DEAR MISS MANNERS: Let me begin with the worst of it (Miss Manners would be advised to brace herself). I am 20 and have not written thank-you notes for holidays and birthdays for about two years now.
I’d like to make amends with my family members who sent me nice gifts that I didn’t thank them properly for, but I’m not exactly sure what the right course of action is at this point. Do I just send out thank-yous for the gifts I received this year and try not to draw explicit attention to how remiss I have been in my correspondence? Can I apologize for not sending thank-you notes in the past?
I’d like to acknowledge what they sent me before, but I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the things I’ve received (which is horrible), and I don’t want to make it sound like I’m ungrateful by omitting them.
I really just want to apologize, express my gratitude and move on, but I’m struggling to figure out how to do that.
GENTLE READER: You are not the worst. The worst are ingrates who, far from being repentant, try to cast blame on their benefactors for being so selfish as to expect any response to their generosity. In fact, your relatives have been especially generous in continuing to send you presents in the absence of responses.
Still, your record is pretty bad, and Miss Manners is gratified that you are ready to make amends. You are, she presumes, prepared to grovel.
Your letters should begin with enthusiastic thanks for the latest presents, and then go into high praise for their past kindness. For the past presents that you can recall, write specifically about how you have been enjoying them all this time.
Then comes the self-flagellation. The important part is to refrain from offering any excuses. Claiming to have been busy, even with examples of the demands upon you, only annoys people. It prompts them to reflect that they, too, were busy, but made time to send you presents.
Rather, it should be all about how ashamed you are not to have acknowledged their warmth and consideration, which means so much to you.