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.