He was a lover, not a fighter

His fall from glory was well-documented as the only American President to ever resign, but Richard Nixon now may also be remembered more kindly as a die-hard romantic. Love letters from the former Prez to his future wife will go on display Friday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. I have to wonder: if even a corrupt politician can show his soft side, why don’t more men write love letters these days? They’re highly underrated.

Six of the many notes exchanged between Dick and his wife-to-be, Patricia Ryan, will be available for all to see as part of an exhibit in honor of her birthday this week. The letters date from 1938 to 1940, right before the two married.

The then-lawyer was living in the Southern California town of Whittier when he was cast in the Whittier Community Players production of The Dark Tower. His romantic lead was high-school teacher Thelma “Pat” Ryan. In his memoirs, Nixon described their meeting as “a case of love at first sight.” She turned him down many times before finally agreeing to date him, and even two years later was hesitant to accept his unique marriage proposal of an engagement ring delivered in a basket of mayflowers. They finally tied the knot on June 21, 1940 and were married for 53 years.

However, during that courtship period, ol’ Richie used every trick in the book to express his love, including writing poetry and offering grand displays of his love and devotion. He used “thee” instead of “you” in several of the letters and even describes Ryan as his “dearest heart.”

In one letter, he wrote: “Let’s go for a long ride Sunday; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours.”

Olivia Anastasiadis, supervisory curator of the Nixon museum, told ABC: “These letters are fabulous. It’s a totally different person from the Watergate tapes that people know. He loved her, he was absolutely enthralled by her and that’s all he thought about.”

If someone as politically incorrect (literally and figuratively) could be so sweet and sensitive, why can’t modern-day men act the same? I know that young professionals are all about the Benjamins, and that hipsters are all about keeping up plaid-covered fronts of cool, but if these dudes do have at least one romantic bone in their body, why can’t they express it the old-fashioned way?

The love letter is a lost art, and one that no amount of texting, Skyping or other forms of technology can replace. I hate to say this, but I’m impressed with Dick. He did at least one thing right. Thought he couldn’t effectively run a country, he had, kept, and honored the bond between himself and the love of his life.

For the record, guys, you don’t have to be William Shakespeare to say “How do I love thee? Let me the count the ways.” We’ll be happy with even the cheesiest of Hallmark sentiments…as long as know you really mean it.




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