Q: My friends’ kids always ask for gifts or say, “You didn’t give me a gift” for their birthdays or Christmas. This is done while their moms are present, and they don’t say anything. How do I ask my friends to tell their kids that it’s rude to ask people for gifts?
A: Never mind the mothers, who are obviously not going to teach them manners. Miss Manners suggests responding directly and pleasantly to the children with: “Why? Were you planning to give me one?” Their astonishment should give you the opportunity to explain politely that giving presents is voluntary and generally expected to be reciprocal.
Q: What is the correct way to wear a woman’s necklace? No, I am not a man wanting to wear women’s necklaces. I am a husband who buys his wife jewelry that is especially attractive and, to my mind, youthful and appropriate for daily wearing.
But she says necklaces are worn only with dresses. They are not to be worn with shirts or blouses, and definitely not with T-shirts. Since she rarely wears a dress, she thanks me and maybe wears my gifts one time, and then they go in her jewelry cabinet, never to see the light of day.
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Please tell me I am correct that necklaces can be worn most any time and not only with a dress.
A: Yes, presuming that you understand the gradations between sporting a diamond choker and a gold chain.
But what good does this do you? Your wife does not like to wear necklaces. So why do you keep giving them to her? Miss Manners is astonished at the number of people who would rather prove a point than please a spouse, and politely excuses herself from being involved.
Q: I am celebrating a milestone birthday with a formal masquerade-themed party at an event facility. The time of the party is 7 p.m. to midnight. It includes a cocktail hour at 7, with dinner following. Can I add the 7 p.m. cocktail hour to the invitation? I would hate guests to misunderstand and think that they could arrive anytime between 7 and midnight.
A: The temptation to tell one’s guests when they are expected to leave is one with which Miss Manners sympathizes. Clear signals are often neglected. If the hosts do not rise from the table to announce coffee in the living room as the final act, guests feel awkward about being the first to get up. And then some people just never know when to go home.
However, putting both starting and finishing times on an invitation, often done for cocktail parties, indeed suggests that they may arrive during the event — not toward its end, to be sure, but not necessarily at the starting point.
You are giving a dinner party, so you should inform your guests that it will start at 7, as drinks before the meal are part of the routine. That tells them to arrive on time — and you can only hope that they will take themselves off at a decent hour.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.