Are Thank-You Notes Anti-Feminist?

anti feminist thank you notes

About a year after my wedding, while packing for a move, I came across a box filled with nearly 100 completed thank-you notes—stamps, custom return addresses, all of it—that we apparently had never sent out. I screamed for my husband, Peter, and made him promise to never tell his mother. Peter is not his real name as I must remain undercover. So, if my mother-in-law asks, the party line is that we sent them all out—something is just wrong with all her friends’ mail. It's not our fault. 

But when I say, “our fault,” I really mean “my fault,” because no one will care that Peter and I didn’t send out thank-you notes. They care that I didn’t send them, because in hetero partnerships, thank-you notes are the woman’s responsibility. They are one of the many barometers we use to measure a woman’s humility, grace and devotion to tradition, which I break down below:

Humility: Is wife humble enough to articulate through effusive thanks that she is not worthy of the gifts?

Grace: Does wife demonstrate elegance in the face of administrative paperwork? (e.g. Does she have the proper stationary ready to go? Has she acquired the postage? Did she dutifully note who got her what in a shared spreadsheet that Peter never, not once, looked at?)

Devotion to Tradition: Is wife able to execute long-held custom on her own with little to no help from partner, as is tradition, and even though she has a sh*t-ton of work to catch up on?

Fast forward five years. We're deep in a global pandemic (fun!), I’ve carried my daughter for nine months, pushed her out of my body and am now filled with raging hormones. Our community showed up with loving support and plenty of gifts (for which I am truly thankful, do not get me wrong). And somehow, the most important thing on my to-do list (which includes keeping a newborn alive) is thank-you notes. See, these thank-you notes had to get done come hell or high water—cousin Sally’s mailman might have gone mysteriously AWOL five years ago, but if it happened again, the jig would be up.  

Yes, Peter could write them, but let’s be real: Peter doesn’t give a sh*t about thank-you notes. Probably because, unlike for me, they are not a reflection on his value to society. So, if Peter did the thank-you notes it would be because I had to ask him to do them and they would most likely be terrible, which funny enough, would reflect to everyone receiving them how terrible I am.

Sure, I could also just go the Peter route and write the notes with little thought, poor handwriting and ample spelling errors—or “worse,” send a text!—and let the judgment wash off me like Teflon. But having to make that choice doesn’t seem fair—or even possible. I was on the hormonal rollercoaster of a lifetime and sleep-deprived beyond my wildest dreams. My brain was hardly able to make simple decisions let alone challenge the patriarchy. So, with baby on breast and snuggled in my Depends, I toiled over those thank-you notes and made sure they arrived safely to their homes.

Maybe next kid (God willing) or next marriage (I kid, Peter, but I would love the chance to I wear my wedding dress again), I’ll have the confidence to shoot a thoughtful text instead of doing the whole paper project thing, but right now, I’m practicing my cursive while silently stewing about the ridiculous expectations on women in our society. (Dear Society, Thank you! Yours in angst xoxo)

So next time you receive a thank-you note, whether it’s perfectly penned on thick cardstock or scrawled in chicken scratch on a folded up Post-It note, try to remember that behind all that gratitude is probably a woman on the verge of a breakdown and very likely in an adult diaper. 

Low-Rise Jeans Are Back, and With Them, My Y2K Emotional Baggage