Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Did you just run screaming to the other room as soon as you saw this?
It's the Annual Christmas Letter. Also not so fondly called, The ALCL (Annual Lying Christmas Letter), The ATSL (Annual Truth Stretching Letter), The ABCL (Annual Bragging Christmas Letter.)
People love to write these. People say they hate to get these, but secretly, like a train wreck, we can't help but look. Some of us make an evening out of it; gathering up friends, lighting a fire, pouring the Pinot Grigio, and start ripping open the fat envelopes.
We write these, we receive them, but no one talks about them. You know, truth talks about them. Like, how they are *gulp* ridiculed. Yup. Made fun of. Passed around and taken to coffee klatches as a source of mirth and entertainment.
Is there no one to tell the writers of these letters that the chance exists, if they're not aware of it, of becoming the subject of tonight's mom's wine night out?
I will do it.
I'm at the halfway point in my life where I have to start knocking things off my bucket list. Holiday Letter Discussion is number 5 on that list.
Let's begin with assuming that everyone's got a good heart. I know I know, but let's just assume. You don't want to be boastful, right? You don't want to make everyone feel like they're the most underachieving family on the planet, do you? You want us, the ones on the other end, to know you wish us well and are thinking of us this holiday season. If we start at that point, then the rest will be a walk in the park.
How To Send Holiday Letters Out That Won't Make People Follow Up With a Request To Be Removed From Your Mailing List:
oAsk yourself, who are you writing this letter for? Really ask it.
oDo not write longer than one page. No buts. One page. End of it.
oNo $8.00 words, no matter how recently you learned egregious. Thank you.
oIf you've had the best year ev-er, if your husband is making money hand over fist, if your golden child finished up his third PhD in 18 months, we'd rather not hear about it. Plain old happy news, like a new baby, new job, your first home, a first lost tooth on your kindergartner, your teen making the football team, your first writing gig; all good stuff we'd love to share your happiness over. But if you've had a bang up year and your home has increased in value over $100,000 again! Some things are best kept within the family.
oIt's easier for some of us to share happiness than others. For me, happiness and good things often feel foreign and like I stepped into that weird scene with the Gwyneth in Sliding Doors: Ooops! Wrong life! So, your effusiveness (that's only a 4 dollar word, not 8...) may sit with me as bragging. Bragging. Not catching up, but bragging. Bragging.
oThis suggestion is serious: be sensitive to your audience. Really. If you know of someone who has been trying to find work for most of the year, please don't send out a letter telling them how many times you've been promoted in your own job, or how may headhunters are after your awesomeness. Not nice. Same for a couple struggling with infertility; don't type up sentence after sentence on how everyone in your family is a fertile myrtle and gets pregnant just from the wink of an eye...Must be the water! LOL! This will only be LOL to you.
oWe know you want to make it fun, but Changing fonts and Shifting color changes leave me feeling like I've got an undiagnosed brain tumor. It does. And then I'll be too worried about getting an appointment with the neurologist before the New Year to pay any attention about your trip to Graceland.
oSelf deprecation is a great tool. Somehow, I'll listen about little third grade Tommy's history making ACT scores if you tell me how both you and your husband swear he's not from your litter and was dropped off by aliens.
oCount your adjectives: if you've used wonderful or great more than 3 times in one page, time to stop.
oBottom line: you can't disguise bragging. We know.
I promise you that if you follow these suggestions, your Holiday Letter won't be turned into party fodder. Stick to these points, and no one will guess that you're telling us just what a GD good year you had. Even if you sign it, Here's to 2012! Though we can't imagine a better year than 2011 was!