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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Disgusting Practice Understandable

Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: I find that most hostesses set a beautiful table, but when dinner is over, they ask you to pass your dirty plates to them. Then they sit at this beautiful table scrapping the leftovers into the dirty plates and stacking them.

This procedure nauseates me, so I immediately find something to do in the kitchen while waiting for the stacked dishes to arrive.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners doesn’t care for this nasty practice any more than you do. But she at least understands why the hostesses do this - because they have no help in clearing the table the right way, two at a time.

What she doesn’t understand is why you’re hiding in the kitchen instead of helping clear the table properly.

Dear Miss Manners: When my cousin, his new wife and family were all invited over to Thanksgiving dinner, his mother called and said they would not be attending because they were furious that some of our family did not acknowledge his wedding by sending a gift. They received gifts from these same people at the shower, the invitations for which let us know where they were registered for gifts and also that there was a wishing well for little kitchen necessities.

One person who did not give a second gift for the wedding was the groom’s grandmother. One reason is that she spent over $50 for the first present, and she is now so low on money (her husband passed away two years ago) that she can hardly afford food. The other reason is she honestly thought only one gift was required.

We tried not telling her why her son’s family was not coming to Thanksgiving dinner, but her son told her he could not believe she did not send his son another gift for the wedding (though he knows there is no way she can afford it) and that he could not forgive her for this and he hung up on her. They have not spoken since. My grandmother is not taking this well.

I guess what I would like to know is, even if some of us were wrong in not sending a second gift, was what my cousin and his family did right? Also, I thought that you were not required to give a gift at all.

Gentle Reader: The racket your cousin’s family is in - that of preying on relatives and friends by claiming that presents are like taxes in being both mandatory and set by the same authority that collects them - is amazingly widespread. What infuriates Miss Manners is that such people claim the support of etiquette in this horrid blackmail.

Here is what etiquette really has to say about the subject:

Presents are voluntary. The custom of giving them at weddings is to symbolize the giver’s warm feelings about the bridal couple. If there are no such feelings, one should simply decline the wedding invitation, although in the case of a near relative, this is a drastic step.

The choice of a present and the amount of money to be spent are totally within the control of the giver. No one should spend more than he or she can afford.

Showers are informal, inconsequential events and should involve only token presents. No matter how much money one has, $50 is a ridiculous amount to spend on a shower. One present of that size per marriage is quite enough.

Unfortunately, Miss Manners cannot relieve your grandmother of the anguish of having such a son. But she can certainly relieve her of any notion that etiquette is on his side rather than hers.


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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