Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Birthday cards

English: A card handwritten with a black pen w...
English: A card handwritten with a black pen wishing the receiver a happy birthday lying on a table. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Why do we send birthday cards?

Well, let's be honest -- most of us don't. For most of us, a "Happy Birthday" on Facebook does the job.

Which explains,  in a way I am sincerely satisfied with, why I got over 60 "Happy Birthdays" on my wall, many from people I haven't heard from since my last birthday... but no cards in my mailbox.

You probably find this completely unremarkable.  This is probably exactly what happened to you on your last birthday.

Well, I don't necessarily check Facebook every single day, and therefore I don't do "Happy Birthdays" -- because how much would it suck if you were the only person I didn't wish well to this week?  Especially if we're close, while I barely talk to the others I said it to?  Everyone or no one is my policy, and I just can't pull off everyone.

(Exceptions would of course be made for members of my immediate family... usually.  Even then I'm more likely to call or text.)

So why do I send birthday cards?

Because I know how valuable it is to know someone is thinking of you.  It's something that has baffled Chris on more than one occasion -- how is it that a) I am an introvert, and thus need time away from people to recharge, but b) extended isolation has severely negative effects on my general well-being.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself, 
(I am large, I contain multitudes.) 
I need -- on a physical level, I am not even exaggerating here -- to know that people care.  And there's this rule that gets thrown around:
Do to others whatever you would have done to you.
So, needing to know someone cares, I would send cards. Not to many people -- a select few whom I would otherwise join for dinner or treat to a drink, should we not be so far from each other geographically. Folks who would do the same for me. And their partners (and I usually sign Chris's name, though that does vary).

And this year, my mailbox was empty.

Sending a card is a grander gesture than it looks like.  You spend time reading tens of cards, looking for just the right one.  You spend way too much on it. You write out what you hope is a sufficiently heartfelt message (but not too heartfelt -- that would be weird). You toss on a stamp (maybe even making sure you have really cool stamps), and you drop it in the mailbox.  And then you feel anxious and guilty, because what if it doesn't make it on time? And you feel stupid, because they're just gonna throw it out anyway.

So I'm wondering if I should bother, going forward.

But that seems petty.  I'm not doing it as a sort of barter -- I send you one now, you send me one later.

Rather, it seems there are two possibilities, and either or both might be at play here, depending on the person:

A) This isn't your emotional currency. It genuinely doesn't mean much to you. You don't do it, because it doesn't mean anything, and you're just as happy not having it done for you, because it doesn't mean anything. In which case, I really shouldn't bother, for your sake as much as mine.

B) You legitimately don't care about me, or at least not as much as I care about you. That happens.  People grow apart. It's called life.  It stings, and we move on. But in this case, I really shouldn't bother, mostly for my own sake.

So I think I'm done with birthday cards, at least for the foreseeable future.

Besides, I have letters to write. They're even more behind the times, but I know the people who get them appreciate them.

They say so in their letters back.

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  1. I know I sent it late, but I *did* send a card. Did it not arrive?

  2. Would you believe your card arrived the same day this post went live? (I wrote it a day or two in advance). Thank you for it, by the way!