======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or Happy Holidays if you’re an uptight asshole. The season of joy and presents is over, nothing remaining but scraps of wrapping paper and the carcass of a Christmas ham. All that’s left to do is finish off that carton of eggnog, lumber to the airport, make your way home, lament about how much weight you put on, and dread the day you’ll have to return to work.
Oh, and also don’t forget to write those thank you notes.
Your mom might call this out to you as you and your siblings pile into the Uber, she might text it to you once you’re back in your cozy apartment, or even passive-aggressively include a little line in her own thank you note to you. But you can bet your bottom dollar that, if you were raised by a mother who loves using guilt as a weapon, you’ll get lambasted if you don’t send a thank you note to every single person who got you a gift. Even that weird, hippie uncle no one invited whose “gift” was a donation in your name to the Human Fund.
It’s a tedious exercise, as one night you’ll sit down with a stack of cards and envelopes, The Office playing in the background, sipping a beer and contemplating how the hell you’re going to express appreciation for a shoe buffer you’ll never use. Eventually, you fall into a rhythm, cranking out one thank you note after the other. The format is the same on all of them: thank you for your gift…quick blurb about how it was nice to see them/you missed seeing them…lie about how you’ll come to see them this year…best wishes in the new year.
No one questions this practice, it’s just expected whenever you get a gift. Birthday, wedding, Christmas, doesn’t matter the occasion. There’s that understanding like we have a collective fear if we don’t the Emily Post Gestapo will break into our house in the middle of the night. But if you think about it, it makes no sense.
Since the writing of the note itself becomes so formulaic, does anyone actually think these notes are genuine expressions of gratitude? Does it make you feel appreciated by the words on the page, which you know are essentially copy+pasted, or is it the time and effort that someone took writing these out that satisfies our need for validation? Based on a cursory review of Miss Manners, it would seem that an e-mail thank you note is poor form for any such gift, which means that what people really care about is the effort.
Putting aside how ludicrous it is that our society’s etiquette is structured so that a gift given is also a requirement of an obligation, I must ask the burning question: why a note? What does a note do for the person receiving it? They can’t immediately throw it out, but are they supposed to display it? And if so for how long? It’s the same quandary as someone who sends someone else a card for an occasion. Yes, you keep it, but what’s the protocol?
So, instead of this archaic, needlessly time-consuming endeavor, I have a suggestion: get rid of notes, switch to calls.
Think about it, what do your older relatives really want? Interaction with their ungrateful nieces, nephews, and grandkids who never talk to them. Instead of sending some pieces of garbage they’ll be obligated to hang onto for god knows how long, why not give them a ring, thank them personally, and then maybe chat with them for a little bit?
If all that really matters insofar as the thank you note tradition is the effort, doesn’t it make sense that a phone call would be better? It takes far more time, it’s active, it’s personal to whoever you’re addressing. You can’t just rubber stamp a thank you call like you could a note. For a call, you’ll have to remember what that person got you, put some effort into faking your appreciation, and allow them to bombard you with details about how they spent their holidays.
It’s a win for them, a slog for you, but without all the hassle of hand cramps, not having enough cards, envelopes, or stamps, and setting aside time to write all those notes. Throw your phone on speaker, browse the internet, and run out the clock on your thank you once Aunt Linda starts describing in detail what she and Uncle Roger ate for Christmas brunch. It may be less effort, but it will easily be more time and more personal connection. Plus, it’s still painful for every millennial, since none of us have willingly made a phone call in about five years.
Let’s save some trees going forward. Give your relatives a call instead of sending them a note. I’m sure they’d love to hear your voice and talk to you about all the things you care to tell them about this year. Plus they only sent you $20 so why not literally phone it in? .