Dear Asian Studies Program, a.k.a., Self-Professed Owner of the Neglected Coffee Pot on the Fourth Floor of My Office Building,

I do not know if the sticker reading “Property of Asian Studies Department” pasted to the side of the shiny, new Mr. Coffee in that positively spotless faculty lounge and kitchen just down the hall from my office is intended to scare away users from other departments or simply to encourage us to treat it with Respect. I sincerely hope it is the latter because I truly, sincerely Respect all Makers of Coffee, especially Makers of Coffee that stand Glistening in the 8AM sunlight on a fall Friday morning when I do not feel like teaching–when I would rather be outside playing Frisbee (badly) or horseshoes (very badly) or mini-golf (not as badly, but I’m no Tiger Woods) than inspiring young minds to do something other than update their Facebook statuses from their smartphones while using the elliptical at the Gym before they go Tan and do Laundry.

And I Respect that while you do not seem to use said Glistening Maker of Coffee, you nonetheless feel the need to include it in the lineup of Beverage Making Devices on the counter of said spotless faculty lounge. I Respect that you have found a place for this, the most Western of devices, sandwiched between not one but two electric tea kettles and the lovely little earthenware tea pot that someone in your department must surely sit on their desk during student conferences or perhaps just while answering email, an act that seems so appropriately civilized and zen that I envy that faculty member’s forethought to come in early enough to fill said tea pot with one of the twenty different kinds of authentic Chinese teas also lined up on the counter and I know that they are authentic because all of the writing on their lovely metal box is Chinese–or at least what I, in my undereducated Western-centric ignorance, have assumed to be Chinese, but which could feasibly be any character-driven language–and nowhere do they say “Lipton.”

I know that you are not Drinkers of Coffee because the only coffee on hand for the Glistening Maker of Coffee is Folgers and while this, in and of itself, could be seen as an Unforgivable Act, I will Forgive it because I know that you do not know better and perhaps you have believed all those ads that say “the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” or “good to the last drop,” which has nothing to do with Folgers because that is a Maxwell House slogan, but I’ll bet you do not know that either so I will Forgive that, too, and just tell you not to worry. I want to tell you that I will take up the proper Care and Maintenance of the Maker of Coffee you have so generously thought to bury amidst your profusion of Tea Products. I want you to know that I will Lovingly fill it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. I will give it a sense of purpose. I will provide it with good, locally roasted coffee blends that will once again restore its undoubtedly flagging faith in humanity.

Rest assured, Asian Studies Program, your shiny Mr. Coffee is in good hands–the best, most grateful and careful hands. Hands that are oh so much steadier when cradling a cup of that Sacred Nectar and no, I am not talking about your authentic Chinese tea, I am talking about what the rest of us drink because by god, this is America and who the hell drinks tea? coffee.

And when I make coffee on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays–when I bring in that good, locally roasted stuff that will fill the small faculty kitchen with that dark, gooey warm aroma and waft down the hall to your feng shui office and curl around your little tea pot on your desk–I won’t tell anyone if you come in and sneak a cup. It is, after all, your coffee pot.

Caffeinatedly yours



Dear Fabric Storage Bins I just bought at Target:

While I know that you will not actually Organize my life, I want to thank you in advance for giving me the illusion of Organization. Thanks to you—thanks to your amazingly uniform presence on my shelves and you bright, hip, trendy colors that make me look so much more put together and “with it” than I could ever possibly be—you have inspired in me more than you might have ever dreamed possible.

Today, I will not only de-clutter the top of the coffee cart, but I will mop the kitchen floor. I will empty all of the sippy cups out of that one cabinet from which they keep falling onto my head and I will corral them in your roomy interior. I will ORGANIZE THE TUPPERWARE. (I will pause to let the magnitude of that statement resonate appropriately.)


I will finally get around to installing a hook for the baby backpack so it will stop taking up that 3 foot square of Precious Real Estate by the front door and I will find homes for all of the miscellaneous bags and wraps and winter hats and scarves that inhabit that big wicker basket behind the chair in the living room (even though it’s mid-August and I will probably just have to drag the wraps and hats out again in another month or so) because they have been living there since we moved into this apartment in February and let’s be honest, I haven’t worn a scarf since March, and maybe in doing so I will also find the camera, which has been M.I.A. since January. And once I find it, Fabric Bins, it will never go missing again because I can just tuck it safely inside your protective walls and the next time Stephen asks me if I’ve seen the camera I can reply with confidence, “Yes! It is in the Blue Bin!” and smile in that calm triumph that Organized Home Owners everywhere surely feel but that I have never felt because I have never been Organized.

