Miss Manners: Celebration hard for cash-strapped


DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are gathering for dinner to celebrate a friend’s last night in town, as she is moving away. The host is expecting us all to pitch in and pay for the guest of honor’s dinner.

This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the dinner weren’t being held at an upscale, expensive restaurant, and since several of attendees (not including the guest of honor) are either out of work or in danger of losing their jobs. I understand this is customary for birthday celebrations, etc., but is it also customary to pick up the guest of honor’s tab for such an occasion as this?

GENTLE READER: What do you mean “the host”? Is he paying for all of you, and only asking you to chip in for the guest of honor? If not, he is not a host. He is merely an organizer, on behalf of a group whom he did not consult.

Indeed there has been a lot of that happening. Sometimes, Miss Manners regrets to say, it is the guest of honor who makes the arrangements – typically a self-birthday party at a restaurant – and expects others to sign on to pay without any say in the expenses being incurred. The worst is that it is presented as a test of friendship – a financial test.

Miss Manners strongly recommends refusing to take such a test. There should be no embarrassment, especially since there are several of you, in asking the organizer to move the dinner to an affordable restaurant if he wishes you to participate. Should he decline, you should decline, and find another way to show your friendship to the guest of honor.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I gave a 9-year-old family member some toys for her birthday. My kids love to play with these toys and their ages are 7 and also 9.

A week later, I got a call from her thanking me for the present, but then saying that the toys were not appropriate for her age and she had returned them and got clothes instead. I told her I was glad she got something she could use.

I am offended by this and wondered if my offense is warranted. After this incident I would like to discontinue gift giving. What would be the proper way in doing this?

GENTLE READER: There is no need to announce that you are ceasing to trouble this child with things she does not want. Miss Manners supposes that in keeping with the brutal frankness that she has either been taught or allowed to get away with, she will only tell you to give her money instead.

She may, however, speak up when she notices that she has been cut off. In that case, you may be able to explain gently your point of view: that it is no pleasure for you to give something that is then used to criticize you. If you are able to make her understand that, you will have given her a valuable present.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.

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