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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, May 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Which gifts are too nice for ladies to accept?

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been told that proper ladies do not accept expensive gifts from men to whom they are not related, either by birth or by marriage.

How large or expensive a gift would count as improper? Does it depend on the means of the donor? Of the recipient? Which relations (e.g., father, brother), if any, are excluded from this rule?

Since many engagements are sealed with a pricey ring, does being betrothed count as an appropriate relationship for the exchange of other such gifts?

GENTLE READER: The engagement ring is a pledge, whose acceptance is dependent on a forthcoming marriage. That means it is to be returned if either person breaks the engagement. Miss Manners is sorry, but the jilted should have only the satisfaction of throwing it in the faithless one’s face, not of selling it.

A variation of this will tell you what a lady should not accept from a gentleman to whom she is not related or planning to become related: anything she would still want to keep even if she discarded him.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have numerous friends and colleagues who email me to meet with them over a meal or to join them for some general event, such as attending the movies. Then they message, asking: What restaurant or movie do I want to attend? What is the location, date and time?

In other words, I essentially am invited to review restaurants, look up movie options and viewing times, and peruse my calendar to share dates and times I have available, then send this information back to them to pick and choose. When I demur and suggest they manage the options, I hear how they don’t care and just want to do whatever I want to do.

What I want is a clear-cut invitation without the long email back to them with all the information from me.

What is a polite but firm and determined response I can use to get the persons inviting me to make their own arrangements? I have said in the past that I was in a work crunch with deadlines and just preferred that they manage the details, but I generally get, again, “But I don’t care and want to do what you prefer.” Or “OK – what is a restaurant you like, or a movie you want to see? When are you available?”

GENTLE READER: This exchange is known as “After You, Alphonse.” Everyone is trying to be considerate, but it drags on too long. Miss Manners suggests that you go only so far as to name a date, and then say, “Please surprise me. I have great faith in your taste.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I showed an acquaintance a photo of me that was taken nine years ago. The photo is of me, in a beautiful ball gown. His response? “That doesn’t look like you at all.”

It was irritating at least, humiliating at worst. What do I say if I get this rude comment again?

GENTLE READER: “I know. I changed my clothes.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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