And while you and I both know that I will never actually fold and put away the laundry that’s in the drier, or get around to unpacking those three random half-boxes of arts and crafts supplies that have somehow gotten mixed up with all those unfiled bills from 2008 and those outdated Coastal Livings I’ve been hanging onto because all of the houses pictured in those pages seem so Wonderfully Airy and Purposefully Casual and are never cluttered unless it’s Purposeful Clutter—while we both know that this will never come to pass, you have nonetheless enabled me to dream.

You have given me Hope, Fabric Bins. And Hope, as we all know, is the greatest gift of all.



Dear Meteorology (the Phenomenon, Not the Subject My Sister Majored In),

I know that we have had a Troubled Past and that you maybe have seen some of those Facebook status updates from earlier this month where I may or may not have flamed you for the excessive amounts of precipitation (and I think we can both agree that All That Snow and Ice this far South of the Mason-Dixon was Excessive, but also Very Unpredictable and so I will give you points for Originality) and that your feelings may have been hurt by those status updates as sometimes happens when people update in the Heat of the Moment (or the Cold, in this case, because it really was SO COLD) but all that was in the Past, Meteorology. The Past! And my Grammy always says that we should let bygones be bygones and so let’s just pretend that I never invoked a Pox on Both Your Houses because today is not about Poxes or Troubled Pasts.

Today is Valentine’s Day.

And since my Valentine is two whole states away, I am choosing to make YOU my Honorary Valentine, Meteorology, because today the high in Tuscaloosa was almost 70 and it was sunny and I love Sunny 70s and that means that I love you and it’s like the song says, “Love the One You’re With.”

I’m pretty sure that Stephen will understand when I tell him that you are my Honorary Valentine, so do not be shy about accepting my affection. I take it as a good sign for the future of our Valentiney-ness that you decided to sit outside with me today while I balanced my checkbook and graded papers, but I would hate to think that you feel awkward about it. We were just sitting, Meteorology. Just sitting. And I know that everyone could see us but that’s because we were sitting outside of Starbucks and everyone and their dog goes to Starbucks, even people who do not have dogs, and so of course We Were Seen, but what did you want me to do? Stay inside? Ignore the Sunny 70s? I cannot ignore them, Meteorology, just like I cannot ignore my love for you.

Besides, I’m pretty sure that you are Stephen’s Honorary Valentine today, too. I’m not sure what that does to your sense of Self and Perception of Gender, but the point remains: today, Meteorology, you are loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day with All My Heart,


Dear Newk’s Express Café:

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d bugged my car. Either that or someone in your kitchen has some Pretty Remarkable ESP. How else can you explain the no fewer than 20 Kalamata Olives on my 10-inch Mediterranean pizza today? You obviously heard me say that I wanted Olives for lunch and Newk’s, you delivered. Expressly.

I wish I could tell you that when I walked in and found myself pushed against the back wall by the ten people in line in front of me, my hopes for a quick bite didn’t plummet through your spiffy tile floor, but they did and while I tried my best to hide my growling stomach from your cashier, I’m sure my face gave it all away. My mother says you can always tell exactly what I am thinking and at that moment I was thinking, “Dammit, I want Olives and your damn parking lot is Way Too Small and I had to park at the damn bank and walk in the rain and now it’s going to be 15 years before I get my 10-inch Mediterranean pizza because I am the last person to walk in at the height of the lunch rush.” And maybe you really do have an employee with ESP because I hadn’t been at my table for more than 5 minutes before the Very Cheerful food runner dropped my perfectly cooked pizza with All Those Olives onto my table.

And while I am not the Type of Person who drinks a glass of wine in the middle of the school day lest I feel compelled to nap during office hours instead of any of the hundred other things I’m meant to be doing during office hours, it’s always reassuring to know that if I were the Type of Person to drink a glass of wine in the middle of the school day, I could have not just wine, but Stylish Wine, (for a reasonable price per glass) along with my Olives on my 10-inch Mediterranean pizza. Stylish Express Wine. From a bottle.

