As you may have noticed, I pay a lot of attention to etiquette. Some might say a little too much.
Lately, I’ve found myself in uncharted etiquette territory. I wonder if you have too.
Much has been written about online etiquette, but I have found very little with regard to chain e-mails.
Thankfully, the days of chain letters coming in the U.S. mail have passed. I remember one in which I had to mail new dish towels to people while abashedly asking my friends to buy and mail dish towels to others. I also remember wondering why this odd practice seemed unique to women.
In the past year and a half or so, I have received e-mails entitled “Recipe Exchange” from more than a dozen friends. I assume these come to me because I like to cook, am known to share unsolicited recipes and especially love getting new recipes from friends. Or maybe because my friends know I am pathologically compliant.
The first time I received a request to send a recipe to Person #1 and ask two friends to send recipes to Person #2, I obliged enthusiastically. The second time, I sent it to two more friends. The third time, I found two more friends I hadn’t picked on. Then it got ridiculous. Lately I am getting them about once a week.
Some might suggest I ignore these or delete them. I can’t. Occasions are rare when I ignore an e-mail on purpose. For lack of established etiquette on the matter, I have taken to responding to the sender with a note that I’ve tapped all of my friends—some more than once—and that I am unable to keep the chain going. And then I send my recipe for pesto torte to Persons #1 and #2, just so there aren’t any hard feelings.
I haven’t consulted my copy of How to Say It, my new manual for saying the right thing in virtually every situation, because I have lent it out. I do wonder if there’s prescribed language for declining on a chain letter.
I hope my friends reading this will not think ill of me or stop exchanging recipes with me over the course of normal conversation or mutual enjoyment of a good dish.
There are a few websites out there about how to stop friends from sending chain e-mail. The advice there pertains mostly to the kind of correspondence that promises eternal life or portends eternal damnation contingent on forwarding, within eight seconds, a PowerPoint poem about butterflies. This isn’t what I’m after. I’m just looking for a nice way to say, thanks for thinking of me but I just can’t participate. Or did I just find it?