Middle Class Problems: The round-robin letter is a relentless pass-the-parcel of familial festive cheer


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The Independent Online

The post is here. Off we trot expecting something innocuous – a personalised Christmas card from Strada, maybe? Or perhaps something dropped off by our paperboy, a subtle nod to remind us that supplemental remunerations would be most appreciated at this time of year. Sadly, it is neither.

An envelope winks coyly at us from the doormat, but bears the proud bulk of one thing, and one thing only: the round-robin letter. Wearily, we take a seat to read.

It turns out that Milo has deferred his place at Bristol to learn Portuguese in Brazil. Atticus has started a blog (well done, Atticus) and we now know every module breakdown Tabitha achieved in her 12 GCSEs – which would obviously be thrilling, if only we could remember which one Tabitha was.

It's a very strange tradition, to carefully curate your life story in such a way that edits out all unsavoury life happenings, documenting only the events worth gloating about – like a teenage girl's diary. These syrupy, mawkish memos about fortunes bestowed go entirely against our tacit code of self-deprecation and cynicism.

The need to share every high and low of daily life has unleashed a frenzy of communication on Facebook and Twitter. But the round-robin is different: presented in the guise of a gift, it is a relentless pass-the-parcel of familial festive cheer.

Yet, somehow, the bright-eyed confidence exuded – the loft extension! the sabbatical spent digging wells! – is compelling. And, horribly fascinated, we read on...