So in honor of All Those Olives and that Express Service, today, Newk’s, I am naming you the MVP of Tuscaloosa’s lunch trade. Give yourself a big pat on the back, or maybe even a glass of Stylish Wine. You deserve it.

Still Sated with Olives,


Guest Letter Week Disclaimer: Guest Letter Week suffered an Unfortunate Interruption thanks to Robin’s rather frustrating Lack of Internet. We here at Necessary Letters promise a full 6 days, or one “mail week,” of letters, but they may or may not be posted consecutively.

Dear Sir,

I first noticed you when Calli (the funniest Irish girl I’ve ever met) leaned over the counter at the coffee shop where I work when I’m not teaching with a magazine spread of boys modeling pastel argyle sweaters and non-matching-but-completely-matching socks. You jokingly scoffed at the attire and calmly explained why such a jacket Couldn’t Possibly Go with those black shoes and I knew instantly that you were my New Gay Boyfriend. You see, I’ve been searching for a Gay Boyfriend for a while now. Ever since I moved to Scotland from NYC, I lost all my Gay Boyfriends to other countries. Every girl needs a Gay Boyfriend. Seriously, whether Said Girl be Straight or Gay herself, she needs a Gay Boyfriend.

So naturally I did what anyone would do when she spots her potential New Gay Boyfriend: flirt heavily.

Over the weeks our conversations grew from you placing your order (cappuccino to take away: you’re always working!) and we moved on to the weather (“Ah, a lovely day,” as torrential rain poured down). Once, when I came by to pick up my check (and a Free Coffee), you were there and we sat at a table together and talked about ourselves and our work. Time went on. I invited you to an art opening my students were having and you came! I dressed up just in case you did and you commented on my dress. I was over the moon! Then one day I went into work and one of my coworkers (he shall not be named) told me that he had revealed to you that I refer to you as my Boyfriend. I was mortified. You are the Most Dapper Gentleman I know. You have a Real Job and wear suits to work every day.

I couldn’t imagine seeing you the following Sunday. But, you came in as always (really, you work too hard!) and smiled as usual. I made your cappuccino with my usual care and passed it to you across the counter. We chatted and before I knew it I found myself standing outside the cafe with you. It was then that I brought up my coworkers actions and apologized for his behavior saying, “I hope he didn’t embarrass you. I am so embarrassed.”

You replied, “Discretion is the better part of valor,” smiled and walked away.

A Gay Boyfriend who quotes Shakespeare! I am indeed the Luckiest Girl!

Till next Sunday,


Dear Hipster Guy in the Ripped Up Skinny Jeans Sitting One Table Away and Sharing My Outlet at Barnes & Noble That Night Last Month When I Sneezed:

I used to say that Chivalry was So Dead it was probably a Zombie by now but then you unexpectedly jumped out of your seat after Blessing Me to offer me those Three Beverage Napkins from the drink station, “Just in case.”

“They’re not the best,” you said, and shrugged.

The last and only person to ever offer me anything for my nose after I sneezed was my First Real Boyfriend’s Grandfather who carried handkerchiefs—handkerchiefs!—in his front shirt pocket always and would press it into your hand and say “Now you just keep that,” just like something off of Andy freaking Griffith and so I would keep it and somewhere crammed in the back of my sock drawer I still have one of those handkerchiefs, but I never carry it with me.

I knew that you were different when you pulled out the chair at your table and I Reflexively Apologized for the space my backpack was taking up there on the floor because I have Issues with being Overly Apologetic and you raised one eyebrow and said, “God, I can’t believe how much space that bag is taking up. How utterly inconsiderate.” in that completely straightfaced way that only really sarcastic people can pull off and even then, they usually only do it with friends and so you startled me into Laughing at Myself, which was good, because at that moment I was cursing myself for Not Being Better with Numbers because I could not get our bank accounts to balance even though I do all of our banking online specifically so the bank accounts will always balance and it turns out I had just deducted the cell phone bill twice instead of once and I eventually figured it out the next day and I bet I would have figured it out faster if I had known then that I was ADHD, but that’s another story altogether and probably not what you thought you would be reading about when you started reading this letter.


