Those of us born in the mid-20th century have been around long enough to see a decline in the courtesies we were taught. I can’t help but wonder what the maven of manners, Emily Post, would think about the internet and how it has contributed to the impersonality of gift giving or the attitude with which gifts are received.
Back in the day, couples who married or gave birth gladly accepted whatever they were given. Gift givers purchased what they could afford or gave something personal and handmade. In some communities, churches or friends might throw a ‘pounding’ and bring essential items like flour or sugar to stock the newlyweds’ pantry. In other words, people didn’t go into debt to impress. It was truly about helping.
Macy’s created the wedding registry in 1924 but it really seemed to take off in the booming postwar 1950s. Registries provided a way for a new generation of American brides to acquire their must-have crystal, silver and china.
Last but not least in the olden days, the investment of time and money by the gift giver was acknowledged by a hand-written, personal thank you note from the giftee.
We all know the social mores are not what they used to be. Many of today’s women don’t cook unless they have to, and they’ve traded fine china for paper plates opting for easy cleanup and more time with guests. Today’s average couple marries later and may already have their pots and pans, so the registry is often more about wants than needs. They’re also as likely to contain a request for a weed eater or chain saw than a gravy boat and matching salt and pepper shakers. Compared to my day, today’s brides and new moms are very specific about what they want so that hand-crocheted infant’s blanket given off registry might not generate the same level of appreciation as something from the Disney-themed nursery fare.
Shopping today is more than likely done online and thank you notes, if sent at all, will probably be pre-printed and impersonal. I recently ordered from a Houston baby apparel store called Buy Buy Baby. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting the store’s name but the nicest thing I can say is that the it fits right in with the materialism of the times!
In full disclosure, I too am guilty of contributing to the impersonality of gift giving. I have succumbed to online shopping, especially when a registry isn’t located in the Brazos Valley, and despite the fact I like, make that love, seeing and touching what I’m purchasing. As for acknowledging what has been received, email and text are certainly better than no acknowledgment at all but in this dinosaur’s mind, there is still no substitute for the old-fashion personal, from-the-heart, hand-written thank you note.
Emily Post published Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home in 1922 and readers might think her advice is irrelevant 87 years later in today’s world, but I think the following quote from Ms. Post gets to the very heart of giving, receiving and manners:
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist, who returned to her passion for writing after retirement from the workforce and motherhood, although one is never fully retired from motherhood. She writes feature news article on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.