Miss Manners: Receive standing ovation with smile and modest nod

May 28, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper etiquette for an individual on the receiving end of a standing ovation?

The case in point was not a performance, but rather a time of recognition for an individual at a board meeting of about 30 people. All participants were seated, while the individual was recognized for lengthy service to the organization. At the end of the spoken recognition, the individual was given a standing ovation.

The recipient of the ovation remained seated while all others present stood and applauded, then, while still seated, thanked the group, at which point the rest of the group sat down.

Should the recipient have stood at some point to acknowledge the ovation, or was it proper to remain seated until the ovation ended and the rest of the group took their seats?

GENTLE READER: The recipient’s job is to look bashfully pleased. This can be done from a sitting position, by first raising the head to show a huge smile, and then dropping it to the chin to show humility. (Note: Miss Manners does not advise declaring that one has been humbled by all that honor. Everyone does say that, but no one seems capable of doing so without a smirk.)

Standing up and spreading one’s arms while murmuring “Thank you, thank you” can be charming, but it requires some drama to bring it off without looking as if one has won the Triple Crown. For the truly bashful, remaining seated may be the wiser choice.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were invited to a neighbor’s son’s graduation party. These folks have hosted numerous wonderful and generous get-togethers this past year, so I assumed when I RSVP’d saying that we would be attending, that this might be another occasion where each neighbor contributed some food or beverage item. I inquired what I might bring.

The response took me completely off guard, and I was, and am, at a loss for how to politely respond. I was told, “Oh, you needn’t bring a dessert. This is a graduation gift shower. As long as you show up with a gift, that will be sufficient.”

I am torn. Had I not just said we would be coming, I’d likely have found a graceful way to decline such an offer, but had already given my word. I also think I likely would have spent a comparable amount on a food item to contribute had that been expressed as the desire of the hostess. But somehow, being left with a “gimme” has left me not wanting to give.

I assume I need to go because I already RSVP’d that I would. Is it appropriate to show up without a gift and say something like, “Oh, I assumed you were joking!” when asked for it? Or should I just bite my tongue and obediently show up with said gift but make a note to be more cautious in the future?

GENTLE READER: This is clearly a pay-to-enter occasion. Evidently, your neighbors believe that all their parties are. They apparently counted those dishes, which you thought of as neighborly contributions, as being the price of admission, which they are now waiving as long as you contribute to their son.

Miss Manners agrees that having accepted the invitation, you are stuck. But the next time you invite them and they ask what to bring, say, “No, no, we don’t accept contributions; just come.”

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

, by Judith Martin

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