December 17, 2010 in Features

Miss Manners: Diploma belongs in the bathroom

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Where is the proper place to hang your college diploma at home?

GENTLE READER: Wherever it will best remind you, rather than your guests, that nevertheless, you have a lot to learn. Miss Manners suggests near your bathroom mirror.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there an etiquette rule about checking with the mother of a young child before giving the young child a gift for any occasion?

We would never give a live animal or items like toy guns and loud toys to young children. But several of us have been reprimanded by mothers as being disrespectful because we did not check with them first about giving a gift or giving a particular gift.

We also have noticed a trend of receiving a pointed thank you note that lets the sender know the gift was not appreciated. One friend actually received a thank you note that basically said thanks for remembering my child, but truthfully, the child liked the box in which the gift was sent better than the gift. The gift sent was dinosaur pajamas and small toy dinosaur.

Maybe the comment was meant to be cute, but it seemed very tactless and hurtful.

Our reaction to these behaviors is not to give a gift again to the child, but that seems to be punishing the child for the actions of the mother.

Honestly, we would be happy to see a long store gift list in these cases.

Are we being disrespectful by not checking out our gifts with the mothers ahead of time? We hesitate because sometimes they give only one suggestion. That suggestion can be hard to find in the stores or too expensive for our budgets.

We have thought about giving a gift certificate, but we don’t think that is much fun for the child to open. We would welcome your thoughts.

GENTLE READER: Not everybody does, because Miss Manners is opposed to gift registries, which would solve the problem of unwanted presents (as many an annoyed Gentle Reader has pointed out). Her persnickety objection is merely that it ruins the entire point of giving presents, which is to show symbolically that the giver thought about the other person.

We already know that people are thinking about themselves and what they want.

Parents do have to make sure that their children’s toys are not dangerous or against their house rules. But that is far from making the parent the child’s personal shopper, with your part being merely to pay the bill. In that case, you are not even establishing a separate relationship with the child; you are merely a resource for his parents.

The sensible course would be to ask what the child’s interests are, and use that to make your own choice. But not of the family who got the dinosaur-themed presents. To complain about a well-intentioned present is a gross insult. From the mother’s indignation, Miss Manners had assumed that your friend gave the child a home bomb-making kit.


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