Dear Abby

Jul. 29th, 2017 09:59 am
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are expecting our first child. A friend of hers pulled me aside to ask if I had already gotten my wife a "push gift." I have never heard of this, but apparently it's supposed to be something nice, like jewelry, to celebrate the birth.

We have already been spending a lot of extra money to decorate a nursery. In addition, the delivery will be costly under our high-deductible health plan. Combined with the fact that my wife just retired from her teaching job, the expenses are starting to freak me out.

In light of this, what do you think of the idea of a push gift? Have you heard any good ideas for a low-cost but appropriate alternative? -- EXCITED FATHER-TO-BE

DEAR EXCITED: A push gift can be a piece of jewelry, your first "family vacation," a piece of electronic equipment for your wife or a piece of furniture for the nursery. Some couples prefer something less materialistic, such as help with baby care or money for the child's education.
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: The husbands of both my two daughters asked for my blessing prior to asking my girls to marry them. I felt what they did was respectful and it was very much appreciated. My wife felt the same way when I relayed the good news to her.

I believe this courtesy replaced what in the "olden days" was a request for permission from the father rather than a blessing and, in my opinion, is more appropriate. If I am correct in my assumption that "permission" has evolved to "blessing," I wonder if it would have been more appropriate for them to have asked my wife and me together for our blessing. Your thoughts? -- PROUD PAPA

DEAR PROUD PAPA: Men asked permission of fathers to marry their daughters in "olden days" because the daughters were considered property. They could not marry without their father's consent. Thankfully, those customs are long gone -- in western society, at least. Please stop second-guessing your sons-in-law, who both seem like gems to me. Many couples today forgo the courtesy altogether.
cereta: Paper Bage Princess, heading off into the sunset alone (Paper Bag Princess)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Almost all of the examples I now see on how to address invitations are totally different from what I was taught in school many years ago. Have the rules changed, or are young people these days making up their own etiquette rules?

I was taught that for a married couple, the correct address would be " Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Jones" and "Mr. and Mrs. Patrick White," not "Mr. Ben and Mrs. Elizabeth Jones" and "Mr. Patrick and Mrs. Taylor White." I was also taught that the male's name came first on the envelope.

Please set the record straight before too many young brides commit a faux pas and look uneducated.

GENTLE READER: Yes, some rules have legitimately changed, and yes, unauthorized people who make up their own rules are often unintentionally offensive. But come to think of it, the old standard that you cite also sends some people into a tizzy.

Miss Manners wishes everyone would just calm down.

There are couples who use the Mr. and Mrs. form you learned (the only one in which the gentleman's title comes first) and they should be so addressed. But there are others who prefer to be addressed more as individuals for various reasons, some of which are eminently sensible, although society used not to recognize them.

All that takes now is one extra line on the envelope:

Dr. Angelina Breakfront

Mr. Rock Moonley

or:

Mr. Oliver Trenchant

Mr. Liam Lotherington

or:

Ms. Norina Hartfort

Mr. Rufus Hartfort

Is that too much effort to ask?
cereta: Are you my mummy? (Parker gasmask)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: I suffer from severe seasonal allergies. I have watery eyes and sneeze during January and February every year. I went to an allergist last winter, but he couldn't do much for me.

As I struggle to get through my days as quietly as possible, every sneeze seemingly elicits a "God bless you" from some stranger. If I'm unable to acknowledge it, I often get a "Well, thank you!" or some other show of indignation.

Abby, I don't need "blessings." Calling attention to my difficulties, frankly, just annoys and embarrasses me. I am trying the best I can to be quiet and avoid disruption. Can you please ask your many readers to end this ancient, silly convention and let those of us with allergies suffer in peace? -- ATCHOO IN KANSAS CITY

DEAR ATCHOO: No. The "God bless you" convention originated in the Middle Ages. People thought that when someone sneezed the soul left the body for a minute, and would be snatched by the devil if someone didn't say "God bless you." Those who say it today may be doing it because it has become a conditioned reflex, or to be polite. Accept the kind gesture and kwitchurbitchin.
cereta: (foodporn)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My girlfriend is very particular about table manners. She makes a point of leaving a scattering of food on her plate at the end of a meal rather than finishing every crumb as I do.

