Gift-giving should be roughly equal

04/22/2014 4:00 PM

04/22/2014 7:32 PM

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a friend who was very offended when I did not get her a gift for her birthday, and who made sure to remind me about the gifts she had given me on my “special day.” We are in our mid-20s.

While I make sure to show appreciation if I am given a gift, I did not think it was a required activity. I have given her gifts in the past but never made it a regular tradition.

At what point, if any, should adults stop expecting other people to buy them gifts?


Immediately. There is no excuse for demanding presents for oneself.

However, with some exceptions, present-giving should be a roughly even exchange. It should not be confused with philanthropy, which is one-sided and highly admirable, but unrelated to the offering of symbols of fondness among relatives and friends.

By roughly equivalent, Miss Manners is not referring to immediate reciprocation, nor to the monetary value. It merely means giving something of equal thoughtfulness when the occasion presents itself.

If you are not prepared to do this — and indeed, it can easily become burdensome — you owe it to your friend to tell her that much as you have appreciated her presents, you cannot keep accepting them and would prefer an agreement to acknowledge each other’s birthdays with good wishes.

A gift that won’t be enjoyed

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can you politely say “no” when a person gives you a book to read that you have no interest in reading?


“Thank you so much. I cannot wait to get to it.”

Holding the door A limit to courtesy

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there a courteous way to impose a limit on, well, courtesy? I was disembarking from the rear door of a bus when an elderly gentleman immediately in front of me had trouble pushing the door open. I reached over and assisted him, and then exited myself.

I held the door for the person behind me, so as not to let it slam in his face, assuming that he would take the door from me. He didn’t. Neither did the four people behind him, who ranged in age from adolescent to elderly.

Eventually, a couple struggling with two strollers disembarked, the last of the departing riders, and I felt that I shouldn’t release the door, and so I didn’t.

Was there a point at which I could have relinquished my job without being discourteous?


Your services were offered graciously, if unintentionally, and Miss Manners is pleased to return the courtesy by solving your problem, though not by herself relieving you of the door.

Wait for a person who can be expected to hold a door, and take a half step in front of him before he comes through. The movement will bring him up short, at which point you can catch his eye and then slowly release the door, eventually letting go.

This maneuver must be so executed as not to leave anyone lying prone on the sidewalk, and it is meant for the extreme situation you describe — not to punish a lone, lazy teenager who slips through after Miss Manners.

© Universal Uclick 4/23

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