Friday, October 21, 2011

Express Yourself


I received a thankyou card yesterday in the mail. Lovely card. From a friend who had stayed with us for a few days and had done the proper old fashioned polite thing of sending a thankyou card afterwards.
My dilemma, besides admiring her lovely old-fashioned handwriting and beating myself up for my daggy went-to-school in the 80’s script, was what to do about the card. In today’s world of excess communication, how was I to thank the sender for the thankyou card, or indeed, was I to at all? Do I text and say ‘what a lovely card!’ Do I mention the card next time we speak on the phone (which is not often because we text…) Do I email? Do I thank her on Facebook? Do I post on my Twitter? Should I ‘Google Plus’ my ‘circle’ and ask for advice? How long do I keep this card for? Do I display it? Do I cut the front off and decoupage with it or something? Isn’t that what people did in the olden days????????
No. I simply asked our teenager. A young brain, unaffected by the cynicism and substance abuse of adulthood.
Are you ready for her take on thankyou cards?
“Oh. That’s nice.”
Uhuh. Nice. It is. Thankyou cards ARE nice. Pretty much everyone who has stayed here recently has sent a thankyou card (or even a present!!!) My MOTHER sends cards to everybody. And, as BHG (the teenager) says, “that’s nice.”
I, therefore, suck. And I, from now on, shall be consistent in my sending of thankyou cards.
HOWEVER, this scenario does lead me to contemplate modern communication and how one expresses oneself. Oh, that and watching Downtown Abbey. Where the gentry have time in the afternoon to ‘return correspondence’. Between ‘tea’ and having one’s hair tonged for dinner. Lady Blossy shall investigate having her own wax seal. Obviously. And having a maid or two. And a driver.
These days, we’re all about people learning to ‘express’ themselves. I wonder whether modern technology has made communication and therefore, expression, better or worse. It has certainly made it easier in that I can make a free video call to the USA to say something that would’ve taken me months to say via sea mail a century ago. And yet, whilst Skyping, I don’t really have to think in advance about what I’ll say. I certainly don’t need to paragraph. Using my computer this Christmas I could mail merge my contacts list with a downloaded greeting and attach a couple of family pics and have it in people’s Inbox without ever lifting a pen. In fact I don’t forget birthdays anymore because an App on my iPhone syncs with my contacts and my Facebook to ensure that at noon each day I’m given a pleasant reminder to send an electronic birthday wish somewhere in the world. Today I started using iCloud on my iPad. I don’t know why but it helps me communicate… or something.
But all of that is different to the art of ‘correspondence’ is it not? Do I still KNOW how to write a proper letter? By… (shudder) HAND?
I once had penpals.
Susanna from Svveeeeden for example. I was part of some fancy registry that linked up children from all over the world and let them correspond via handwritten letters. Susanna and I were very close… by the time we got around to writing a letter (“Hello, I am going on holidays to Keepit Dam soon and I am verrrry excited. Even more excited than when we went to Dubbo last year. How are you? Is it cold in Sweden? Do you have to eat meatballs to stay warm? Did you know Smorgasbord is a Swedish word that means you can eat as much as you want?”) , conning an international stamp out of our parents (woah… a DOLLAR!), actually posting the letter and letting a ship take it to the other side of the world…. Well. Susanna and I got about two letters a year each. And yes. She did eat meatballs. The tyranny of distance and handwriting let us down in the end, Susanna from Svveeeeden and I. Had we been able to Facebook, or Skype, or email, perhaps we wouldn’t have given up. Maybe. At least I wouldn’t forget her birthday.
My mother doesn’t have email. There. I said it. I mean… geez, even my bushie dad has a Telstra ‘dingle dongle’ for the ‘netterweb’ and a mobile phone.
I have a family member who I have to call, by phone, on a HOME number. Attended by an answering machine with one single button. She doesn’t text, email, Facebook, Skype , Twitter, read blogs or Google. She writes. My mother writes hundreds of letters a year, in two languages. Which I think is fabulous, except that it inconveniences Modern Me terribly. I have to print photos off at K-Mart for her instead of attaching them, or MMS-ing them. Recently she and I had an exchange (by phone…) where she was delighted to inform me that a cousin of mine had given birth the night before. “Yes, I know”, I said. Ooops.
“You KNOW. How do YOU KNOW?”
“Ummm, the pictures were on Facebook by breakkie mum.”
“Yes, of course they were. I’ll get a picture in the mail. Eventually. Lovely looking baby I imagine. Excellent gene pool.”

My teenager will never have such luxury.
Her parents are ‘friends’ on every form of social media she uses. We watch her every move online (kind of) like stalkers. We could GPS her whereabouts on the mobile phone we provided her… if we wanted to. Which means, in effect, that we have made her SO accessible in communicating with us that she does so ALL the time. We had to cut off her unlimited texting plan on the mobile because she drove us all up the wall communicating. Like, I don’t care whether you’re on your way to Maths kid! Just bloody well go there. We have limits on the frequency of status updates on Facebook and have banned ‘Facebook marriages’ to best friends. We also screen all her digital photographs but have stopped short of hacking her email account. That's the modern akin to making your teenager leave their bedroom door open apparently. God knows how people with six children do this. No wonder teenagers don’t DO anything anymore. When BHG went for a bike ride yesterday afternoon, the first thing I asked was, “Do you have your phone?” Gone are the days of “Be home by dark, don’t talk to strangers, don’t have sex. Use your MANNERS!!!!”
And that is what this all comes down to. Manners.
The actual art of saying, ‘thankyou’. We are all trained in the ways of the time that our culture accepts as appropriate. Be it at Mrs Jones’ place when I was eleven and on my bike and she gave me an orange, or be it when I’m thirty-nine and a good turn is received. However you choose to do it, please express yourself. With gratitude. Because that’s nice.
Say it with me…
“Thank you”.
Express Yourself, Madonna, 1989.

1 comment:

  1. You can't really think of tweeting them with an account with 2 Tweets from April 2009 Really???

    Fun read as always