Best Behavior: An Eloquent Reply


Our son graduated from high school this past spring.He received gifts and checks from our friends, who’ve known him since birth. I’ve demanded that he send out handwritten thank-you notes. (Texts and emails will not do.) I even signed him up for an online note-writing course, and I believe he took it. As of now, not one note has gone out.He says he’s still working on them. I’ve emailed friends, telling them that their notes will be on the way. I’ve explained that he’s been busy and that he just writes slowly.But he’s taking a gap year, and people know that. This is an embarrassment for his father and me. How do we move him along? —Anonymous, Green Hills

When people give gifts, they usually don’t expect anything in return. A note, however, is helpful. That way, they at least know the packages and envelopes arrived.

The young man has graduated from high school, so he’s probably not a child anymore. His notes don’t have to be written in cursive; printing will do just fine. But it’s up to him to attack the stack of notes himself. If he doesn’t, he may lose some friends. You probably won’t. It’s not your job to explain or apologize.

Your son may not have aced the online note-writing class. You can remind him that he doesn’t need to wax poetic. He might even send the same note to everyone. All he needs to do is mention the gift and say thank you.Who’ll be cross-referencing?

When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents received a note from a fellow who’d just graduated. They’d sent him a gift and he sent a note back – a fold-over informal with “Thank You” printed on the front. Inside, he’d written “for the nice gift.” It was only four words, but it got the job done.

Selective Service

For the past few years, I’ve thrown a holiday party between Christmas and New Year’s. This time around, I’ve moved it up a week to this coming weekend. I’m off on a trip to Europe the day after Christmas, but I’ve cut back, in a major way, on my guest list too.I just got fed up with people saying they were coming and not showing up, or showing up without having said they were coming. Sometimes they even brought a guest along. I’ve invited a considerably smaller group this year. But this time, I’ve actually received calls and emails from people wanting to know when my party is. I’ve hired a caterer. What if people show up uninvited? —Anonymous, Green Hills

Not every phone call or email message deserves an answer. But you may want to return them, just to forestall terror. Let’s hope you don’t find yourself cowed into re-inviting the no-shows, so they can leave you in the lurch again. A better idea is to tell the truth. You can say, “I’ve cut back on my list this year.” Leave it at that. You don’t have to say, “You slackers didn’t make the cut.”

Perhaps your open house has been a bit too open in the past. This year, hire security.

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