29 3 mins 9 yrs

We have relatives in America. My wife’s cousin married an American serviceman, and moved to the ‘Home of the Brave’ some short while before we ourselves married. The American branch has thrived, and are now at the grandchildren stage, much as we are, but maybe a little more advanced.

My wife’s cousin is now, after such a long time, indistinguishable from a native-born resident, complete with accent, style of speech and manners, and all this is good, because she has embraced the American dream; and life has been mainly good to her and her family. But the one American trend, adopted by my family cousin, which gets trotted out, every year for as long as I remember, is the dreaded ’round-robin’ letter. Late December into early January, we here as well as wider outposts of our far-flung family get a ‘Missile’ missive telling, or rather almost gloating; about how good everything is, and has been over the last year.

We are supposed to be enchanted about XXXX, who is in some baseball team (winning, naturally), or YYYYY, who is now involved in ‘Interpretive Dancing’, whatever that is; and to rejoice in her fantastic devotion to this ‘Art’, despite the fact that last year she was utterly devoted to some other load of codswallop! Other paragraphs detail how successful family members have been, or are becoming, and how good life is, and on, and on, and indeed on!

I am daft about my grandchildren, and happily supply links to all the extended family members to the web-albums, all well populated with pix of the three ‘wunderkinder’, but that is as far as I go. My kids are all grown, fled the nest, and are making their way in the world. If they wish to tell something of their achievements., fair enough, but let’s not make a meal out of it.

How can I tell my cousin that ‘enough is indeed enough’?

Answers to anyone but me!

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29 thoughts on “Not the ‘look how well we’re doing’ letter time again!

  1. My wife has a long time English friend who does the same thing.
    Every Christmas
    “Young Willie found a permanent cure for flatulence. Quite by accident of course. He was in the process of putting the finishing touches to that nuclear reactor he built from kit form
    (gets knighted next month – we’re all going to be at the Palace of course..) Sooooo proud of him…..
    and Boom!! over a cup of decaff the solution just popped into his head. He’s so thrilled. All those reinforced underpants of his are going straight to the charity shop!
    Blah Blah Blah.
    Deadly and Dull.
    I HATE young Willie.

    You could try the
    “Do you realise how many trees were cut down so that you could send this letter?”
    or,
    “My eyesight is failing. I have to be very selective about what I read. Unfortunately your letter failed to make the list.”

  2. I have an American ex-pat acquaintance who does something similar. Towards the end of each year he posts on his family website an exhaustive account of the doings of each member of his family and pets over the past year, complete with photos, copies of diplomas gained, etc. Once there were even audio clips of the children singing and the dog barking.
    I presume he presumes this is read by his extended family all over the US. Maybe it is.

    At any rate, I propose that you advise your distant relative of this new and wonderful way of keeping people updated. It is purely passive, can be read at any time and consulted later and allows multi-media files, graphics and sound for the full effect.

    They’ll know it makes sense.

  3. Sometimes relations send these types of letters, it is pretty harmless and usually aggravating only if one wants to be aggravated.

  4. ” usually aggravating only if one wants to be aggravated.”

    No, they just tend to be boring and relatively uninteresting
    -unless like young Willie you also have a flatulence problem. In which case you may find yourself more interested in young Willie’s discovery.

  5. Agit8ed- Apparently they are not mandatory, you can not be imprionsed for reading them and on the scale of life’s problems I would suspect that receipt of such correspondence is not really that much of a burden.

  6. Try and feel the humour Mahons.
    It’s what we English refer to as being light hearted…

  7. Mahons.
    You have a great gift for writing, but there is a real difference between British and American humours.
    As you have just illustrated.

  8. Of course, to read or hear of any relatives, even modest success, is to an American, a good thing, they are usually quite genuine in their pleasure at hearing good news.

    To the average Brit such a missive is an aggravation tinged with a little ‘green’. You can just imagine the mental flow on reading of something that is important to the sender, – ‘Just who do they think they are,’ – and all tinged with that touch of envy that gives such a delightful flavour at the thought that others may be doing a ‘bit better’ than oneslf.

    It seems a nice and harmless way to keep in touch, – and I much prefer to read good news of family and friends, rather than the rather sad and glum missives that is the usual Brit fare.

    As that father told his offspring in a viral Twitter a few months ago – ‘Your tales of woe and misery have bought your Mother to the verge of a breakdown, try getting in touch again when you have some good news!’…

  9. No not a good post agit. Stereotypical bashing of his own countrymen, and coming from someone who is relentlessly negative about how life is nowadays it’s a bit rich.

