DEAR MISS MANNERS: Since I moved to a small town three years ago, I have had the good fortune to have made many, many friends and acquaintances through work, fundraising groups, professional associations and church.
I am happy to be so popular, but I find that I tend to get invited to every wedding/baby shower that comes along. Many times, I only know the person casually (we don't get together socially, only interact though our organization).
I am single and on a tight budget. At the last baby shower I attended (for a woman I didn't know that well from my youth group at church), I felt embarrassed that I could only spend $15 on a gift, when all the other women (with big double incomes) could afford entire playsets, strollers, etc.
I have been invited to another shower in two weeks for another woman in my church that I don't know at all. I was one of only eight people invited. I have $30 in my checking account that needs to last two weeks.
Should I attend and not bring a gift? Offer to help in some other way? Or make up an excuse and skip it?
Many of these women have two to three showers, one for church, one for family and one for friends. This is the eighth shower to which I have been invited, and I am getting bled dry. Not to mention that after the obligatory thank you card, I usually never hear from the person again.
GENTLE READER: So far, you haven't mentioned any friends. A friend would be someone you have gotten to know and like well enough so that, for example, you rejoice that she is expecting a baby. And someone who likes you well enough to treasure any token present you gave her.
Participating in financial competitions to honor near-strangers does not constitute friendship, and frankly, does not sound like much fun, either, if you ask Miss Manners. The solution to your problem is to decline any such invitations with thanks and congratulations.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a walking routine which I love, where I pass five times the same places. Now, with the nice weather, I often walk by elderly people sitting on their porches. How often do I have to acknowledge them?
I would like to say a hello the first time I pass and goodbye on the last round, but there is one person in particular who says something to me every time I pass his house. Is it necessary for me to respond every time? I feel guilty when I do not, but at the same time, I enjoy my privacy and my own thoughts. Is twice enough?
GENTLE READER: You are not walking fast enough. By the time a neighbor spots you and says something, you should be out of earshot.
This is not to say that Miss Manners wants you to ignore these people. She is just trying to protect you from getting caught. If you wouldn't mind lifting a hand in greeting, you should be able to get away without breaking your pace.