Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Canceled baby shower creates a gift dilemma

niversal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter was 7.5 months pregnant when the ultrasound revealed that her baby had passed away. Her baby shower was around the corner, and we have many gifts here.

I am wondering, what is the protocol? My husband and I would like to keep the gifts as an encouragement to our daughter for the future. Some have already told me to keep the gift. Do I ask each person, or does my daughter just send thank-you notes?

GENTLE READER: The former. Your daughter doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to express thanks for presents she has not received. Please spare her the pain of explaining the situation to each person.

Since you will need to cancel the shower anyway, tell each guest that you will make arrangements to return the presents. If they decline the offer (which they likely will do, but you cannot suggest it), then you may keep them tucked away for future use.

But Miss Manners begs you not to tell your daughter of your plan. It is unlikely that the prospect of receiving presents will be an effective or tactful way to encourage her to try again.

Visiting time is precious

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m planning to visit a town where I lived and worked for a number of years. A dear friend who is still there wants to gather all our old colleagues for a picnic or series of luncheons.

I recognize this as a very kind gesture on her part. However, these former colleagues and I have not stayed in touch, and, although we spent time together in groups on a regular basis, we never hung out together individually.

I don’t really consider them old friends. A couple of them are good friends with my good friend, but they were never people whose company I enjoyed, frankly. Nonetheless, she considers them my good friends as well, sort of by osmosis.

I really don’t want to spend precious time with any of these people, “catching up” when we never bothered to before. I honestly don’t dislike them, but there are several good friends outside this group that I do plan to visit with during my limited time in town.

Is there any gracious way to ask my good friend not to plan my social calendar, or do I just try to grin and bear it? I couldn’t not tell her of my impending visit so she wouldn’t have time to plan anything.

GENTLE READER: Tell her thank you for the offer, but that your time on this visit is limited, and the two of you have so much to catch up on that you really would prefer to keep it just the two of you. Further add that there are a few other friends about whom you feel the same way. If your friend continues to push her plans, Miss Manners suggests you assure her that there will be other visits where you are not so pressed for time.

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,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

© Universal Uclick 12/19