is a large plastic container in my parents house full of my discards. They will never have to buy another pen again. I stopped buying pens, and I realized that more of my disposable income that was decent was invested in plastic and ink, and I declared a pen-purchasing hiatus. These days, I try to stay away from the pen aisle of office supply stores, and I bring my own pens to work, hoping to someday make a dent in the collection. I still enjoy a good pen, but do so with a little more self control than I did in the past.