Friday, June 13, 2008

Too busy to be grateful?

The lost art of thank you writing. The lost art of gratitude. Ahhhh--it drives me mad!

I know, I know--I am way off the other end of the spectrum on this and I know many think I'm crazy. I write thank yous for thank yous. Don't freak out and think I'm suggesting you should be like me. I know I'm extreme but I choose to err on the extreme because I view the other end of that spectrum with horror.

Let's begin with weddings. If you can't attend you might send money. The thank yous don't arrive and you begin to wonder. Hum, did they get it?--- but ooop there it is, you see it's been cashed. Huh?

You obey the "registry" determination of how you should express your congrats (yes, that is sarcasm you detect) and buy something on the registry only to learn later that they returned everything for the cash gift card. No thank yous were purchased with said gift card so you heard that from the chatty bride herself. Ouch!

Or, maybe you hand make gifts for close friends or family. When no thank you arrives you wonder if they liked it, if it arrived safely, etc.I just love Miss Manners response to the following.

Dear Miss Manners,

What is the appropriate way to say "thank you" for a gift, even if you may not fully appreciate it? In other words, how can one acknowledge the sentiment without being too effusive?

Gentle Reader,

You want a second class thank you to go with what you consider a second class present? Charming.Miss Manners hopes that it is only that you don't want to gush about the item itself, fearful that this would encourage the giver to give you similar presents for the rest of your life. In that case, you should state your thanks but direct your gushing to how kind it was of the person to think of you.

I've tried to gently ask close girlfriends if they've sent their thank yous. I often hear that due to so much drama after the wedding, honeymoon, etc. they simply didn't get it done and feel it is now too late. Here's another good piece of advice from Miss Manners regarding just such an issue.

Gentle Reader,

Miss Manners can offer you some comfort, but not much. It is to assure you that originally, you did have a virtuous excuse for not having written letters of thanks. Now here is some discomfort: The letters are still due. Write a letter with no excuse (the vague one of "being busy" is insulting to people who were not too busy to be generous to you) but plenty of self blame and effusive gratitude: "I have been hideously remiss in telling you how much we adore the whatzit, which is as useful as it is beautiful. Every time we see it we think of you with gratitude and pleasure…" blah blah blah.

I am aware of the hideous thank you notes that came to media light when poor Harriet Meirs was running for office. Perhaps the advice of the good old etiquette cops,

"Whenever anyone does anything nice (like, say, give you a ride in the gubernatorial plane) you should dash off a handwritten note of thanks and send it along post haste. The point is not to compose a masterpiece, but to get the darn thing in the mail."

should be changed to "express thanks in your own words and if you are bad with words get a preprinted card and put a few sentences at the bottom!"

Honestly, I thought her thank yous were a bit immature but truly endeared her to my heart. I guess that politicians don't respect such things as common corteousy or invading other's privacy. They were private thank you notes for Pete's sake. Come on!

My newest irksome issue regarding thank yous is the awful "self addressed thank you notes" given out at showers. I'm sorry but if you aren't grateful enough for my gift to address the envelope yourself than just don't bother. I get the point, you can't be bothered. It might slow you down or cramp your style. I try to simply accept the thank you at the event but almost no one opens presents at the reception anymore. That would take too long--or away from the party. What are weddings about anyway--just the couple???

I'd be curious to know how "American" this is or if it is internationally an issue. It just fits the American way of busy busy busy. Like the Veggie Tales song goes,

"I'm busy, busy--dreadfully busy. Much, much too busy for you!"

For shame. Buy some cheap thank yous, or use an index card and write those thank yous! If postage is your major hang up, write an e-mail thank you. I'm going for genuine gratitude here! If e-mail is a hang up to you than get over it because some gratitude is better than none!


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