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Monday, October 30, 2006


Confessions of a well intended, bad mannered, grateful ingrate

I have tortured myself over your thank-you cards for the last year.

If I could only write out thank you cards immediately, I would open up a whole section of my brain that is currently reserved and utilized solely for self-flagellation. Did I mention my self-induced cringing when I think of my own apparent lack of gratitude every time I look at gifts from loved ones, which are evidence of my etiquetteal oversights?

I AM grateful for the thoughtful and lovely things people give to me and our daughter. Not that anyone would know it. Because I keep forgetting to send thank-you cards to the generous friends and family who bestowed these gifts upon me.

Two months ago, my neighbor Nadine gave us these adorable wooden letters that spell our M-A-G-G-I-E, and I have yet to give her a thank you card.

My friend Jen and her new husband Steve hosted a great night out last weekend, which I enjoyed immensely. I intend to send a card to thank them for their generosity. But I haven’t done it yet.

My cousins Tiffany and Shanna gave Maggie these fantastic books last year for Christmas. My cousin Andy’s wife and my cousin Amy sent these adorable overalls and a little crocheted sweater last winter. I meant to get a card out right away. But I never did.

Basically two thirds of the people who have given Maggie a birthday or Christmas present in the last 2.5 years have not received a thank-you card. I am terrible. REALLY. I am.

Yet, here I sit, cringing.

At my desk at work sits a thank you card for friends of ours for a wedding gift. They gave us a lovely set of Henkels steak knives in their very own butcher block. I wrote out the card and hung onto it because they were in the midst of a move, and I did not yet have their new address. That was three years ago September.

The card is actually written and sealed, and has been for over three years, yet there it sits. I wonder if it’s too late to send it in.

These same friends were over for dinner a while back, and as she and I worked in the kitchen together, she took notice of my knives. I totally froze, broke out into a cold sweat, and secretly wished for our really bad country-themed linoleum to swallow me up. She started asking questions. Did I put them in the dishwasher? Why did we have two kinds of knives? She was torturing me on purpose. I knew it. I called her bluff and casually reminded her that they had given us the fabulous knives, and that we used them all the time. “Huh” she sniffed. Did I detect an eensy weensy bit of hostility? Part of me feared a sharp knife to my socket. But I deserved to sweat a little. I mean, three years? Come on.

The truth is, I think of my cousins Tiffany and Shanna every time we read Maggie’s favorite books, all of which came from them, and for which I have yet to send thank you cards. They gave them to us last Christmas. I marvel at how they managed to know exactly what Maggie would love (an enormous encyclopedia of animals complete with hundreds of illustrations, most of which Maggie can now identify, a huge book of fairy tales full of dragons, and a book called “Maggie and the Monster” which she can recite the first 5 pages of from memory at barely 2 years old.

Then I wince at my own personal scourge of bad manners. I am a heel. Not only that, but my cousin Tiffany, one of the benefactors, is a master of correspondence. Not only does she always send a thank you card, or postcard when traveling around the world, but she writes all sorts of great things that show she out THOUGHT into her notes. She puts me to SHAME.

I think of our friends every time we use those steak knives.

I am grateful. Yet I am haunted by shame about my own bad manners.

Last year for Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me an enormous box of thank you cards. She is the kind of person who will make sure you get a card no more than 48 hours after having her over for dinner. I took the hint and promised myself I would try harder. I don’t think its’ going so well.

Here is the question. At what point do you look like an absolute freak for sending out a thank-you note? Is there a sane limit? Because I can remember a wedding gift I meant to send but never did that dates back to about 1995. And I KNOW they would think I was koo-koo nuts if I sent it out now (mainly because I haven’t seen them for eleven years).

In addition, is it selfish of me to send them out at this point only to clear my own tortured conscience? Isn’t that selfish in and of itself? How do I clear my mind and pay up these karmic debts?

This is the part where you add your two cents. But no flagellation, guilting or mocking. It’s already been self-induced three ways to Tuesday.


Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

For me, there is no statute of limitations on thank you cards. I would be thrilled to pieces to receive one, and I wouldn't care how far after the fact it was sent.

