I would like your opinion on how to show appreciation for services rendered by the very helpful staff -- two secretaries,a head maintenance man and two or three maintenance men under him -- at the fairly large complex in which I rent an apartment.
The custom of the few people I know is to give something at holiday time. They give $10 each to the men and cookies to the women. I wonder how many cookies the women can eat. And why the sex difference? One person said he gave money to the men and gift certificates to the women.
Money for men and cookies for women? And where are the smelling salts for poor Miss Manners, who has just fallen over in a heap?
She would have thought that the practice of treating workers according to their gender would have been stamped out by now. But your horrifying example illustrates how deeply ingrained is the misunderstanding on which this is based.
It may even be that the "gift certificates" one person gave the women were equal in value to the cash he gave the men. That still wouldn't make it right.
The distinction is based on the idea that it is not quite nice to give women money. And why is that? Because people have long held the myth, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that women properly belong only in the social realm (where there is plenty of work, but without wages), while men divide their lives between that and the workaday world (where money is the chief measure of achievement). The fact that poor women worked for whatever money they could get, since the world began, did not interfere with this idea, but Miss Manners thought that the influx into the market of women from all levels might have.
In the social world, money is a crass present. It means you have no idea what your friend would enjoy. In the business world, it is inappropriate to try to guess how an employe would enjoy having the money spent; one gives it to him or her to spend. Even a gift certificate is limiting.
Miss Manners urges you to give cash bonuses to all of these valued workers. If you can't bear to hand money to a woman, by all means put it in an envelope.
I have just received an invitation to a cousin's wedding, with no return envelope or card included. It is addressed only to me, not to me "and escort."
I realize I can buy my own stamp and reply on my own stationery, and as I am currently not dating, the chances of my finding someone I'd care to take to a family wedding so soon are rather slim. But I thought both things were the little courtesies that ought to be observed. Am I wrong?
You are so wrong that you have reduced Miss Manners to helpless sobs.
The basic courtesies consist of inviting to weddings only people who presumably care about the marriage (as opposed to getting married in front of strangers whom those people have "found"), and taking it for granted that such people are civilized enough to answer invitations without being provided with prefabricated responses.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.