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Everyday Ethics

I have a friend I affectionately refer to as “the
Thank-You Note Nazi.”

No sooner does she return from a dinner party than she
dispatches an elegant and exquisitely chosen card expressing the most effusive
(and quite sincere, as far as I can tell) sentiments of gratitude for being
included in the event, even if it was just a weenie roast or popcorn and a video enjoyed in our sloppy sweats. (I’ve even wondered if she tips her postal carrier extra
to expedite her mail, because I swear her little courtesy bombs arrive
practically before the last dish is washed.) 

blue:green thank you.jpg

Heck, sometimes she’ll even add an
informal text message on her way home
from the party
to say thanks on top of thanks. It’s really heart-warming.

Annnnd, it also makes me feel just a teeeeny bit inadequate.
Much as I treasure them, every now and then, I gotta admit, I have developed a
raging (if hastily sublimated) resentment at the sight of one of these ravishingly calligraphed missives.

I’m a late-comer to the custom of sending thank-you notes, not having grown up much indoctrinated with the tradition, but I’m becoming a big adherent. I really like the idea of doing something formal and tangible to express my feelings to a person to whom I owe gratitude. It’s a nice way of telling the person I respect them and honor what they’ve done for me.

And, quite frankly, I also really, really don’t want people to think I’m a schmuck.

When I got married two years ago, my gratitude anxiety was so great that I made a list of all our wedding gifts and givers on our wedding night and my husband and I wrote out all our cards in the airport (I brought stamps and everything) on the way to the honeymoon the following day. I legitimately wanted people to know how much I valued the thoughtfulness and expense of their gifts, but I also didn’t want to be seen falling down on the job.

So, where does my code of ethics figure in?

Perhaps in the tension between my honest desire to express gratitude and my growing resentment over observing endless formalities. Must I send a thank-you for the beautiful thank-you card my baroquely mannered friend sent? Or, at the least, if my friend is the type who writes and mails letters for the least little affair, must I do as much when it’s my turn? (I have another friend who insists on buying all her chums cards and trinkets for every occasion (even St. Patty’s day) and I don’t want to reciprocate, frankly, because that’s just not my style. Call me a selfish blankity-blank, but I express my affection in other ways and at other times of my own choosing.

So, what’s my responsibility here? I mean, when it’s something like a job interview or a gift from grandma, I know darn well it behooves me to haul out the ol’ pen and ink (and I generally enjoy doing it then, because it feels sincere). But to keep up with the Miss Mannerses, must I continue this Thank-You escalation to the point of absurdity, or would that actually be phony and insincere, and thus unethical?

I bet my friend would say she doesn’t want me to bullsh*t her with some Hallmark treacle, that she does what she does because it feels right for her, and that I should chill out, do what feels natural for me, and just keep in mind that people love a little appreciation now and then. I just hope my friends and acquaintances don’t think poorly of my upbringing (or my regard for them if I express it in my own way.)

Incidentally, Paddy has a truly amazing thank-you note story, which I hope she’ll share here… 

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