I know it only amounts to one or two forkfuls, but having traveled extensively in very poor countries, I think this is wasteful and absurd. The plates are also harder to wash. What are your thoughts?

GENTLE READER: That she would like to be excused before someone discovers her responsibility in this matter. But that would be cowardly.

The sad truth is that a century ago, it was indeed the case that children in families that could afford it were taught not to finish everything on their plates. The embarrassing part is that the rule was phrased as "Leave something for Miss Manners" (and in England, "Leave something for Lady Manners").

So yes, while some people were starving, others were wasting food. Miss Manners was not starving, because she got all the rich folks' leftovers.

It was Eleanor Roosevelt's grandmother who repealed this rule. As recounted in Mrs. Roosevelt's "Book of Common Sense Etiquette": "My grandmother came to believe that food was needed in the world and we who had an abundance should not waste it."

Miss Manners agrees -- thoroughly and, as you might notice, selflessly.
cereta: "Candid" shot from Barbie Princess Charm school of goofy faces. (Barbie is goofy)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have two kids under the age of 2. Our close friends "John and Jane" also have two kids under 2.

We recently invited them to our oldest daughter's birthday party. When they arrived, Jane informed me they hadn't had time to shop for a gift and that they "owed us one." I brushed it off and said I was just happy they came.

Well, now it's their older daughter's birthday. We are invited and I'm confused. Do we still buy her a gift? We want to go, but we feel ripped off because our daughter received nothing. Would it be rude to attend the party without buying their daughter a gift? -- RIPPED OFF IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR RIPPED OFF: Yes, it would. You say these are close friends. John and Jane may not have followed up with a gift for your daughter because you told them you were "just happy they came," so don't hold it against them. If this happened repeatedly, my advice might be different, but this may simply have been an oversight.
cereta: River Song, pointing gun, "fights like a girl" (River Song Fights Like a Girl)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are friends with a couple we have known for many years. When the four of us eat together, it's obvious to me that the husband directs the conversation toward my wife. Even when the topic is general in nature, his eye contact is with her to the point where it makes me uncomfortable. On a cruise last year, when we ate together regularly, I intentionally sat across from him and, sure enough, he talked diagonally across the table to my wife.

I have always made a conscious effort in mixed company to direct the majority of my conversation toward my male counterpart and not his wife. I feel that it's more appropriate. I really don't think there is any threat from him, maybe just bad manners on his part. How should I handle this? Should I ignore it, or make him aware of it? -- BOTHERED BY IT IN ALABAMA

DEAR BOTHERED: If there is a rule of etiquette covering this, I have never heard of it. You have two choices -- continue to ignore it and let it bother you, or ask him why he does it. He may be doing it unconsciously because he finds your wife to be an interesting conversationalist.
cereta: Danae, Squee (Danae)
[personal profile] cereta
Dear Carolyn:

My household received a written invitation to a birthday party for a 1-year-old. It reads, “Not every child is lucky enough to have a birthday party like A. In lieu of a gift, we are asking that you consider making a donation (of cash) to a nonprofit that claims to ‘help poor children.’ ”

What are they trying to say? That their child doesn’t deserve gifts because she’s “too rich”? Logically, does the child even “deserve” a party in the parents’ belief system?

Are the parents (middle-class liberals) having some sort of contest with their neighbors to show who’s the most enlightened, sophisticated liberal — class warfare? No gifts for A in the class struggle?

I looked into the nonprofit mentioned — the director pays herself well out of the “donations.”

I told someone the parents should turn off the leftist TV channel they watch because it’s causing them mind rot — denying their toddler presents. Your thoughts?

— Pittsburgh

Dear Pittsburgh: Thanks for the proof that people who want to get their knickers bunched will find reasons to in just about anything.

Are these parents playing by the etiquette book? No, because using the invitation to direct your guests’ gift-giving behavior is a well-established “Don’t.”