And then you pulled out your laptop and it was that cute little HP that I had debated buying when my old dinosaur of a Compaq finally died last summer (and that Compaq is definitely a Zombie) but didn’t because the guy at Office Depot had one last Sony Vaio with twice the computing power on Mad Sale and so I bought it even though I’m that girl and don’t need computing power because I only really use my laptop for writing Necessary Letters and updating my Facebook status with Witty and Clever things like “Robin + Coffee = BFF!” And because you were using that cute little HP and not a MacBookAir or an iPad with optional keyboard, I knew that the real reason you were sitting at that table one up from me was not because you wanted to startle me into Laughing at Myself or because you just wanted that table, but because you needed Coveted Outlet Access and as all of us PCs know, Barnes & Noble never has enough outlets and in fact, ours only has four.

“Fantabulous,” you said when I offered to plug you in because the Coveted Outlet was directly under my feet.


You stood there in your skinny jeans after mocking me for being Overly Apologetic and answered fantabulous as though this were a word that you say all the time and it might well be but I have never heard a straight man say it ever and I don’t mean that in a bad way because I am friends with a lot of gay men and they say fantabulous and my straight guy friends do not and yet I know that you are straight because I have Excellent Gaydar because my mother is a Theater Teacher and so I concluded then that you may be the Greatest Hipster Ever and then I sneezed and then you brought me Three Beverage Napkins and sat down and began updating your band’s Facebook fan page and all of this confirmed my conclusion.

I debated introducing myself before I left and didn’t because I am not that girl who introduces herself to random strangers in Barnes & Noble unless I see them more than once.

I have not seen you more than once.

So if you are reading this, Hipster Guy, my name is Robin and I think you are the Greatest Hipster Ever and thanks for the Beverage Napkins: they made my whole month. Maybe we could be Facebook friends or something. I’ll bet your status updates are fantabulous.

Wishing you Coveted Outlet Access always,


Dear Nike Tempo Shorts,

OMG you are, like, my favorite thing and Courtney and Courtney and Chelsea and Madison all agree with me that we would totally be, like, naked if you didn’t exist. I mean, what would we wear our sorority party t-shirts from fall formal with? Or our sorority bid day t-shirts? Or our sorority philanthropy t-shirts? You just go with everything!

But I am so, so sad that it’s November and finally almost cold here because that means that I won’t be able to wear you for, like, two whole months. 😦 But Natalie wore her pink Nike Tempos last week with black tights and her Ugg boots and I just got tights yesterday at Target when I went to get the Jell-O for the Jell-O shots we’re making for the tailgate pre-party in Cami’s suite for the football game this weekend and so I can at least wear you to class until December because tights are totally almost as warm at pants and anyway my Ugg boots are like wearing a sheep—no, they really are!—and sheep are really warm. Plus I can wear my long-sleeved sorority t-shirt and maybe even my pullover windbreaker with my sorority letters on the pocket, which isn’t warm at all but is water resistant and we all know how I feel about getting wet and anyway, it will totally go with my one pair of you that has the turqouise and the yellow and I think the yellow will look the best with my new black tights, don’t you? But black goes with everything, I guess. Haha. 🙂

And I don’t know what Mom was talking about when she said she thought I needed to wear something a little more appropriate when I went out shopping with her this weekend. I mean, I totally put on my cute dressy metallic sandals and make-up and made sure that my side ponytail was at the perfect height and made sure the headband I used exactly matched my crimson pair of you, the one with the super cute plaid on the sides? And it was crimson, which is, like, totally the best fall color ever and anyway hasn’t she ever heard of school spirit? But she is so out of touch and just went on and on about how my Uncle Carl used to wear these things called Umbros everywhere, even to church, and how he had pairs in all these colors and how I was just as bad as him and I didn’t know what Umbros were but I Googled them on my iPhone while she was talking to me and they are totally the ugliest shorts ever! They had drawstrings! That you could see! And Wikipedia says they were, like, the thing back in the late 1980s and that figured because Mom is always stuck in the 80s and on the way home she made me listen to, like, all the U2 she has on her iPod. OMG, Mom has the lamest. iPod. Ever.

