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Miss Manners 1/6

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Over the years, I have taken it upon myself to organize a joint gift for my group of friends’ wedding anniversaries. We live all over the country, so it’s a way for us to stay connected for the big moments. I took this on willingly, and enjoy finding gifts I think will be enjoyed.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except I’ve found that getting everyone to participate in picking the gifts and paying for them has become like pulling teeth. This makes me want to stop doing the group gift, since it is really that in name only.

My 10th wedding anniversary is coming up this year. I’m hoping they forget about it and don’t get me a gift, so I can stop organizing guilt-free. If they do forget, do I need to explain that I won’t be doing it anymore, or just let it fall to the wayside unspoken? If they remember, must I continue, or is there a way to bow out gracefully then, as well?

GENTLE READER: Not seeing the purpose of guilt without any accompanying crime (and not seeing any crime or contemplated crime in your description), Miss Manners looks at the problem somewhat differently.

Your upcoming anniversary is not a solution, but a problem. Quitting after they forget your anniversary would be a disaster: It would look like you cared so much that you are walking away not just from the gifts, but from the friendships. And quitting after they remember might look like, having gotten yours, you are done.

You will therefore have to struggle on for a little while longer. Some time after your anniversary, you can tell everyone that, having been the organizer for years, you hope someone else will now take over.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I bought a beautiful shallow raku dish for a friend. It’s lovely. But recently, she happily showed me that she had planted a cactus in it!

The beauty of the color and pattern is no longer visible whatsoever. I can’t imagine why she would choose to use a valuable, handmade dish as a planter. It’s offensive to me!

Is there any way to explain to her that if she had a bona fide planter, she could then display the gift I gave her? Or, once given, is a gift simply the owner’s to use (and abuse) in whatever way she chooses?

GENTLE READER: The dish now belongs to your friend, so it is indeed hers to use and to abuse.

But more importantly, Miss Manners urges you not to take offense. Your friend showed you what she had done, with the thought that it demonstrated how much she valued the gift – and that you would be pleased. For the sake of the friendship, accept her intent and forget what you would have done yourself.

There is an additional moral to be learned. If you had given your friend an expensive bottle of wine – only to find it being used as cooking wine in the kitchen – you would have concluded that, for next time, this is not the right present for this friend. A similar lesson can be applied here.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.

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