Nicole Paulhus
August 14, 2013 9:00 am

As a child, few things were more thrilling than sitting in front of a pile of perfectly wrapped presents on my birthday. The anticipation, the excitement, the smoothness of the brightly colored paper under my fingertips, the sound of that initial tear, the sense of accomplishment after defeating a particularly stubborn ribbon. Knowing that beneath it all, there was a box and inside that box was something exciting and new, just for me. I would unwrap a new toy and want to play with it immediately. Get the feel of it, see what it did and how it worked. I had no patience. When it was all said and done, I would look at the stack of gifts in awe, so grateful for the bounty I had received. Then… my fingers would cramp up, knowing that each gift no longer represented a generous offering from a friend or family member, but a handwritten thank you note I would soon be forced to write.

When I was younger, these thank you notes seemed silly. I had said thank you repeatedly to the gift giver throughout the party. Didn’t they know I was thankful? I would fight the process at every turn. Begging my parents to lighten up. Now, as an adult, these thank you notes have become routine. If I don’t send a thank you within a week of receiving a gift, I feel karmically off. Even though I’m fully committed to the cult of thank you notes, the process still makes me nervous. Here are ten reasons why!

1. Keeping Track of Who Gave What

When I was a kid, this was easy. As I threw wrapping paper at my father, my mother would make a list of each gift and who it was from. Now, as an adult, things get a bit more confusing, especially when group gifts are involved. I don’t want to accidentally thank someone for a gift they weren’t a part of and make them feel bad, but I also don’t want to miss someone who contributed. Sometimes I wish my mom was around to yell, “Who is this from?” and keep everything straight.

2. Electronic or Paper Card?

If I’m thanking someone for a gift, I usually go ahead and send a handwritten thank you. However, if I’m thanking someone for helping me professionally or for taking the time to interview me for a job, things get tricky. Do I send a paper card and run the risk of it not arriving before they make their hiring decision? Do I follow it up with a thank you email? Do I mention the thank you card in the thank you email? Etc., etc. This process usually ends with me sending both and hoping they don’t think I’m a crazy person.

3. Collecting Mailing Addresses

It’s odd to ask someone their address without explaining why you need it. Yet, telling someone, “I’m sending you a thank you note,” defeats the purpose of sending the thank you note. I usually try to use my super-spy skills to obtain addresses without alerting recipients, but sometimes it’s impossible.

4. Combatting My Awkwardness

While this is a daily struggle, it becomes increasingly challenging when writing thank you notes. I wind up writing things like, “Just writing to say thanks!” Duh, of course you’re writing, because they’re reading what you’ve written, idiot. You’d think after twenty years of these things I’d be an expert, but that is very much not the case. Every thank you note is a battle against my inner awkward bird.

5. Attempting Sincerity

I want the person to feel as though I am actually grateful for their generosity, but I’m weary of overdoing it in the sincerity department. No one is going to believe that a scarf “means the world to me”, but if I just say, “I love it!” it sounds like I’m lying. I’m a sarcastic person, so I just assume people always think I’m mocking them when I attempt to be sincere. It’s an issue.

6. Trying To Write Something Original

Nothing is worse than writing the same stock note over and over. “Dear ____, Thank you so much for the _____. I really appreciate it. Love, ____” So, I try to mix it up a little, throw in an inside joke or a personal touch. If I’m writing to someone who has just interviewed me or helped me out professionally, I will attempt to reference something we discussed in order to to remind them of my awesomeness. I spend hours writing and rewriting these things, sending drafts to friends, while trying to make them appear organic and light. It’s completely ridiculous.

7. Choosing a Signoff

My instinct is to write “Love, Nicole” but that’s not always appropriate. When I can’t use “love” I start to panic. “Sincerely” feels too formal, but just a dash and my name seems too informal. “Best” just isn’t me and “Thanks again” is repetitive since I’ve probably already said thanks three times in the letter. Nothing ever feels appropriate. I caved and signed an email “Best” the other day and I still feel weird about it.

8. Carpal Tunnel

Now that I’m out of school and most of my work is done on a computer, I don’t spend a whole lot of time hand-writing things. So, once or twice a year when I have to write a big batch of thank you notes, my hand goes into shock. I’m not entirely clear on what carpal tunnel is, besides that Tim Meadows had it in Mean Girls, but I live in fear of developing it while writing thank you notes.

9. When I Don’t Receive Thank You Notes

I don’t write thank you notes for the purpose of receiving thank you notes. I write thank you notes because it’s how I was brought up and because I am genuinely thankful. However, when I send someone a gift or do them a major favor and don’t receive so much as a text of gratitude… I get annoyed. I think it’s important to express appreciation and when I go out of my way for someone and they don’t even acknowledge it, it makes me less inclined to do things for them in the future. This makes me nervous because what if they actually sent a thank you note and it got lost in the mail and now I’ve sworn them off for nothing?

10. Should I Thank You for Your Thank You?

I received a super sweet thank you card from a long-distance friend last week. It meant a lot to me that she took the time to write such a thoughtful note and I wanted to let her know. However, how do you thank someone for a thank you note? And are they then supposed to thank you for thanking them for the thank you note? When does it end? Is this a Portlandia sketch? I feel like this is a Portlandia sketch.

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