I have an issue with thank you cards. I think they are ridiculous, a waste of my time, and an antiquated custom that is long overdue to be updated for the 21st Century.
Actually, I’ve hated them since last century since I absolutely refused to write them after my Bat Mitzvah. My mother, who is deathly afraid of upsetting social conventions, forged my handwriting and sent them in my name.
Fast forward many years later. My husband’s parents and mine put an enormous amount of pressure on us to write thank you cards for our engagement, wedding, and baby gifts. Nowhere in my crazy schedule could I have possibly put writing thank you cards high on my priority list. (The past year included an engagement, a wedding, and the birth of our baby, and not necessarily in that order.)
My mother and mother-in-law could not comprehend the chaos that was my life. I tried to explain in many creative, gentle ways that I simply could not get a thank you card out within 24 hours of receiving a gift. A gift, I might add, I would never have accepted if I knew it had strings attached. It seems that some people in this world only give gifts for the thrill of getting a thank you card in return. It also seems that a scary amount of people don’t know how to check online that their gift was received, instead relying on a handwritten note from someone suffering from acute carpal tunnel syndrome as confirmation. You would think that there was a tax deduction for gifts given the zealousness with which people try to track down their thank-you cards.
I did not have time to even shower in the early weeks of being a new mom, nevermind write a thank you card. Our parents could hear our baby crying over the phone, yet they would talk over us asking if we had sent so-and-so a thank you card yet. Or they would send us a list of addresses of people who were asking when they would get a thank you card. I would tell them that I loved the gift and asked them to pass on my thanks with an apology for being an overwhelmed new mother with no family around to help who didn’t have time to write thank you cards. But nope, instead of running interference and trying to make our lives easier, they pressured us to write thank you cards to avoid them being embarrassed by their slacker children. They let us down.
My husband and I finally wrote thank you cards for the engagement and wedding gifts. I usually dictated while my husband wrote, and then I would seal, address, and stamp them. I hated every moment of it, and so did he. Sometimes we hadn’t showered, eaten, or had a five-minute conversation that day, but I’ll be damned if we didn’t write some stupid generic thank you cards.
Now, sometimes thank you cards are the right thing to do. I think when someone gives you an exceptionally thoughtful gift or extends themselves in some way that touches you, a heartfelt thank you card is a nice way to show appreciation for their generosity. But an email is just as nice, and a call is even nicer! Emails feel more natural than a hand-written note to me, so I can be more authentic and write from the heart, while picking up the phone and having even a five-minute chat with someone is way more of an investment in the relationship than a card. If the gift was given in person, then I looked them in the eyes and expressed my sincere thanks there and then.
So, I derived great satisfaction when the following event occurred:
My mother sent my mother-in-law (“MIL”) an e-card for Passover. I think this was silly on many levels. E-cards, in my opinion, are for lazy people. How much effort does it really take to write a two sentence email to wish someone happy whatever? I would much rather get a personal email than an e-card any day. And then, a card for Passover? That is not a major card-giving holiday in any book! But my mother does what my mother does.
When I received an email from my mother two weeks after the holiday inquiring as to whether my MIL got the e-card, I was incredulous. How the hell would I know if she received the e-card? My MIL is rarely at home — she travels the world extensively and is often in places without Internet access. She does not live and die by her email, and I actually respect her for that. With my smug-ass husband goading me on, I decided to write my MIL the following email:
Did you receive the Passover card my mom sent you? She mentioned she had not heard from you and was wondering if you got it. Would you mind sending her a thank you note please? Thanks!
The next day, my MIL sent my mother an email and copied me on it. It went something like this:
* Cara asked me to write you
* You supposedly sent me an e-card
* I have no proof you sent me an e-card
* I’m having fun traveling
Did you see a “thank you” in there? Maybe even a conciliatory “thanks anyway” or “my bad”? Me neither. We were gleefully looking forward to exacting the smallest measure of revenge for the torture they put us through and we came away with nothing. But after all we went through, my MIL helped me re-learn a valuable lesson: don’t let anyone push you into writing a fucking thank you card if you don’t feel like it.