WIN Judith Martin Miss Manners

PHOTO COURTESY OF UNITED FEATURES' SYNDICATE -- Judith Martin, columnist for Miss Manners.

Dear Miss Manners: How many wedding gifts do you give?

  • One for the engagement.
  • One for each shower.
  • One for the wedding.

Is this correct?

Gentle Reader: The answer Miss Manners will give you is not what you would hear from most engaged couples or those who aid and abet them.

They tend to believe that marriage excites their relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances to the point of wanting to fulfill the couple's every material wish. And couples are rarely shy about stating what those are. They have even had the effrontery to claim that etiquette requires this matrimonial grab-fest, or at least sanctions it.

It does not. There is no such thing as a marriage tax that comes due whenever the would-be recipients declare it is.

Engagement presents were a rarity until a decade or two ago. Perhaps a favorite aunt might be so moved, or a prospective mother-in-law might give the bride a family bauble to wear at the wedding. But no one showed up with a present at an engagement party, because the purpose of the party was for the parents to announce the engagement as a surprise.

Multiple showers are warranted only when the bride or the couple has more than one distinct set of intimate friends. They should not be catch-all occasions, and nobody should be expected to attend more than one. Anyway, shower presents should be charming but trivial, and not comparable to wedding presents.

And while wedding presents are serious, those are not expected twice, either. Miss Manners has nothing to say against your feeling generous to a friend who is being married for the second or fourth time, but etiquette considers wedding presents to be associated only with first weddings.

Dear Miss Manners: When I went to my boyfriend's college town to celebrate the birthday of one of his classmates, another one of his classmates, a female who lives in that town, proceeded to ask me questions about my relationship — "How long have you really known him?" and "Are you really dating?" — only to add an elaborate story of how they met in college.

It was obvious the crush still existed after 40 years. Almost jealous, she added comments like, "He didn't like me because I had small breasts."

I commented that one of the guests at our table was friendly and fun, only to have her comment back, "He's single," loud enough for my boyfriend to hear.

She continued with concerned, almost suspicious, comments about how my boyfriend doesn't share personal information with her — about me, the ex, children, work — and you could tell she was disturbed by not being more a part of his life.

I let her go on, but I would like to say something to her to let her know that it can't happen in the future.

Of course, I told him everything. He thought it was played best not to say anything, and he felt her comments were odd, too. I don't want to continue this secret with her as though I'm being faithful to her through this chat. I feel it was inappropriate, and honestly it is time to address the crush and let it crash.

Gentle Reader: Why? What does everyone hope for at a reunion? To hear that one's image has been cherished over the decades, and that one's present appearance does not douse the flame.

True, this was about your beau, not you, and he does not seem to find it particularly interesting or even amusing. Your attitude puzzles Miss Manners even more. The lady lives in another town, where you are not likely to see her again, the gentleman does not reciprocate her interest, and there is no question of sharing secrets, because you immediately relayed what she said.

Why, then, do you want to crush this crush? You need only have said, "Well, you have good taste. He is indeed wonderful and makes me very happy."

United Feature Syndicate

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