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Don’t chat with everyone who wants attention

Dear Miss Manners: Am I being rude if I refuse to stop to talk to environmentalists collecting money on the street?

Over the summer, it seems like they’re on every corner of campus. They’re always friendly and cheerful, and want to know “Do you care about the environment?”

Why yes, I do. But I like to decide which charities to give to, after doing some research and making sure the charity I choose is cost-effective, and that I agree with all of its goals. Since I already know that I’m not going to give them money, I don’t want to waste my time (or theirs) in a nonproductive conversation.

But on the other hand, it seems rude not to stop. I do think that if someone wants to talk to you, it’s not polite to ignore them.

Gentle Reader: While commending your attitude, Miss Manners is left wondering how you manage to get to class or down any city block. Accosting strangers is a technique shared by the charitable, the impoverished and the lonely, and their numbers add up.

You are not obliged to hold conversations with any of these people, but it is courteous to acknowledge their existence, or at least that of such strangers who are not suggesting that you date them. A quick “sorry” as you pass is enough to do that.

Dear Miss Manners: I am receiving invitations to baby showers from my own friends to showers for their daughters or daughters-in-law who live in another state or whom I hardly know.

During a planned visit by the daughter or daughter-in-law, the soon-to-be grandmother either plans a shower herself or leans on a close friend to throw a shower. While the birth of a grandchild is a joyous occasion, the expectation of some grandmothers is approaching inappropriate. It was even suggested by one grandmother that her own friends would be more financially able to furnish the nursery than her daughter’s friends.

In my day, baby-shower invitations were sent to friends of the expectant parents, not friends of the grandparents, and expectant parents did not travel the country for baby showers. Expectant parents also understood that the responsibility of furnishing a nursery was their own.

The custom of sending out birth announcements to extended family and friends was a far more genteel means of providing mailing information for those who wanted to mail a gift after the baby’s birth. Has the etiquette for baby showers changed in the 25 years since I had my last child?

Gentle Reader: It is not the etiquette that has changed, Miss Manners assures you; it is the willingness of people to abide by it.

Parties such as showers and birthday parties are now commonly planned solely for the gratification of the honorees (who are commonly the hosts or the hosts’ relatives), without consideration being given to the enjoyment of the guests, whose contributions are blatantly solicited.

Fortunately, attendance at parties is optional. You owe your friends your congratulations and good wishes; you do not owe them any form of child support.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@united, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10016 or (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.


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