DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son has some wonderful friends/clients who at are the tippy-top of the economic pyramid. He is invited to many events at their homes and yachts.
He doesn’t bring the hostess a gift. Apparently, none of the other members of the circle bring them either. These are people of all ages from 21 to 79, some “new” money and some old.
Are hostess gifts not brought to such events? I will be attending one, and I am not sure what I should do. Also, what would one bring to such an event? I cannot afford a $200 bottle of wine. This is very embarrassing.
GENTLE READER: It needn’t be. Despite the number of people who say they were brought up “never to appear empty-handed,” there are indeed circles in which this is not practiced.
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It is not money that defines such people, but a sense of hospitality. While they may be pleased to receive an occasional bouquet or box of chocolates, they dislike what has come to seem like a barter system – a contribution in exchange for a meal. The truly essential bargain between host and guest requires the guest only to respond promptly, show up on time, socialize with other guests, thank the host, write additional thanks and reciprocate.
You needn’t bring anything, and a $200 bottle of wine would be ridiculous.
Your son, although apparently a regular visitor, is probably not yet in a position to reciprocate with invitations. But he can find other ways to show appreciation by training himself to be alert to what would be welcome. An offer to fix the computer problem of a host who is complaining about it, for example. Sending a book or recording that was discussed to someone who showed interest in it. Learning to crew if his friends don’t have professional crews on their yachts.
A young friend who is thoughtful and eager to be helpful is a treasure that money cannot buy.
A lesson in jumping to conclusions
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in my late 20s, am married and work as a teacher. At open evenings, staff and current students mingle with prospective students and their parents.
I wear a name badge, but students and teachers alike wear suits, so I am frequently mistaken for a student aged 16 to 18 by parents who haven’t met me before, and they greet me with a line such as, “So then, how are you enjoying studying math?”
Once they realize their mistake, they get flustered and sometimes dig themselves into an even bigger hole by blurting out things I am sure they didn’t mean to say, e.g., telling me I’m too young to be married, asking my age, or how my first year of teaching is going (I’ve been there for years).
How can I help them avoid feeling embarrassed, and how do I gracefully lead the conversation swiftly back to their interest in our school?
GENTLE READER: It is one of Miss Manners’ great discoveries that one needn’t contradict others in order to set them straight. In this case, she would have you say: “I’m always fascinated by math, or, as you can imagine, I wouldn’t be teaching it all these years. But as you know, one can never really stop studying it.”
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.
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