And anyway the shopping trip was a total epic fail because I wanted to get this one pair of jeans from Hollister with these sick holes all up the front and Mom said she wasn’t paying $100 for jeans that looked like they came from a thrift store and I was like, Mom, you totally cannot find jeans like this at a thrift store! And she was all like, if you want those jeans you’ll have to buy them yourself but I just spent the rest of my babysitting money on that fake ID from the guy online that Courtney knows (and it’s totally scannable and it really works because I used it at that bar down in Auburn last weekend!) so I lied and said that I hadn’t deposited my check yet and so we just came home and that was when I had to listen to all that U2. I mean, FML, right?

But at least I still have you, Nike Tempos, and tomorrow I get to see Justin in psych and I already know which pair I’m gonna wear (hot pink and grey, say what?!) and that skanky bitch Amanda won’t stand a chance because I know for a fact that she’s wearing some hoe-bag skirt tomorrow and Justin likes his women classy!

But seriously all I really wanted to say was thanks for being just, like, so super awesome and Courtney and Courtney and Chelsea and Madison all say the same thing.

Love you lots! For reals!


Dear Cyclists:

Go to Holland . . . They have Bike Highways there.



Dear Ryan Murphy:

If you’re going to place a character in Italy, doing Super Italian Things like Eating Pasta, please make sure the soundtrack about how wonderfully Italian it all is isn’t a GERMAN ARIA about some Mad Lady plotting her REVENGE!


Sara (the Opera Nerd)


Dear Chicago Cubs:

I am breaking up with you for breaking up my LSU duo, among Other Things.


PS: Please take it Personally. You have Let Me Down far too many times.


Dear Customers:

Your prescription is Enough Proof for me that you are sick. Please do not Cough Directly in my face.

Thank you.



Dear Overturned Military Truck That Closed U.S. 49:

You kept me from a Very Important Birthday Celebration.

You, sir, are neither a Gentleman nor a Scholar.



Dear Groupon:

Please stop sending me the Daily Deals for North Jersey. I live in Alabama.



Dear Jimmy John’s:

Thanks for always living up to your “Damn Fast, Damn Good” slogan, even on University move-in weekend. You rock my face off.



Dear Cuervo and Cola (With Lime):

I’m sorry it took me 23.6 years to find you.

With much appreciation,



Dear University Boulevard:

In two weeks, I’ll be bitching about your Traffic and your Clueless Pedestrians, but after the summer doldrums, you’re kind of refreshing.



Dear Dartboard in Overly Smokey Bar:

Why do you hate me?

Sadly, Robin


Dear Liver:

I CC’d you on the letter to Cuervo and Cola (With Lime).




Dear University Students: Thank you for paying my salary and giving my life Some Purpose. Now get the hell out of SuperTarget so I can buy my groceries.



Dear Rivet and Gracie:

Thank you for barking aggressively at strangers in my yard. While I realize that the Bug Guy and the Water Meter Guy and the Air Conditioning Service Guy probably don’t like having their arrivals announced with such fanfare, you alert me to more than just the routine.

When I’m home alone with just my two Wimpy Cats for comfort and protection, your Deep Voices Echoing across the road let me know about the door-to-door salesmen or the evangelists bearing that cheery literature about the end of days or that man who comes leering once every six months—always when I am alone, always Appearing Silently beside me as I work in my yard or my carport like a genie or a ghost—asking if he can sweep my roof and clean my gutters, even though our house has no gutters.

Thank you for wagging your tails at me when I check my mail and for whining at me in the middle of the day, begging me to come over and scratch your floppy ears. Thank you for presenting me with sticks and balls and that Tiny Mock Tractor Tire that you occasionally find and then lose and find and then lose, even though you have no intention of dropping these things at my feet so I can throw them for you to fetch. Just the thought is enough.

And Rivet, thank you for your Wonderful Eyebrows that aren’t really there and for that head cock you do and that funny whining grumble you give me when you want to play and I’m sitting with Michelle in the den watching a movie. And Gracie, thank you for always, always being Jealous and shoving Rivet out of the way so you can sit squarely on my feet. These things make me smile and while I know that you would do this to anyone who you thought you could get attention from or potentially a Milkbone, it nonetheless makes me feel special.

Some afternoons when no one else is home and I walk across to scratch your ears, you become my Good Day.

And even though you are Not Mine, I promise to bring you a new can of tennis balls soon.

Fondly, Robin