I Have a (Default) Pen-pal.

Simon Cunningham. Creative Commons license: Cunningham. Creative Commons license:

I have a pen pal.

Yes, some people still do that.

I have a pen pal and maybe you think we could easily talk via Skype instead. However, we found ourselves peeping in other open windows in our laptop’s screens during our conversations.

So, we have both agreed we concentrate better when we write and read each other.

I have a pen pal and I like reading him a lot… but I like better writing things to send him.

Not that I have a lot to say… actually most of the time we don’t say much at all. We mainly send the kind of short messages you send to check in and out with friends; the sort of messages you send to say ‘I’m still here.’

But once in a while either one or the other writes, writing as an exercise of thinking in itself, not of putting down on paper what you already think but to give both form and content to those thoughts that are about to emerge within you and that are about to change you for better or for worse.

I like my pen pal because I think I change with him. Not in the sense that we change together in the same direction, but because we do it at the same time. And I guess that’s why we bear with each other’s strings of empty messages or trivial moans.

I have a pen pal and the other day he and I were talking about relationships.

We often talk about other men, being this because we are the kind of friends who met during secondary school and eventually both came out… each one did it at his own time and on his own way but still we share a sense that since secondary school we have a common ground somehow. We have been friends for a long time and we both feel that even after a long time without seeing each other we can be comfortable even if we remain silent in the same room.

However, this is not important right now because he and I are pen pals and here we both are continuing our correspondence conversation… and the other day he and I were talking about relationships.

And I like to read him and write to him because I change, I grow, I develop my self-statements in live; together at the same time although not in the same direction, and I love this because I feel I gain sense of myself as a total individual, and I like it because it makes me reflect about my stances towards life and towards work (because there is this feeling I can’t separate myself as the artist and as the person because they are both the same and both are one and this is so obvious that it is stupid I am even writing this right now).

As I said, the other day my pen pal and I were talking about relationships. He had been seeing a guy. My friend and the pal had gone out for dinner a couple of times, and after that my friend had been to his place once and then they had had sex, and after that they were supposed to meet again but my friend got an e-mail from this guy cancelling the meeting because, “You know, I’m not looking for a relationship anyway so… why to meet at all? I don’t want to create expectations.”

My friend was kind of pissed off but feeling like, “Whatever; he was kind of sweet and cute… and knew how to kiss but after all, you know what, how can I know in which direction this could have gone if the guy anyway ended it this way, which means in fact that’s better we didn’t get any further.”

In my correspondence with him I was struggling. I was wanting to be the sort of friend that comforts his pal when he has been dumped… but on the other hand I was feeling like, “Come on! You can send this dick to fuck off” but also didn’t care enough to say it.

It then happened that I woke up the next day and I found these two articles in the internet:


To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This


Relationship Anarchy:  The Revolution That Will Change Love Forever*


A few hours after I read those articles, I got a new message from my friend saying, “The [dick] who [dumped me] by e-mail wants to meet in person and talk after all. He realised telling this kind of things via e-mail isn’t very polite.”

These words reminded me of both articles.

At first the made me think of the first article and as a kind of a joke I told him, “Be careful not to look into his eyes cos you never know what may happen… or maybe, do look into them!” This was followed by the link to the article.

I have enjoyed that article because they way I read it it shares the idea that we make things happen instead of things happening to us. This connects a lot with my practice as a performer… that’s why I like it.

I then decided the article would be a good one to use as the base for a performance and therefore I re-read the article. I have to say this happens to me often. Anything I read or see sounds like a very good idea for a performance at first. After re-reading the article I gave up on using it as the base for a performance, which in any case also happens to me often.

However, this time when I re-read the article I felt bad. Not for what I could read explicitly in it but because of the subtext I found within it. The article made me think of all the assumptions in which our lives seem to be based most of the time. I’m aware that this subtext was based on a projection of ideas that concern me but I couldn’t help but notice… he and she lived happily ever after.

And so then I thought about the second article and I immediately wrote again a message to my friend without waiting for his reply. The message was a rumbling mess that didn’t make a lot of sense although he assured me he had got the yeast of it.

You may have not clicked on the ‘translate this page’ button when you opened (if you opened) the second article, so let me tell that the article talks about other kinds of love and sexual relationships which aren’t monogamic, and it ends talking about Relationship Anarchy (RA). There is a long summary of a manifesto that expresses the ethos of RA which in a way tries to find a solution for polyamorous people to finally detach themselves from monogamy as a default model for romantic and intercourse relationships.

I like this article.

It shocks me that it seems monogamy is the default kind of relationship. It shocks me because pink is the default colour of pigs and it shocks me that actually we do that with everything else.

That’s why I like the article.



This reminds my about an exercise about default I did with my philosophy teacher during secondary school.

The exercise goes like this:

Quick; with your mind eye try to imagine and visualise a person.


Simon Cunningham. Creative Commons Licence:


Have you imagined?

Now, from what you saw could you tell me:

  • How old (approximately) is that person? Or else, is that person young or old?
  • Is that person a man or woman?
  • If is a man, does that person have any attribute or wears any item that you would define as feminine/female?
  • From which race is that person?
  • (At this point let me tell you that genetically speaking there are no races in our species, we are all one race.)
  • Is that person poor or rich? What is his or her profession? Does he or she have a profession at all?
  • What clothes is that person wearing? Which top and which bottom? What colours are they?
  • How many arms has this person got?
  • How many legs?
  • How many eyes?
  • Does this person speak? Which language?
  • Does he or she walk? Does he or she hear? Does he or she see? Does he or she understand you?
  • Does this person care about politics?
  • Does this person exist?


I am not sure whether I have remembered all the questions or not but I hope you got me by now. I guess you can make up a few other questions.




I hope you understood I wasn’t suggesting to my friend (or even to you for this matter) to opt for an ‘open relationship’ (in fact, as far as my knowledge arrives my friend has actually already opted in the past for having open relationships and that’s still his option today).

I like to fantasise around the idea that we all could start accepting that the option other does actually exist and that in fact there is no other in the sense that it doesn’t have to be the other option opposed to the normal but that the normal is that we are all unique, and that relationships between two (or more) individuals are stablished one by one rather than having to follow a tacit and template-like contract.

I like to fantasise about this idea because I also like to imagine we could see with this kind of eyes other people’s art works.

Firstly, I would like this was possible from an egotistic point of view. I would like people to experience what I do without them applying formulas or categorisations. However, I would also like this was possible from another point of view because I would love to have that same commitment towards watching when watching other people’s works.


By the way, you may want to hear my friend is (still) single and seems to have decided to ignore I had ever mentioned to him either article.



[* This is my translation of the original title for the article which is written in Spanish. The link directs you to the article in Spanish and I’m afraid that I haven’t found the same or a similar article in English although you can have a look to Wikipedia’s entry for Relationship Anarchy (RA):

It seems the concept RA was developed by Andie Nordgren, a Swedish queer and feminist activist and videogame programmer. In collaboration with others she developed a nine-point manifesto defining what was RA and until recently you could see it in her website ( I saw the page a few weeks ago but now entering this domain in any browser doesn’t seem to work.]