DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received a Valentine’s Day card from a guy that I like, but I don’t know if I’m supposed to give him one, too. Should I? Does he expect one from me also?
GENTLE READER: You may be sure that he is hoping for one. As to whether you should comply, Miss Manners would have to examine the state of your heart, which is not in her job description.
Birthday gift two-step
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As the mother of a first-grader, I am starting to field a lot of birthday invitations from his classmates — many of whom I know nothing about beyond the occasional mention from my son at the dinner table.
When I call to RVSP, I typically ask about the interests of the guest of honor so that we can choose an appropriate gift. I phrase my question, “And what is it that (child) is into these days?”
The response is always something along the lines of, “We don’t expect a gift; your presence is gift enough,” or “I’m sure whatever your son picks, s/he will love it.”
I usually press again for a response and receive one, but now I’m wondering: Am I rude for persisting, or even asking in the first place? Would it be more appropriate to allow my son to choose whatever he wants and include a gift receipt for the recipient to return, if necessary?
Since my son’s birthday is coming up in a couple of months, how should I respond to these inevitable inquiries myself?
GENTLE READER: Everyone is behaving well here, Miss Manners is pleased to say.
Asking about a child’s general areas of interest is a tactful way to fish for present ideas without stating so directly, and it allows the host to answer in kind, leaving it open to interpretation and a variety of price points. If the host doesn’t give you enough to go on (and you shouldn’t press further if it is straining the conversation), make your son do any further investigating. It is good training for when he will be doing this on his own.
When it is your turn, you should do the same, keeping it similarly general. “Oh, Marcus loves building things” is acceptable. “We’re hoping for a sports car” is not.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My cousin got married not quite two years ago. The ceremony and reception were lovely, and I was considering using the same beautiful church for my own wedding, which I am just beginning to plan.
However, since my cousin’s marriage was short-lived, I am not sure whether using the same church would be disrespectful and distasteful. There are other wonderful churches nearby, but this one also has an enchanting environment, near a lake. What would be the proper thing to do?
GENTLE READER: The last Miss Manners checked, churches were exempt from curses. But then, the last she checked, bridal couples were supposed to choose their wedding churches on the basis of something deeper than scenery.
No, wait. The last she really heard was that churches were actually being regarded as stage sets. In that case, surely more than one show can be put on there.
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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