Gratuitous Gratitude

Thank You

One of the weird things that you don’t anticipate about marriage is the immediately impending and seemingly insurmountable task of sending out thank you notes to everyone who gave you a wedding gift of some kind. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am extremely thankful for all gifts that were given to us, some from people we don’t even really know. We were blessed in a multitude of ways by kind people in ways we never anticipated or expected. But the ridiculous scope of the thank you note project is in all soberness somewhat of a burden, and, as a newly conscientious wedding gift-giver has made me think twice. In my post-nuptial consciousness, I recently gave $20 to a friend as a wedding gift, now thinking that, rather than giving them help in starting a new household or some money to do something fun, it would cover at least a small portion of the couple’s soon-to-be-incurred cost of buying thank you notes and the stamps to mail them. Unfortunately, there is no way to compensate them for the time they will spend creating these thank you notes, other than to ghostwrite for them, and that is something I’m not willing to do.

We started on the process about a month ago (already a belated effort, I’m sure many would say) and we cranked out a fair number, but never came close to finishing all of them. And then we kept putting it off. It has been weighing on me, though, and last night we picked it up again. To our dismay, upon opening our materials we discovered several notes to dear friends and relatives (you are probably reading this right now, actually) that I thought I had sent off a month ago, sitting in their envelopes not yet addressed or stamped. AAARRGGGH! People I have seen since then, and assumed they had received my wonderful and precious thank you note. Oh well. And then as we started, I pulled out a card and wrote a heartfelt note to a relative, addressed and stamped it, only to discover upon consulting our check-off list that I apparently had already sent them a thank you note…or had I? Is it worse to send someone two thank you notes, or risk the chance that you never actually sent them a thank you note at all? The whole thing starts to seem incredibly silly and ritualistic and you wonder whether it’s even worth bothering, especially when you pull out a gift card that was signed by twenty different people in your parents’ old ward and you realize that this portends twenty separate handwritten thank you notes and twenty stamps. And it takes me a long time to write these notes, because if I’m going to bother to write it I’m going to try to say something sincere and decent. Which is also why there are those ones I keep skipping.

I’ve never been much of a gift giver for weddings up to this point, and I’m not a visiting teacher, so I’ve only received a couple of thank you notes that I can think of in my life. I mean, they were nice to receive, I guess, but I was heedless of the toil and sorrow that may have gone into their creation. I have to wonder what kind of goofy person sits around waiting to receive thank you notes from people. Do they have a little Excel spreadsheet of gifts given and the date? These people are out there. Gin actually got an email from one such person, checking to make sure that we had, in fact, received the wedding gift she had sent to us. Bizarre. These are the people that rightfully should be skipped. On the other hand, one couple wrote in their card that we shouldn’t worry about sending them a thank you note, and for that thoughtfulness and common sensefulness I feel like they deserve a personalized thank you more than pretty much anyone else. The fact is that the people you really want to thank probably aren’t the ones expecting to be thanked. Such a tangle of propriety, friendship, sincerity and insincerity, expected reciprocity, logic games, and laziness. Is this really what our loved ones wanted? It’s certainly not what I would wish on any one

Maybe I sound like an ingrate and like I’m making too big a deal of this, and maybe I am. But it’s not like we got married so as to participate in some ritual in which people give us a bunch of stuff. Far from it. When going over who I wanted to invite and who I should invite, I was always hesitant that an invitation would be seen as a solicitation. It was entirely calculated that we did not give any indication on our invitations that we were registered anywhere. We only after the fact succumbed and registered under duress because people started hounding us about it incessantly. Propriety demanded the big reception and the myriad invites and the registration and got us the possibly begrudged gifts in the first place, and propriety yet propels the process forward with begrudged gratitude. If someone interpreted our invitation as a call for presents rather than a call for their presence at our wedding, I guess that’s their problem. And if right now they are sitting at home looking at an empty cell on their spreadsheet, I don’t know that receiving my thank you note is truly going to give them what they need. And yet, I am still impelled to push forward.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some cards to write. And, no, in the time it’s taken me to write this, I could not have come anywhere close to finishing the notes.

The Blessing and the Burden

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