DEAR MISS MANNERS: For three generations, my husband's family owned a chain of department stores. At the height of their success, there were approximately 30 stores in three states. The stores were sold to another family-owned chain of stores about 10 years ago.
Since then, in an effort to preserve some family memorabilia for my daughter, who doesn't remember this part of the family history, I have collected several promotional and advertising items with the store name and logo on them. Many of the items are from the 1940s and '50s. Rather than store them away in a closet, I would like to display them in a tasteful and meaningful way. Most of the items are small -- paper fans and calendars, for example.
I know there are ways of displaying collectibles that reflect a person's interests and hobbies, but does having one's last name on the collectibles prohibit the display of this precious memorabilia?
GENTLE READER: There is a difference between a hobby collection and personal memorabilia, and what you have is in the latter category.
If you collected, say, seashells or Rembrandts, you could display them anywhere in the house. (Miss Manners is assuming that you are not a member of the Rembrandt or mollusk family.)
However, by the strictest standards -- meaning ones that are commonly flouted -- personal memorabilia, including family photographs, belong in rooms seen only by intimates of the residents, such as a library, study, bedroom or family sitting room.
Your case offers a particularly apt illustration of why. While your good friends presumably know something of your family history, other acquaintances whom you entertain may not. If they were unaware that your family no longer owned the chain, they might assume that you were advertising the goods. Or worse, that you were giving out logo-laden souvenirs.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: All I want for my birthday is dinner out with my life partner. I do not want all kinds of e-mails and talk about it from my co-workers. I work at a Fortune 500 company that views such things as important for employee bonding. Even though I requested that my birthday not be celebrated publicly, word has gotten around and I am getting unwanted attention. Is there any way I can respond to curb this? Or do I need to just put on a good face and get through the day?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is afraid so. Much as she sympathizes with your distaste for this kindergarten practice among working adults, you cannot tell people to buzz off while they are wishing you a happy birthday. And if that were all, it wouldn't be so bad. It's the cakes and collections for presents that create a burden for those who must participate and can hardly make the guest of honor feel beloved, as he surely knows he doesn't pony up for others because he loves them.
If you can find others who also consider the idea that they will work harder if colleagues are required to pretend to be their buddies patronizing, perhaps you can kill the practice in your office.