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Miss Manners: Truly kind people don’t scold a guest for bringing a gift

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was invited to a dear friend’s 2-year-old daughter’s birthday last year, I sent a text inquiring about her daughter’s interests. Based on her response and my internet research, I selected a gift for her daughter.

A week and a half before the party, all the guests received an email stating that in lieu of gifts, they would like guests to bring diapers to donate to a local charity. When I arrived at the party I told them I had brought a gift for their daughter and asked where to put it. I was scolded by the hosts and by one of the cousins for bringing a gift.

While they have good hearts and are kind people, they made me feel as if I were rude, and I felt humiliated. I wanted to show everyone our text exchange to prove that I did not ignore their request and that I bought the present prior to their email. Instead I just apologized (for buying their daughter a gift!!!!).

Yesterday I received an invitation to her daughter’s third birthday with no mention of a charity, and I am wary when it comes to buying another gift. Should I just wait to see if they send out another email? Should I ask them? And what should I have said last year instead of apologizing?

GENTLE READER: This sort of thing gives good works a bad name.

Do these people imagine that because they care about people in general they are entitled to be rude to people they actually know?

No, they are not kind people. They embarrassed you, a guest, for the crime of bringing their daughter a present. As you are apparently willing to attend another such event, Miss Manners suggests you ask your dear friend what rules she is setting. Just do not ask her for etiquette advice.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who insists that she has a year to send a wedding gift. I believe that with internet ordering, wedding registries that have free shipping, and the abundance of inexpensive, speedy delivery options available, this is an outdated concept. She is not sending her gift via Pony Express.

My contention is that these very delayed gifts lead to hurt feelings on the part of the recipient.

GENTLE READER: Outdated? Considering how short many marriages now are, Miss Manners would have thought this an especially timely and prudent rule. It has not been rescinded.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I found out I will be receiving an inheritance from a boss whom I worked for for over eight years. I believe it is proper to send a thank-you note to his children after receipt, but I’m not quite sure what to say or how to say it. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.

GENTLE READER: Evidently your former boss greatly appreciated you, and what you owe his survivors is a full appreciation of him, rather than of the legacy. It should be a condolence letter rather than one of thanks, as you cannot thank the person who gave it to you. His generosity should of course be mentioned, but Miss Manners cautions you not to write as if it were that alone that prompted your letter.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.

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