DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a recent widower and will be dating a lady for the first time. We will be attending a performance of “The Nutcracker,” and I’m wondering if it may be appropriate to give my lady a corsage for the occasion.

GENTLE READER: Even if your late wife was your high school sweetheart, and you remember how thrilled she was when you pinned a big purple orchid on her, this is not a good idea.

To the post-prom set, corsages are associated with weddings. For a first date, or even a fifth one, Miss Manners is afraid that you are more likely to frighten a lady with such a decoration than to thrill her.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mom thinks it is inappropriate to give my boyfriend a foot massage and a shoulder massage in front of her. Do you think this is inappropriate?

GENTLE READER: Personally, Miss Manners wouldn’t even want to watch you give yourself a foot massage.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: With the holidays approaching, I find myself torn. In the years past, I have taken my son to purchase presents for my ex and his family. I like being able to take my son shopping and to see him get the gifts for “his” family that he sees as appropriate.

However, I feel that perhaps his father should be responsible for this task. I don’t feel appropriate being the one to purchase these gifts, as I would not continue to give gifts to the family if not for my son.

I am wondering if it would be appropriate for me to ask my ex to take our son shopping, or if, because I have been the one to purchase the gifts, I should just continue to do so. I normally give a monetary allotment to my son, and he finds gifts within that allotment for his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents for that side of the family. I will say the allotment is equal to the amount that he spends on my side of the family.

GENTLE READER: Your repeated use of the word “appropriate” puzzles Miss Manners. Do you mean to inquire whether there is an etiquette rule about who does this shopping? Or are you asking how others would react?

But this is a case in which you are on your own. Do you want to continue, as you say that you like doing it? Do you want to turn it over to the child’s father? Do you want to do the shopping but have the father subsidize it?

The etiquette problem arises only if you decide to make a change, and it has to do with how you present this to your son. If your former husband accepts this, it can be explained in terms of his being better able to advise about pleasing his relatives.

However, if he balks, you will have to make sure that your son does not feel that he is the cause of friction between you. And this may involve your continuing the precedent you have established, unfair as it objectively seems.

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

2012, by Judith Martin

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