Nota Bene - Spear's Magazine

Nota Bene

A well-written, original, heartfelt thank-you note is a thing of wonder. But damn, they’re hard to do, says Daisy Prince.

A well-written, original, heartfelt thank-you note is a thing of wonder. But damn, they’re hard to do, says Daisy Prince.

As anyone whose been married will tell you, drawing up a list of presents for anything (within reason) that you and your fiancé desire is like getting all your Christmas presents for the decade all at once. The only downside is the extraordinary number of thank-you notes that one needs to write for such splendid offerings.

Now, before you dismiss me (quite rightly!) for being a spoilt brat who can’t even be grateful enough to want to thank people for their amazing generosity, hear me out. I actually like writing thank-you notes. As part of my vanity as a writer, I have always had delusions of my thank-you notes being read aloud at family dinners, put lovingly on pillows for my friends to read and maybe even achieving the occasional line dropped into dinner party conversation.

My parents have always kept good thank-you letters, so maybe that’s where I get my fascination. Some people I know take writing thank-yous to a near-competitive level. Once at a house party in South Hampton, a group of us were swimming in the pool and the lady of the house came outside and actually read OUT LOUD a thank-you note written by one of the recently departed guests.

Not only did she praise the guest’s prose, wit and lyricism, but she was also awesomely impressed with his grammar and spelling. Suffice to say that she made it clear that the typical three-line reply would not be considered up to snuff; that if one were received, a return invitation could be ruled out.

While I’m not quite that competitive, I was inspired to try and write original, memorable and witty thank-you notes for my wedding presents. It wasn’t just to satisfy my vanity: a lot of people had spent a lot of time and effort (and money) to attend our wedding and give us a lovely gift. As I wasn’t working full-time this summer and my husband had just started a new job, I thought it only fair that I should write the bulk of the letters (although he offered to help).

So the Herculean task began. I had two brilliant examples of perfect wedding thank-you letters to live up to. One was an extremely snappy letter written by a French friend of mine who married a Scot and wrote a hilarious story about the terrible weather on her honeymoon up in the wilds of Scotland. She promised to extract her revenge by having him take her to the West Indies that Christmas.

It was also written in perfect script and posted an impossibly short time after the wedding. I also got a great letter from a friend and her husband who both wrote to thank me for some wine glasses I gave her. When I showed my husband, he looked impressed and terrified, obviously afraid that I’d ask him to do exactly the same thing.

To give you an idea of the time spent, I started in August and I’m still writing. I’ve written the majority of my letters, but there are still a few stragglers. I have developed an almost irrational fear of bumping into people who I haven’t yet written to who will ask me that inevitable question, ‘Did you ever get my present?’ At which point, I’ll blush and murmur that the ‘the thank you is in the post’.

A married lady I know told me to aim for ten letters a day, but by the third one, my mind was completely bereft of original, let alone witty, thoughts, and I was having to use the same boring fall-back lines over and over. The worst is trying to write great thank-you notes for less than desirable objects given by well-meaning and obscure relatives. You don’t want to be rude and dismissive, but lying isn’t that easy either. Because you never see them, you can hardly add the fail-safe, ‘I’m so looking forward to seeing you again this Christmas/summer/Easter’. I settled on ‘original’ and ‘useful’ as all-purpose adjectives.

I wrote so many this summer that I lost track of who I wrote to and for what. As a result, I got a few slightly confused emails from people wondering why I had sent them two (or in one case three) letters thanking them for the same present. My philosophy on thank you’s and invitations is that it is better to send two than none at all. Somehow, I also managed to write a letter to a friend thanking her for the crystal glasses that I gave her for a wedding present.

With all of this thank-you note writing going on, there is barely a moment left to do anything else. I think I might start a new movement recommending thank-you texting notes.



 

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