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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 9/12

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’d like to have a party for my daughter’s fourth birthday. However, I’d like to avoid getting a bunch of plastic junk that she’ll look at once and then throw in a corner and never play with.

I honestly don’t think gifts are necessary, but I know many people feel obligated to bring one. So I have two ideas for how to address this:

1. I could request that anyone who’d like to provide a gift contribute $5 in advance of the party, and then I could get her one gift that I know she’d enjoy. (I’d love it if someone requested this for their kid’s party, since it would mean I wouldn’t have to go shopping. And it would cost significantly less than a junk toy!)

2. I could request that attendees provide a gift that’s an artistic activity, like a coloring book or building set.

Are either of these ideas in poor taste? I’m really trying to avoid waste – and wasteful spending – but I also don’t want to offend anyone.

GENTLE READER: Then accept graciously whatever people choose to give, and teach your daughter to do the same.

Miss Manners notices that this is an opportunity to teach another lesson: Have your daughter select the items she will not use (presuming that her taste actually aligns with yours), and explain the value of giving them to a charitable organization for children who may enjoy them.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In my marriage, I buy all the cards and gifts for every occasion for our families and friends. I don’t mind.

My son got married, and they split the responsibility: He does the cards for his family and she does them for hers. I was impressed when they began this system.

On my cards that I receive from him, he signs both names or just his. But my feelings are a little hurt that my daughter-in-law won’t even acknowledge my birthday. I do acknowledge her on her birthday and at Christmas. I have only received one thank-you card when I gifted a large sum of money to them.

As for signing the cards, my husband will sign it if it’s important to him. What is your take? Should everyone sign the card?

GENTLE READER: It is not insulting for one spouse to represent the couple by signing both their names to a card. Miss Manners suggests that before you complain, you ask your son if he writes separately to his mother-in-law.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I moved 1,500 miles last year, and have developed a wonderful circle of friends in my new town. We enjoy church activities, dining out and community activities like concerts.

One member has taken on the role of coordinator, and she finds great things to do, but it’s too much for me! So far this week, she’s scheduled three concerts – with meals before and after each one – and walking at 7 every morning. How do I gracefully decline some, but not all, of these activities?

GENTLE READER: One at a time, as you choose. Miss Manners supposes that when you are handed a menu at a restaurant, surely you do not feel obliged to eat everything that is listed.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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