I was recently sent a card crediting me for being a great human. Between you and me, I appreciated getting a card. The card was from my mother in law. Lately she has not been doing too well and my wife and I have been taking care of her. So, as a thankful gesture my mother in law sent me a card to say thanks and extend additional wishes of happiness.
A day after I got the card my wife got a phone call from her mother and the conversation went something like this:
Mother in Law: Did he get the card?
MIL: Did he like it?
Wife: Yes, he did.
MIL: Well, why didn't he say anything?
Wife: Well, he probably thought that since he'd see you in two days he'd thank you then.
MIL: Well, it seems kind of inconsiderate that he didn't say anything about the card.
MIL: Don't you think people should say thank you when they receive a card?
Wife: Uh-huh. (sarcastic)
First, I'd like to argue the validity of thanking people for a card. If I sent a birthday card to one of my relatives who lives a great distance away from me, I'd like to hear a thank you back or at least a recognition that the card was received. Also, if I was sent a card from a relative who lives a great distance away I would see it as proper form to send a small note of thanks to recognize that the card/LARGE CASH DONATION was received. However, birthdays and Christmases aside, where distance is not an issue what is the protocol for card sending/receiving and why is it the way it is? At what point do the thank you's logically end if the assumption is that every time a card is sent, a thank you (or thank you card) must be sent in return?
In the specific case I mentioned above I went from hero to zero simply by receiving someone's kind words who was moved by something nice I had done. Even though the act of giving is not supposed to be filled with expectation, it is. My mother in law is probably at this moment harboring some resentment for me because I did not adequately thank her for thanking me. I'm not even suggesting that I'm above it, in fact I'd probably feel the same. The question I am asking is, is this right? Are we, through our inability to thank without expectation needlessly creating a never ending cycle of thank you's and thank you cards?
For the record, I'm a little resentful of the whole process where I am concerned. The best possible result for my mother in law would have been this outcome:
Her: Thank you for being so awesome
Me: Hey, I got your card saying that I was awesome and I appreciated it.
Her: Well, you're quite welcome.
What the fuck? In this scenario I would end up congratulating my mother in law for sending a card thanking me whereupon I thank her for thanking me and she tells me that I am welcome? That is hardly fair. In this instance it's really just a backhanded way for her to get me to congratulate her isn't it? The whole purpose of the card was to recognize my awesomeness. Anything I do with the card short of crumpling it up in front of my mother in law and wiping my ass with it should be up to my choosing right? wrong.
So now I am left with a predictable and common problem. One where next time I see my mother in law I have to beat her to the punch and say: "I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner but I really appreciated that card you sent me."