Argh! I know that they mean no harm. I’m talking about all those well-wishers and normal folks out there, doing what they can to give some supplicant succor in these, the hardest of times since the Great Depression, by closing their letters and emails with “Best.” It’s just the nice thing to do. “Aw,” they seem to say, “things will get better. Here’s a little ‘Best’ comin’ your way!” And yet there’s something about it that rankles my sensibilities. I mean, yes, it’s a better way to wrap things up than “Yours <anything>,” “Warm <whatever>,” or “With <feeling>,” especially among those who hardly know each other, and it somehow bridges the gap between the vapid safety of “Sincerely” and the comic devotion of, say, “Forever Yours.”
But it also, somehow, sounds a little dismissive, no? As in, “Good Luck With That” or “Sucks to Be You”? Best’s all the more chilling when the writer can’t seem to decide just what type of “Best” he’s offering. What was once “Best Wishes” or “Best of Luck” has been reduced, simply, to “Best,” leaving the recipient to insert the exact sentiment, to taste. “Best Figuring it All Out, Homeboy,” is what I normally see, if not “Best Tragic Inquiry Ever.” I’ve found that it’s the preferred kiss-off of the “in” class; they’re the ones who possess the knowledge, connections, money, or prestige (the umbrella term for the other three) needed by the community of beggars to get onto the fringes of “in,” and without whom those mendicants will remain decidedly “out.”
I feel on the outs these days, having been jobless for the past five months (though largely of my own choosing – thanks Severance Package! – after being laid off in May). But since Labor Day I’ve been trying to nudge my way back into the workforce, and all the meetings and interviews and inquiries have, so far, yielded one tangible outcome: a flurry of communiques blotted with the “Best” coda. It’s not that I believe this wish to be insincere – far from it – it’s just that when you ask folks for a little help, it’s a touch deflating that, most of the time, all they can do is offer you their best and no more.
And I shudder at the possibility of months and months of “Best” ahead of me. Sometimes I see it as proof of an indifferent world, but mostly I see something else – the human spirit’s defiant and hopeful propensity to hang on for another day, no matter the struggle, if the easy trials of single yuppie-dom can be considered such. In the end, I believe in magic and serendipity and – when the time’s right – letters funneling down to “Congratulations” before the signature.