Sunday, March 2, 2014
I Hate Thank You Cards
If I haven't lost my Southern card yet, I'm going to lose it today. Unlike the good Southern Belle I am perceived to be (ha!), I hate writing thank you cards. I mean HATE. With a passion. God it feels good to get this off my chest.
It's not that I'm not grateful. We are blessed with incredibly generous friends and family. Generous with actual, physical gifts, but also generous with time and patience and support. I can't tell you the kind gestures we've received in years past. The time my entire family jumped to our aid when Dave landed in the hospital with septic staph. How our friends made us meals and offered childcare during that turbulent time. Lovely tokens and cards at my and Dave's birthday shindigs. Amazingly beautiful clothes and toys and books for our kids. My sister and mom cleaning our entire house and stocking our fridge with food when Sam was born. The many lovely dinner parties we've attended. The list goes on and on and on. The gratitude in my heart is boundless.
But have I written thank you cards for each and every gesture? I'm ashamed to say no. I haven't. I've meant to. I've reminded myself to. But I know I haven't.
What I'm about to say will sound like an elaborate and childish excuse, much like those my students give for why they can't complete the scant homework I assign. But I implore you to hear me out.
Writing something out by hand is excruciating to me. I get maybe one sentence out before my hand starts to cramp. As a teacher, I've come to realize I have an undiagnosed graphomotor dysfunction. I struggled to write all my life, until I discovered computers. Sure, I did it - making straight-A's was important to me. But the quality of my handwriting was constantly criticized by my teachers and my hand ached. God how it ached.
Typing? I can type all day. I can type until the cows come home. But somebody in their infinite ridiculousness decided that thank you cards have to be hand-written. Why? To torture people like me? Probably. But I know that if I could type or even (GASP) email thank you cards, I'd never miss a beat.
I also hate the formality of it. How there's a formula to follow. Mention the gift. Mention one specific way you plan to use the gift. Go into detail about how the gift will enrich your daily life. Discuss how you look forward to seeing the giver of the gift soon. Do this even if the giver is a friend of your mom's whom you haven't seen in a decade, or if the gift was a duplicate from your registry that you plan to return. I'm all about gratitude, but I have a really hard time with what I perceive to be shallow gestures. I have a hard time with formulaic etiquette.*
And one final complaint - why is always the woman in a relationship who writes the thank you cards? Somehow it's just assumed that I'll write them - not just by Dave, but by those around us. Nobody every got angry at Dave for being late with our wedding gift thank yous. Or baby shower thank yous. Or kids' birthday gift thank yous. But I got stink eye after stink eye after stink eye. And, in Dave's defense, he'll write them if I implore him. But I must remind him frequently, and his handwriting is nearly as illegible as mine, so it's just a constant disaster for us.
I'm a polite person. Generally well-liked. But my aversion to thank you cards has caused more than my fair share of strife. My mother-in-law nearly disowned me when I didn't get thank you cards out for our wedding gifts immediately following our honeymoon. I read somewhere (or maybe made up in my mind) that we had up until a year to get those out, but she insisted I was wrong. So I took time away from wedded bliss to torture my hands and curse the universe.
I know that some of my friendships have been strained when we neglect to send out thank you cards. I can feel it in our interactions. And then I hit this weird zone - do I send a thank you card out for a gift we received a REALLY long time ago? Is it worth it at that point or just weird? I just never know. And I hate it.
It's gotten so bad that when we receive thank you cards from others for something we've done, Dave and I both let out a sigh. A deep, deep sigh of discontent. This person is awesome at thank you cards. We suck at them. We suck we suck we suck.
Maybe I can blame my upbringing? In my family, we never write thank you cards. It's just never been a thing with us. But what we do - consistently - is make sure the giver sees us enjoying the gift. We wear the sweater our aunt gave us when we go to visit. We play with the toy Mamaw got us when she comes over. We take out the wine glasses the friends gave us when they're over for dinner. We mention how much it meant to us to have a clean house and homemade food when the baby was born. We mention it a lot. We mean it every time.
And I'm adamant about telling people that they don't need to send me thank you cards - especially new moms with too much else to think about. I usually write it on the card - PLEASE DO NOT SEND ME A THANK YOU CARD. YOU HAVE ENOUGH ON YOUR PLATE. Most of them don't listen, but I want them to know how I feel. And honestly, Dave and I couldn't tell you who's sent us thank you cards and who hasn't. I have zero recollection. But what I do remember is that last time I saw my niece McKinsey, she was wearing the shirt we bought her for her birthday. And that just delighted me.
I fully expect people to get angry and defend the practice of thank you cards. I agree - I think they are an incredibly nice gesture, and I wish I were better about it (despite an entire blog entry spent rationalizing why I'm not). Look - we've changed a lot of old traditions. Many brides no longer throw bouquets, many women no longer take their husband's name, several people send out new baby notices via the internet. Why can't we move to electronic forms of thanks so I no longer feel like a terrible person?
Anyway, like exercising and eating more whole foods, I'll add being better about writing thank you cards to my growing and often neglected list of things I need to do to be a better person. And if you are one of the many who's hurt by this character flaw, I hope you know that I'm sorry. Sorry and so so grateful for any and all kind gestures you may extend.
*Keep in mind, I never feel this way when reading the thank you cards I receive, only when I write them myself. I fear that this paragraph is the one that will cause the most anger from my readers...