Unfortunately, my own feelings about thank you cards (how much I love receiving them) don't always translate into actually sending them myself. I try. I don't always succeed.

(And if your friends really did get huffy about the knives, I think that's kind of sad and small.)

3:34 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

Meghan: I have a solution! Call everyone you owe a Thank You card to and have them over for a pre-holiday gathering. Nothing special. Just some spiked cider and basic chips and so forth. That gives you a chance to TELL everyone in-person how much their gift meant and you will feel like a million dollars!

6:22 PM  
Blogger h&b said...

That sort of stuff eats me up too.
I advise to clear your conscience -write 'em all up, explain your apologies, do it.

I'd be grateful, even after 3years.

Then, after all that's done, try and be better in future. If it makes you feel better, your 'gift-getting' days are basically over now .. so there will be less of them {grin }

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Tiffany puts me to shame too. I think Christmas is a free-for all, and aside from relatives you don't see, should be exempt from thank-you's.

I sent a thank-you card to a temp job 6 months after they held a good-buy lunch for me, gave me 2 gift certificantes, and assured me they could always find work for me. I don't think there is a statute of limitations.

I did find drinking 1/2 a bottle of wine helped me get over my embarrasment and write the card, but then my writing got a bit sloppy...

10:12 AM  
Blogger DDM said...

I think you can send thank you's YEARS after the gift is received. Personally, even if the gift I sent was 10 years ago, if and when I get a thank you in response, I'm happy! If there was a funny explanation from the sender ie,"Well. I got really busy with my under water basket weaving class..." would more than make up for the deliquency of the note.
The gift sending 10 years after the fact though....I don't know about that. I maybe wouldn't send it? But because after having it my house for 6 months, I totally would've either regifted it or used it.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Send 'em anyway.

I'm horrible about them. I read that Princess Diana always had her thank-you card addressed and set out on her desk before she left for an engagement, so that she could easily send her thanks the next day.

Her butler probably thought that up. We need butlers.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Krista said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Krista said...

Fixed for typos!

I can totally relate! I'm just as shameful and forgetful when it comes to Thank You cards.

I think it comes down to this for me: I don't need or even expect a Thank You card when I give somebody a gift. In fact, I view them as a waste of time, paper, and postage. But that's just me. I think this attitude isn't necessarily a good one, though, because when I'm on the receiving end, I tend to forget how important those simple little notes are to other people.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe in thank you cards. I think if you give a gift, the person should acknowledge that they are grateful for the gift whether they really like the gift or not. I feel that there is no time frame, better late than never.

I try to get thank you cards out with the exception of Christmas which is usually immediate family so I don't sweat it.

I did experience something that was rather appalling to me this summer while at a highschooler's open house. Before we had even had a piece of cake the high schooler came over and gave us a pre-done thank you card--something genericly done by her and her mom probably with their scrap booking supplies. But I was offended because there was no personalization with this. She assumed that we brought her a gift too...pretty presumptuous if you ask me. It really left a bad feeling with me when we left there.

1:43 PM  
Blogger nava said...

you know what, I think you should. Just include a note about 'sorry so late, I'm trying harder'. Something. I think I'll go do the same. I have about 20 thank you notes from my wedding. I have a couple from my 5th birthday as well. Let's do this!

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How interesting...it's now 1:57am and sleep eludes me for yet another night. I am eaten alive by guilt of not writing thank you notes for gifts received for the birth of my now 21-month-old. I'm not steeped in guilt and shame - I'm pickled in it! Thought I'd seek some etiquette first aid for my ailing soul and came across your blog - you are delightful! By all means, let's crank out our thanks! Miss Manners recommends that one aplogize once, and concisely, for the delay: "I'm sorry this note is hideously late. We absolutely adore the ___ and think of you fondly each time we use it..." Another thought/pipe dream - One could stock up on thank you notes, birthay, congratulation, etc, cards and 2-3 books of stamps, then stash them all, with your address book and your list of gifts and givers, in a tidy little greeting card organizer (Organized Living has one for 19.95). Just keep the box in plain sight! Thanks a million for your post - you're not the only one! 'Large part of your brain reserved solely for self- flagellation..' you're brilliant. Good luck - I'm going to try for some sleep.

12:25 AM  

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