The etiquette sorority will likely strip me of my sash for saying so, but I think we should do away with the Thank You Card tradition. I’ll wait for your gasps of horror to subside before going on.
I’m not suggesting we toss gratitude or graciousness or even hand written cards that express such feelings, but the standard that Thank You Cards must be sent after an event has just got to go. Quite frankly, every time I get a thank you card from a new mother for a gift or gesture I’ve made, I cringe. Why? Because that card was work. Unnecessary work. Work that was put in because, if she didn’t, she’s somehow ungrateful. Ungrateful not because that’s true, but because she failed to follow this common custom.
I’m pretty sure I got through writing half the Thank You Cards after my baby shower and I can’t recall if I sent them or not. Probably because my attention was on feeding a human from my very own body every couple of hours and coming to terms with the fact that sleep deprivation had me repeatedly flooding the basement trying to wash those cloth diapers and forgetting to turn off the water. If anyone who didn’t receive their Thank You Card was offended, they didn’t mention it.
The thing with the Thank You Card tradition is that they’re to be sent out after major events; babies, weddings, graduations and such. So there are heaps of them. And given the timing...after the event...the senders of the cards are usually spent. So sending these suckers out tends to be that last check on the to-do list.
Now, Thank You Cards as an overall means of expression I am wholly in favour of. What with the majority of our mail being requests for payment and suggestions for purchase, receiving a genuine, heartfelt note of appreciation is simply divine. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening most of the time. If we’re going through the motions because it’s an expectation, I can’t see how that honours anyone involved at all.
I suppose the larger theme here is our connection to tradition and ritual as a whole. Why are we actually sending these things? I get that it’s supposed to be because we’re grateful and expressing that. Of course we’re grateful, but is that actually present and being connected to when writing and mailing fifty cards? I can think of dozens of friends who’ve groaned “I still haven’t sent out the Thank You cards...I have to get that done.” I don’t need that card. Stress and pressure, just to uphold some...what? So I know you appreciate me? How ‘bout this... if you appreciate me, honour me by taking care of yourself and not stressing about an inconsequential gesture you’ve been told that you’re an asshole if you don’t engage with.
I can’t see who it serves for all of us to be running around trying to do things for each other sourced from feelings of guilt and obligation. I have a few friends who are downright excellent at card sending. I get one from them for every damn thing that happens. They seem to really enjoy it and all the power to them. And I do appreciate their cards because they are bits of art and I can feel their beating hearts bursting forth as I slice the envelope. But as an over-all thing that we’re all supposed to do? I’d rather cut your hair, or give you a slab of salmon or say, ‘hey, thanks, I really appreciate you.’ Or if I do send you a card, it’s because that’s what I really feel like doing. Not because it’s the next move in the nicey nice chess game.