When I was little, following every birthday and Christmas my mom would sit me down in front of a stack of stationary (her supply seemed endless) and have me write the dreaded thank you note. As I got older, she wasn’t as demanding, but she would continue to check in on me until all notes were written and sent. I always dreaded it and struggled to fill all the blank space on the inside of the card. I mean, how many ways can you say thank you?*
Lately though, I’ve come to enjoy writing thank you notes. I appreciate the opportunity to let a friend know how much they mean to me. I also have noticed a decrease of hand written thank you notes in our continually evolving e-friendly culture. Really though, there has been a decrease in mailed letters in general. I rarely send actual mail to my family and friends. The only mail I typically send out is the occasional bill (with a system so antiquated that it does not have online payment as an option). In light of these changes, there is something special about receiving actual mail from someone you actually know. As I witness these changes, there is a part of me that wants to hold onto this tradition of mail and thank you notes. If only my younger self could hear me now. She undoubtedly would be shocked.
As note writing has become more appealing, I’ve also found myself appreciating stationery. I’ve even spent time at various stores coveting beautiful writing paper from Crane and Rifle (which are ridiculously expensive, but oh so cute). There is something so beautiful and classic about writing paper. It has a feeling of being from another time, when each person had their own stationery embossed with their name or initials, and would write letters beginning “Dearest Amelia”.
I laugh as I consider my penchant for note writing. I can’t help but think of the social trend of New Domesticity, which explores the re-emerging popularity of forgotten domestic practices. I heard about this idea via one of my podcasts and was introduced to Emily Matchar, who coined the term and is researching this trend and the impacts it has on family life, the work place, and our communities. Matchar describes New Domesticity as:
The fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?
It didn’t take long for me to think of various examples of New Domesticity. There’s the DIY blogs, Etsy and the Queen of all New Domesticity: Pinterest. Surely, this appreciation of note writing falls under this term.
Now, I am not bringing up New Domesticity as a shaming point. I mainly am fascinated by this trend, but also wonder for myself, how much of my penchant for thank you notes is influenced by this movement. I tend to pride myself on being an individual (being the good American that I am) and dislike being boxed in. I like to think that my ideas and likes come purely out of who I am. However, I know this is not true. There are definitely some interests that are just plain Jen, but some are influenced by culture, and others are a mixture of both. It is a messy line between trends and my personality. Ugh!
In the meantime, here is a thank you note to you, dear reader:
*As a side note, unacceptable thank you’s, according to Mom, come in the form of thank you hands. Or as Mom might say, “No thank you” hands.