Miss Manners: Registering for birthday gifts is simply about greed

August 28, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I just received an invitation to a child’s 1-year-old birthday party. While I was pleased to be invited, on the invitation it advised he is registered at a well-known toy store.

Am I missing something?

I can understand for weddings, but for birthdays it just seems tacky to me. (Especially for a 1-year-old who really has no idea of what is going on, and will probably be just as happy playing with the wrapping paper and box as what’s inside.) Is this the New Age yuppie era?

GENTLE READER: No, it was the succeeding Gimme era that thought of farming out its shopping lists. Miss Manners supposes that the child’s parents, in choosing items that they might otherwise want to buy him, are thinking of his education: They are teaching him that if you want something, tell others to buy it for you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m getting married soon and have begun receiving gifts via mail or parcel delivery. I will write proper thank-you notes, but we won’t get back from the honeymoon until (in some cases) more than a month after receiving the gift.

I’ve been sending e-mails to people to thank them, mostly to let them know their gift or check arrived, but I also will send handwritten thank-yous.

Am I going overboard? What’s the accepted interval before one should expect a thank-you? I don’t want people to think me rude for not thanking them, but I don’t want them to think me rude for using e-mail, either. I also don’t want them to think their gift was misrouted.

GENTLE READER: Why are you making double work for yourself?

And why does Miss Manners believe that with the best intentions in the world, you are never going to do it? Because you will return from your wedding trip with all sorts of things to do in your new life, and the mere thought of all those letters to write will exhaust you. Oh well, you will tell yourself, you already wrote these people. There are more urgent things to do.

But if you actually get so far as to sit down with a piece of paper, you will ask yourself what more you can say, as they know you received these wonderful presents.

Ah, you could tell them about your trip. But it sounds stupid to say you had a wonderful time on your honeymoon, as if you had expected not to, and anyway, this is supposed to be a thank-you letter, not a travelogue. Is it enough to tack on a “thanks again for ...”?

There is no need to put yourself through all this when you can dash off the handwritten letters as the presents come in, almost as fast as you could write those e-mails. But it is true, Miss Manners admits, that you would have to factor in the time you spend looking for a stamp.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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