  10. It IS a good post though.
    “To the average Brit such a missive is an aggravation tinged with a little ‘green’.”
    That I think is very true/
    ” Just who do they think they are,”
    That definitely is!
    I think Ernest points out cultural differences quite well/
    I would say that generally speaking the US has a “can do” culture
    The UK a “can’t do” one.
    That’s my experience anyway.
    I also think we Brits are more cynical and quick to find fault and slow to praise.
    If you compliment someone’s work it is regarded with suspicion.
    So I would say Ernest is right.

  11. Colm,

    “Stereotypical bashing of his own countrymen”

    It may have seemed that way to you, but in fact it is no more than an honest appraisal of the facts.

    They say that travel broadens the mind – and it does, – and I have done an awful lot of it ove the years, so to be realistic and to have an honest opinion – and an opinion that is shared quite widely, hardly comes into the category of ‘bashing’.

    The difference between the sense of humour in the two countries is quite marked. Th eUSA version being perhaps less personally orientated than the Brit version.

    They do say that we are two countries seperated by a common language, and the more familiar I become with the American way of life, the more I find it to be so.

  12. Ernest

    But do you not see how you have become one of the ‘tales of woe and misery’ whinging Brits that you complain of ? 😉

  13. I love bashing family Christmas letters..I thought that was part of the fun, actually.

    We just received a Christmas letter from a Japanese couple we knew in London – he speaks English/she does not. They live in Tokyo now. I always look forward to news from them when we get it.

    And this year – what a great letter from them! She’s playing violin and their youngest is tall (for Japan) and playing soccer – they sound so American….or British….don’t know where to place them actually

  14. Colm,

    Not so, in this case I said that I welcome the Christmas news letters – that is not what the whingeing Brits are saying, is it?

  15. Ernest

    I was referring more to your general pessimistic and negative attitude when you comment on modern life. It’s time to be sunny and positive. It’s 2013 and I think it’s going to be a wonderful year for us all 🙂

  16. Ernest

    I understand that you divide your time between England and Florida, two of the nicest places on God’s green earth. Cheers – not that many people get to do that!

  17. He’s so lucky. He gets to moan about the heat and humidity in Florida, and the cold and damp in England 😉

  18. Colm, Ernest, Agit –

    We’re British, so we’re a stoic, private bunch from a gloomy place in the North Atlantic. I wasn’t aware of these letters until reading this post and thread. They seem very open, sunny and American. They’re like that over there. That’s just the way they are, a bit more sunny than us. I know if I received such a letter I’d wonder what the sender was up to.

    But then an American did say this:

    Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.

  19. “But then an American did say this:

    Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies. ”

    I love it!
    Maybe the American was quoting a Scotsman with an English friend?

  20. Attributed to Gore Vidal, – who is the exception that proves the rule that Americans are warm hearted and friendly!!

  21. Colm,

    ‘general pessimistic and negative attitude when you comment on modern life.’

    Well that’s your take on honest comment, – but then this has to be a generational thing, and there I have the advantage of you, – one of the few advantages of being a senior, – I actually have experience of ‘the good old days’, while you have to rely what you may or may not have read, and we both know just how unreliable that source can be, especially for you Sun and Daily Mail readers! 🙂

    One of the prime reasons for a less than optimistic outlook on life today is the very noticeable and serious overcrowding. Who can deny that essential facilities and infrastructure are crumbling and failing faster than they can be replaced? at least ‘i.t.g.o.d.’ we had the benefit of genuine optimism, rather than the politicised fantasies of a proven and universally corrupt elite. ‘Back then’ things could not have been worse, so we knew they just had to get better, and we saw real improvement.

    Today, there is that air of smugness that ‘we have it good’, inspired by a ‘bread and circuses’ culture – a frenetic culture that we know is the prelude to ultimate collapse, – and so the genuine efforts to improve fall by the wayside, forgotten in the general melee of cultural greed.

    As I have often said, ‘today life maybe easier, but that does not mean it is better!’…

  22. Ernest,
    I think our generation has seen the best of wit and comedy. Crudity and swearing are no substitute for true humour.
    That Gore Vidal quote is actually true, IMHO. If you personally are going through a rough patch and a friend has say, had a win on the lottery; we rejoice and envy in roughly equal measures.
    I must confess to having experienced not Vidal’s ” partial death”, but certainly self pity on such occasions.
    May I recommend Ben Stiller’s “Envy” with Jack Black? A great performance too by Christopher Walken as the J Man.

    Anyway, I think young Colm is winding you up -complete with emoticons..
    Frankly I think the boy is ill. He has become subdued of late, and his gentle slightly camp humour is notable by its absence.

  23. Agit8ed,

    Yep! it seems that way, as I recollect 2012 was rough year for him!

    Of course he was trying a wind-up, hence my use of an emoticon!

    It isn’t just wit and comedy that has deteriorated, the field of drama – for which the Beeb was rightly proud, has become little more that trashy repetition sof past successes.

    I’ll have a look at your recommendations, as time permits, thank you!

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