Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gratitude Death Spiral

Have you ever wanted to send a thank-you note for a thank-you note? I know this is not done, but sometimes I am so gratified to get someone's note of thanks that I want to let them know how much I appreciate their gesture. But where would that end? Possibly in an endless and recursive volley of cheery little missives, each shorter and more strident than the last. Thank you! You're welcome, thank you so much, now PLEASE don't mention it again. No, THANK YOU!

Lately I have gotten several handwritten thank-you notes. I don't really think manners are in decline, though they've been said to be on the wane for about three hundred years. To the contrary, in my corner of the social world, I find myself awash in timely RSVP's and sweet notes. Today I was pleased to get a note from Pretty Neighbor. I long ago confessed my girl crush on her, and finally I've gotten a hint that she feels the same! In her thanks after her non-traditional baby shower, she writes:

"I was so happy to have you there and it meant so much to me that you came. I am so glad to have a friend in the neighborhood who I am truly comfortable around."

I won't write a thank-you note for this note, but if I did, I would totally say:

"OMG I feel exactly the same!!! What is with these weirdos around here?? Thank goodness I have you to talk to! I hope you never move! Call me tomorrow so we can discuss what we're going to wear to swim-team registration. BTW, I love your new haircut and your sandals are sooo cute! LYLAS!"

Okay, so that's what I would say if I were answering her note AND I were in the seventh grade. But it is how I feel. Sometimes I think we were more fluent in the language of friendship back then, in middle school. Plus we had those awesome pens with the liquid metallic ink.

Of course, if someone sends you flowers as a thank-you, then a note or phone call is needed, to say thanks and that they arrived. But it should end there, right? We all need to get on the same page about this. Because with the thank-you-flowers-thank-you-note situation, we're already at a few degrees of remove from the originating gracious event. Any further, attenuated expressions of gratitude just risk confusing everyone involved, and in a real Doomsday scenario, could possibly lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings. Which could then only be remedied by another gift or generous gesture, setting off another barage of thanks. Maybe that is what's meant by "friendly fire."

15 comments:

The Dental Maven said...

Agreed. We can't let these things escalate. For the love of Pete - end it at the note or phone call.

Michele Renee said...

I agree that could all go down an over-done path. Loved your imaginary reply note to Pretty Neighbor. And had to look up a new word: attenuated.

Ginny Marie said...

I am SO bad at writing thank you notes. I would like to teach my girls to write them, though. They really need to be better than I am, and then maybe I'll write more thank you notes, too!

A Day That is Dessert said...

I think writing thank you notes is very important, and I'm surprised at how I usually don't get one from others! Even an email is fine with me (though I love the mail). I'm trying to ensure the boys grow up with this as a habit.

Sara said...

You're so right!

I think I'm just so happy to find another civilized human sometimes that I get a little over emotional!

And then there's always the opposite, where a simple email about a play date escalates into an inescapable round n round.
'I didn't hear back from you. Is something wrong?' Yikes!

fraught said...

I'm right there with you. Gettin a thank-you note that strays outside the official metes and bounds makes me feel like sending one back by return mail. But yes, it has to end somewhere, and if you start afresh and drop a lovely dessert at her door in appreciation then she'll write you another note and then you'll have to... oh, gawd. It's like that "Give a mouse a cookie" thing.

Casey said...

Pete and Repeat were walking by the lake, Pete fell in. Who was left?

Pete and Repeat were walking by the lake, Pete fell in. Who was left?

Please refrain from writing more notes or you'll be stuck in the same conundrum.

Congrats on having a friend close by. I'm still searching for that kind of friend in my neighborhood but there are only around 30 houses and I can't find anyone who I like.

Bex said...

i have a friend, beth (she appears frequently on my blog) who shares the thirteen year old squee! when we talk. it is a very comfortable place to be.

Daniel Brenton said...

This post was highlighted in the March 31 edition of Gratitude Watch.

Thank you for promoting the value of gratitude.

Better Than Machines said...

I come down pretty hard on this. There can be no thank-you note for a thank-you note. It's madness.

If you're particularly moved by someone's thank-you note, at that point you should just resolve to be a nicer, better friend to that person. In other words, simply live out "Thank you for your thank you!" in all that you do. It's really the only solution that avoids the death spiral.

Coffee with Cathy said...

Writing "thank-you notes" means you get to buy cute stationery ... unless someone gives you cute stationery and then you have to write a "thank-you" note for the "thank-you" notes.

Veronica said...

The woman who played the piano for our wedding ceremony just sent me a thank-you note telling me how beautiful the wedding was, and thanking me for allowing her to be a part of it. Wasn't it me who was supposed to thank her for playing the music? Ack!

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Becky, I think Miss Manners has some serious competition on her hands.

Handwritten thank-you notes, rotary dial telephones, big televisions in consoles. Oh, those were the days.

Amy said...

Hilarious! I have to fight back my 13 year old girl crush tendencies as well--actually, just posted about that. :)

You're totally right though. Someone has to stop the madness. In those situations, sometimes I'll just mention it the next time I see them--Thanks so much for your note, it was really sweet. Or something like that. But that's if I really liked it!

bsouth said...

But when someone goes to all the trouble of sending you a note it just feels rude to not say thank you! I don't, but then I feel really uncomfortable about it for days.