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An engagement party gift 'request'

Judith Martin
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; C03

Dear Miss Manners:

I received an invitation to an engagement party/dinner. In the envelope, a small card was inserted reading, "We kindly request that you leave the choice of the gift to the engaged couple."

How exactly should I take this? I always thought that when you get engaged you do not get a gift. When you get married you get a gift, and what happens if the wedding is called off?

I was thrown off by what feels like a rude way of asking for money! Please help me in my understanding of this.

You understand this perfectly well: Rude people are making a blatant attempt to exploit their friends. Personally, Miss Manners would be inclined to let them have the pleasure of handling their own presents entirely - choosing, finding and purchasing.

Dear Miss Manners:

The young lady I'm dating is upset with me because I won't give her a title. I'm 34, she's 27. We've been seeing each other for two weeks, and we are nowhere near engaged or married. Is there anything I could introduce her as that would pacify her?

My New Acquaintance? The Woman of My Dreams as of Last Week?

Miss Manners doesn't know about you, but the lady's request scares her.

You might try the flattering argument that there is no need for a title because even though your relationship has only just begun, you have already taken the trouble to memorize her name.

Dear Miss Manners:

I am putting together a baby-shower luncheon for a co-worker. It is a second baby and more of a get-together than a full-fledged shower. They call it a "sprinkle" - small gifts second time around. Around 10 people.

How do I invite people to a lunch and also inform them they have to pay for their own lunch?

If Miss Manners may say so, "sprinkle" is an unfortunate term for an occasion having to do with an infant. Yet she thoroughly approves of efforts to seek refuge from the now-common shower that is more of a deluge. Such events - and she is including showers for first babies as well as wedding showers - have turned from lighthearted events to pretentious ones with serious outlays of money.

So by all means have an informal little get-together with whoever among your colleagues cares to participate. You are not inviting them, but merely organizing the event, so it should be phrased as "Some of us are taking Tabitha out to lunch to celebrate. Would you like to join us?"

Dear Miss Manners:

My stepson is estranged from his father, and I want to include him in the obit but not list him as his son. May I do this? However, I want to list my children from another marriage but not indicate they are stepchildren. Please advise. This is a ticklish subject.

An attempt to have your husband disown his son posthumously strikes Miss Manners as outrageous, and no reputable news outlet will accept it. In contrast, frankly including stepchildren is perfectly acceptable. If you are talking about posting your own notice, you can fudge it by grouping them all, regardless of the emotional ties, as his survivors.

Dear Miss Manners:

Is it incorrect etiquette to touch your teeth to the tines of a fork, or to the body of a spoon, while eating?

Yes, and it is incorrect for other diners to wince if this is done, but they plead to Miss Manners that they can't help it. You can.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail questions to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com; enter them at www.missmanners.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

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