Miss Manners: Gifts require acknowledgment. Period.

July 20

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The parents of a recent college grad mentioned that she needed a car (to drive to a new job, hopefully) and maybe related family members could pull together and find her suitable transportation.

One thing grew into another — aunts and uncles dropped out of the effort — and I wound up purchasing her a brand-new car off the dealer lot. I even let her pick the color. Red, of course.

Did I ever get a phone call after she picked up the car? No. Did we create a spoiled brat?

GENTLE READER: Apparently that was already accomplished by parents who taught her that if she wanted something they cannot afford, it would be all right to pressure other people to give it to her.

And amazingly enough, you complied.

But the ingratitude is amazing only because of its dimensions. All presents, big or small, require acknowledgment, despite the claim of the beneficiaries that it is selfish of the giver to expect any such return. And those people must be experts on selfishness.

But Miss Manners notes that your relative, who is old enough to be responsible for her own behavior, is acting not only callously, but also against her own future interests. Whom will she turn to when she wants a yacht?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received a phone call from a friend who complimented me on my daughter’s wedding invitation. We spoke briefly; then she shared with me that her husband had just lost his job. She then asked me if it would be all right if they postponed their gift until a later date, when they would be in a better position financially.

How or what was the best way to handle this? I was totally thrown off guard and had never heard of anyone doing something like this.

My attitude has always been, “If you can’t afford to tip, you shouldn’t be going to a restaurant.” I would have said we are unable to attend the reception due to finances; however, we will be there to see her get married. Am I wrong or being too sensitive?

GENTLE READER: Wrong and insensitive is more like it.

Miss Manners will begin with your etiquette misdemeanors and build up to your crime against the very foundation of manners:

(1) You are wrong that wedding presents must be given at the time of the wedding. Anything up to a year afterward is acceptable.

(2) You are even more wrong to believe that presents are a condition of admission to a wedding celebration.

(3) Your reaction to the misfortune of someone you call a friend is so wrong it is frightening. The correct response would have been, “Don’t even think about that. The important thing is that we want you there.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What should a woman do after she has been kissed on the hand? I am not sure if there is some gesture or response the woman should offer to “complete” the sense of a greeting/acknowledgment.

GENTLE READER: To respond to this gesture is to allow one’s hand to be approached.

(Not actually kissed, because a proper gentleman kisses an inch or two above the hand, and would never attempt to do even that to an unmarried lady.)

Miss Manners warns you that this is not as passive or as easy as it sounds. Probably expecting a handshake, the lady will hold her hand stiffly vertical and so must gently rotate it to a horizontal position, allowing him to hold it from underneath while he kisses the air above the back of her hand.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

2014, by Judith Martin

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