Wielding The Etiquette Hammer

by admin on November 1, 2010

My mother-in-law is a real stickler for etiquette. Before our wedding, she was informed that we had not sent a thank you note to a friend of hers for a gift that was sent. It turns out that the gift was lost in the mail. The gift was located and a thank you note was sent to her friend with an apology. My mother-in-law was convinced we had received the gift, failed to write a thank you note, and passed it off like the gift was lost. This was far from the case.

A couple months later, she gave my husband a birthday gift while we were celebrating at a restaurant with a number of his family members. Two days later, my mother unexpectedly died. Understandably, everything was very chaotic for some time. My husband and I both spent two weeks in my mother’s hometown, tending to funeral arrangements and being with my family. About three days before we were due to return home, my husband received a call from his mother. She informed him that she had not received a thank you note for his birthday gift and that two weeks was plenty of time to get it written and mailed. Mind you, his birthday was two days before my mother’s death and my MIL knew we had been in another town for the past two weeks. However, she didn’t seem to budge about the fact that my husband was rude for not sending a thank you note, regardless of the circumstance surrounding the tardiness.

We returned home three days later and I reminded my husband to send his mother a thank you note but not to acknowledge that it was late. (Normally, I feel that two weeks is the deadline for most thank you notes but I felt that sending it three weeks after his birthday was pretty good considering all we had been through in the past two). My MIL called a few days later, thanking my husband for the lovely note.

I still, begrudgingly, send this woman thank you notes and while I have never confronted her about this most recent event, God help us all if she tries to call either of us out on our “poor” etiquette again!   1026-10

The lure of etiquette for some people is that it becomes a legalistic sledge hammer to beat others into complying with their rigid perspective of the world.   They forget the main backbone of good manners is the gracious extension of kindness when circumstances merit it.

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Mother of a Bride November 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm

“Wink-n-Smile November 4, 2010 at 11:59 am
Send her a condolence card on the death of her son’s mother-in-law.”

I had to read this twice and then it hit me. Brilliant. Although I am sure being so “in your face” about her behavior breaches some sort of etiquette rule somewhere, I think I would be soooooo tempted to do the same to my MIL if she did to me what was done to the letter writer. Trust me–my MIL IS that sort of person, she’d get jealous of the attention the deceased is getting so she’d try to find a way to remind everyone she still exists, even if it meant demanding a written thank you to a gift that was probably verbally thanked. I feel the letter writer’s pain. I hope they don’t wait 20 years to take a stand against that controlling nonsense like we did. Life is so much more pleasant when the mothers-in-law know their place early on in the marriage–it’s not to manipulate and demand attention from their married adult children, it’s to be supportive and loving.

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TYHater November 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm

If I receive or give a gift IN PERSON and graciously say thank you to the person at the time I received the gift, I refuse to write a thank you note. I find the process of writing thank you notes in that case old fashioned and outdated. I would rather not receive gifts than be saddled with the chore of writing thank you notes to people I already thanked in person.

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Javin September 29, 2011 at 10:50 am

I’m actually KIND of with TYHater on this one. Thank you notes aren’t necessary in my book for most cases. Wedding gifts, of course. Outside of that unless the gift was pretty extravagant, I don’t see the point. At my birthday, if a friend gives me a $15 board game and I thank him there, I don’t think a thank-you note is warranted. Indeed, I have literally *never* received a thank-you note for a gift (EVEN for wedding gifts.) The ONLY time I had EVER felt slighted was when I purchased my sister an antique stereoscopic viewer for her wedding, then used two cameras to take 3D pictures of the wedding festivities, and after aging the pictures to make them look antique as well, created a dozen stereoscope cards for the viewer so she could view her wedding in 3D. The only reason a lack of thank-you bothered me in that case was due to the amount of personal work that went into it. There’s never been another gift I believe warranted a “thank-you” note. I purchase their gifts for the pleasure of giving the gift, and without the expectation of written gratitude.

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