Oh please, the year is about to end and definitely time to bitch about my holiday season pet peeve. Another year has passed, and this will be my fourth consecutive year ranting on this topic but sadly, I continue to receive these much hated year-end letters that summarize everything blasted detail the family / couple/person has done since January. Each year these letters get more sophisticated, laid out with desktop publishing software or power point attachments. Are you trying to sell me something or get a promotion? Sorry honey, but if you didn’t bother to write me a personal line the entire year, please don’t burden me with your family achievements to make up for your absence in my life, especially this year.
These despicable year-end letters / emails are those anonymous newsletters you get once a year from people you haven’t heard a peep from the last 12 months. They are under the misguided notion that a generic news bulletin containing the executive summary of the family’s travels, parties, birthdays, purchases, and accomplishments for the past year is going to make up for the loss of personal communication. These letters contain far too many uninteresting details that I care to know about. The mere fact that the letter is not addressed to me personally makes it seem like I’m reading a report or travelogue. They don’t even bother to ask how your day/week/year was or whether things are all right on your side. These letters, in my view, can never make up for lost time nor do they have the inherent ability to bridge the communication abyss created over the other 364 days of no communication. I am a staunch believer that friends don’t have to wait until Christmas to send out the obligatory litany-of-accomplishments-bulletin. Nothing is obligatory (unless the Finance Ministry says so).
Frankly, there is so much going on at the same time during Christmas that nobody really has the time (or the inclination) to read such letters. You can smell them 100km away and spot it by the very first line already or the subject line of the email. I abhor the “Dear friends and family” with a passion, or even worse the “Hi Everyone” opening line. It’s demeaning and in my opinion, degrades what might have been a carefully nurtured friendship once upon a time to an anonymous mass of faceless people.
In all honesty, it is impossible to come up with the perfect neutral “letter” as people like to call such look-what-I-did-this-year litanies. Not all your acquaintances, friends and relatives are interested in the same thing. You ordinarily wouldn’t share with your colleagues what you would with your family, so why do so during the most important holiday of the year? Quite frankly, these awful letters are a complete betrayal of any intimacy that you have shared in friendship or in blood (i.e. family). It’s almost as bad as my other pet peeve – being invited as an afterthought. Whenever I get such emails I dump it to the bottom of my “read-when-you-have-nothing-else-to-do-with-your-free-time (ha!)” pile, i.e. absolutely not a priority.
Yes, I will admit, I get excited about a personal email, even if it is a one-liner, but I know that the person actually thought of me, took a minute to write me, and wants to touch base, and is genuinely interested. That in itself if the gift of time and that’s really all I want. True friendships stand the test of time, space, distance, jobs, stress, and motherhood. There is certainly no need to ruin all this with such a horribly impersonal generic letter. Nowadays of course there is also the added component of doing a facebook “shout-out” and not even bothering to write personal emails anymore, just post it on fb or change the status on your IM. Don’t even get me started on that one. Have you been tweeted or tumblered for Christmas already?
No, I am not ashamed to bitch about this so bluntly because the older I get the more I dislike such letters. They have no impact on my life, especially now where I am at a stage in my life when every minute counts, every moment is a celebration of life, and the motto carpe diem leaves no room for insignificant anonymity. Aging? Most definitely, but more importantly, it’s about being involved in each other’s lives.
Back in the (19)70s and 80s (for your youngsters out there, yes, this was the horrible pre-historic era before e-mails, blogs, and facebook) such letters came in type-written and photocopied form!!! My mother would go ballistic and use them to fire up the stove or the barbecue pit. I thought then it was always a bit of an over-kill on her part but now I know why. The presentation may have changed and evolved into fancy electronic lay-outs, some even with background music or embedded videos, but they still fail to impress me, especially if they come as an attachment – the ultimate insult.
Christmas is the worst excuse to get in touch with friends and loved ones you have neglected all year round! Show you care, and drop a line when it really matters the other days of the year.