Saturday, June 05, 2010

Thank You Notes

I have to admit I’m a little suspicious when I get a thank you note for some trivial favor or minor meet-up. The question that lingers, when I get such a note from a bare acquaintance or friend of a friend, is “What’s the deal with her? Did she just channel Leticia Baldridge or is she trying to?” The vibe can be, “See how cultured and thoughtful I am? Are you? Well, enjoy basking in my erudite ways as I thank you with some fine paper and a 40-some-odd-cent stamp.”

Another observation...I simply CANNOT remember ever receiving a thank you note from a man. Has the genre been feminized and thereby ghetto-ized as "support-staffish," housewife-ish" or otherwise? In more affluent circles, thank you notes seem to flow more freely; perhaps because there are more personal staff or more females with time on their hands. But in the hurly burly of business, and garden variety dual-income family life, I'm not spotting this endangered species.

Don’t get me wrong. Thank you’s and thank you notes are lovely, gracious and wonderful. It’s just that in a world of online speed, the thank you note is becoming an artifact. Not many of my peers were trained on the convention. I hail from southern socialite circles; the original "wannabes" of erudition. But I was trained well—I believe. “If in doubt, go ahead and write a thank you note,” my mother explained. It can never hurt.

And so I do. But the truth of the matter is I write them for myself…not to draw attention to my erudite ways, but because I like fine paper, funny cards, fitting hand-written words into a limited space, lovely commemorative stamps, and the US Postal Service. I still consider the daily mail a treasure trove, even though it’s usually junk and bills. Just the chance that there might be something fun in there tickles me as it did when I was 9 and played the fishing game at the carnival with the safety-pin on a string, on a stick, bobbing behind the sheet and waiting for the tug. When I get a hand-addressed envelope, be it an invite, a thank you, or heaven help us--an actual letter, my heart accelerates ever so gently. “Someone out there found me and sent me something!”

I do wish thank you notes had not become so rare that “Employee Recognition Programs” had to be developed whereby a peer could recognize a peer with a coin or coupon or what–not. How about a direct sentence or two of esteem-enhancing acknowledgement in a thank you note? It still happens, but those hard copy notes have become infrequent, and my guess is they will continue to decline.

In the meantime, I’m going to delete those nutty emails that tell me to forward the attached poem of thanks and beauty to 10 friends. Instead I’ll use my carefully guarded time and attention on the tactile, visual, creative pursuit of selecting, writing, and stamping a thank you note every now and again.

Recipients may wonder what Court of Royalty I think I was raised in…but in truth, I care not. The note is for the recipient, but it is for me too. It is for a world of tangible, direct acknowledgement, that is slowly vanishing as automated e-cards, Tweets, Yelps, employee recognition coupons, and risk-managed reduced liability exposure displace it.

Thanks for the read. No…Really! ;)

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