Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Delights of Decorum

Hello my darlings! I hope that you had a wonderful New Year, and enjoyed all of the New Year’s festivities. This year, I resolved to write once a week in my blog, and I toasted to you, my readers. I appreciate you so much, and I love the feedback that I have been receiving. Now that the holidays are over, there are a slew topics that we could discuss. One of the most important being post-holiday decorum, so, let’s dedicate this post to decorum, without it, this blog would not exist.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to begin with the all mighty thank you note. The thank you note is the all mighty afterthought. It is one of the most classic, kind, and genuine ways that one can express their gratitude for the actions of others. As a general rule of thumb, you have approximately one to two weeks to send out thank you notes after the gift or gesture. By the way, I am being very generous, and lenient with that rule. Growing up, I was given three days to write and mail my thank you, and it taught me a valuable lesson about punctuality and the importance of considering other people before my own immediate desires.  When writing thank you notes, it’s always best to be prompt. Procrastination often leads to forgetting, or the truly unfortunate lapse of time so impolite that you now have to write a thank you note with a prioritized apologetic tone, and a secondary thankful tone. Yes, there is such a thing as "too late" and then you're left embarrassed, and appalled at your own brutishness. Trust me, dear readers, don't be "that guy." Frankly, who wants to write an apologetic note with a thankful tone? Not me, and hopefully not you!

If you were invited to a New Year’s party, I am sure that your behavior was impeccable. I’d like to give you a friendly reminder to collect addresses, stamps, and stationery, and to send your host a thank you note. I am a hesitantly avid believer that the glorious, romantic days of posted mail are drawing to a close. If you lean towards a more modern air, like many modern persons do, at the very least, send them an email. Your job does not end with the host gift! Remember, these are your family and friends. It would be nice to be invited back, wouldn’t it?

As we discussed last week, when you are being given a gift as a host, or hostess, you are not required to give a gift in return.  While the party is over your job as a host or hostess is not!  A thank you note, or at very least an email, is the best way to show your appreciation for your guests. Unless you are particularly close to the gift giver, do not stray from the mail path. If you are close, then a text message or a phone call (preferably a phone call) is appreciated. Keep your note short, sincere, and to the point. It is best to mention the gift in the letter, and make your gratitude known. Posted mail is always best, and email is secondary. Ask yourself, would you rather be a first-rate, or second-rate host? Also, isn’t it lovely to receive posted mail?

Last week I was asked what the protocol should be when someone gave you a gift, and you did not have a gift to give in return. This tricky situation is certainly an etiquette alert!

Have no fear, I have several tips to help you fight the war on bad-taste. Here are my top three suggestions: keep stationery handy at home and in the car, have home made gifts prepared and waiting in large quantities, and when all else fails, stall! Allow me to elaborate; I always keep personalized stationery in my car, with a nice ink pen, to write quick, thoughtful notes. Around the holidays, I like to have hand-made gifts packaged and ready to go in the car, this year I made organic sugar scrub bars, which were male and female friendly, and certainly came in handy! Also, I’ve found it helpful to have a stash of gifts at home.  But, when all else fails I post-pone. I use phrases such as “I’m so sorry, I feel terrible, but I left your gift at home!” no one can blame you for your spacey behavior when you’ve given them a faultlessly sincere apology. When I have a trick up my sleeve, I say “Give me one moment, and let me run to my car!”

The lovely thing about having a gift closet, and categorizing said closet, is that it allows you to prepare for birthdays, holidays, graduations etc. all year long. A gift closet is a theory, it can be anything from an actual closet to an under the bed storage container. See, mon bijoux, you can be the proud owner of a gift closet!

One of my personal mantras about gifts is that I prefer not to give something that I would not like to receive.  I am a confirmed thrift-store junkie, and I’m constantly scouring for trinkets and afterthoughts, these stores are filled with potential memories to be made. I love giving and receiving pre-loved treasures. Many of my thrifty finds end up in my gift closet, patiently waiting to be loved in their new home. Pack your GC with home made gifts, like sugar scrubs, shaving balms for your gentlemen friends, soaps, hand made hair flowers, a famous recipe of yours printed on gorgeous paper, or, a homemade gift that I received this year (and intend to give) Russian Friendship Tea. All of these gifts say, “I’ve been thinking of you.” and are sure to make the recipient feel appreciated.

On the rare occasion where you have completely forgotten someone special, or of significant importance, use the stall method.  It would be impolite to flatly refuse to open their gift, so instead, say “I would love to go to dinner, and exchange gifts at the same time, when would be a good day for you next week?” Make it about them, indicate that you love and appreciate their gift, but they are so important that you want to dedicate a designated time for them. While in truth, you are unprepared and buying time, they probably won’t know the difference. Give yourself a week, so you truly have time to find/make the perfect gift. When you finally meet, include a wonderful, glowing note that apologizes for the delay.

My darlings, I hope this has been helpful. I am off to write my holiday-related thank you notes. I hope that you will do the same. Until next week, behave yourselves!


  1. I love all of the tips in this blog and hope posted mail never goes out of fashion. I do prefer notes and it's better then a random note on Facebook.

  2. Kimmy, thank you so much, I'm so happy to hear that you're enjoying the blog!
    Unfortunately, a vast majority of people believe that posted mail is archaic, and going the way of the dinosaur. It warms the cockles of my heart to hear that you still believe in romantic art, and fashion of letter writing.
    If you're in the market for some new stationery, look at http://www.cambriacove.com they're having their semi annual sale, and they have some beautiful sets!