It is, however, a matter of degrees. These parents aren’t ordering you to bring them cash because they don’t want whatever you pick out. Instead, they are acknowledging their child was born into a life of plenty whereas many babies are not, and (if I may project a bit) are using this opportunity of a birthday when the kid is way too young to understand what a birthday is — much less notice or care what people bring — to do something decent for needy families.

Again, is it strictly proper for them to recruit their guests as do-gooding proxies? No. Is it sanctimonious? Certainly possible. But at least at the end of their faux-pas rainbow, some needy families get diapers and a few guests are spared from figuring out what to bring.

What’s at the end of your angry rainbow? Hosts who are blessed with your complaining about them behind their backs, by your own admission (that’s not in the etiquette books, either), and showering contempt on their beliefs in general and their attempt at generosity in particular. Within five paragraphs of self-congratulation you manage to deride them as liberals, leftists and class warriors who are — you outdo yourself here, putting words in their mouths — “denying their toddler presents” because she “doesn’t deserve gifts.”

How about doesn’t need gifts and won’t even notice their absence? An ideal gift for a 1-year-old is a chance to make a racket with your pots and pans. And since when is it wrong to value presence over presents? It’s not unheard of for children themselves to agree to, even spearhead, parties that serve as charity drives and not gift grabs.

There’s also this: When a party is for a child too young to understand birthdays, it’s safe to assume it’s just an excuse for the parents to welcome in the village. Many such hosts are very concerned their invite-the-village impulse will be mistaken for an excuse to collect gifts, and so reach for ways to discourage them. Ironic, isn’t it.

As a villager who apparently thinks your untouchable authority-given right to buy stuff is being trampled, and who apparently doesn’t think much of these parents, I suggest you politely decline the invitation.

Whether you accept the invitation or not, please do — if you can keep the relish out of your voice — notify the hosts of any published record of impropriety in their charity’s use of donations. That’s a kindness no matter what color onesies your politics wear.
cereta: Barbie in outfit from the TOS movies, in pink (Lt. Barbie)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: Can you please help me understand the rule of etiquette when borrowing a wedding dress? The owner was fully aware that the bride intended to alter it. It was obvious that it would need to be made several sizes smaller and shortened. Also, the bride stated clearly that she intended to lower the neckline and remove the sleeves. Everyone seemed happy the gown was being used again after 25 years of being in a box.

After the wedding, the dress was professionally cleaned, boxed and returned to the owner. She is now livid and contends that the dress should have been returned in its original state -- just like it was loaned.

I'd appreciate your help settling this family dispute. How should this work? -- BORROWING TROUBLE IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR BORROWING TROUBLE: It is a fact of life that when cloth is excised so a garment can be made "several sizes smaller," it cannot be put back in its original condition. If that was the expectation of the owner, it was unrealistic. The bride did the right thing by having the wedding gown professionally cleaned and boxed, and it shouldn't be necessary for her to make any apologies.
cereta: Cartoon of Me, That's Doctor Fangirl to you. (Doctor Fangirl)
[personal profile] cereta
Dear Annie: I am the youngest of seven children and the only one who didn't marry young. I am also the only one who attended college. I am graduating in May and mentioned to my parents that I hoped to have a small graduation party with family and close friends. One friend already offered to make my cake.

You can imagine my disappointment when my parents said it was silly to have a graduation party, and they'd rather spend money on a wedding whenever I get married. Annie, I wasn't asking them to spend money. I just wanted to use the hospitality of their home because my college apartment is a few hours away.

I've worked hard for my degree, and I'm hurt by their lack of excitement. I want to share my happiness. I don't need gifts. Would it be against etiquette to throw myself a party? -- Puzzled

Dear Puzzled: It is OK to give yourself a party, but please don't mention your graduation until after your guests arrive. You don't want to give the impression of, "I'm so fantastic and accomplished -- bring presents." Simply say you want to have a party. You can then tell them during the event that you are celebrating your degree. Another option is to get together with your classmates and have a group celebration, whereby you are essentially giving a graduation party for one another.

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