DEAR MISS MANNERS: After 40 years of marriage, I think that I can speak to which sorts of wedding gifts will bring joy and sweet memories over two joined lifetimes, and during those times when the marriage may feel like a longer sentence than that. That is, the lovely piece of silver (however modest in size), the crystal sugar bowl and the additions to one's table services.
As the children of siblings, cousins and dear friends marry now, however, I find "requests" for increasingly strange gifts. I can easily ignore the registries of, for instance, barbeque tools and plastic dishes. If the bride has descended to that level in her quest to match her gifts to her current shabby housing, not believing that she will ever live elsewhere, then I can set her straight with appropriate nudges -- a crystal vase or silver something.
But here comes another "idea," with the filip of a load of guilt. The happy couple wants their guests to contribute to a particular charity -- "we only want your company," etc. Is this a new twist on the "just send us money for our honeymoon?"
I am happy for their devotion to charity. But am I whining when I say to you that the joy of picking out just the right congratulatory gift, knowing that it will be displayed (my taste is impeccable, so of course it would be), and that auntie may be thought of fondly as the years go by, is a pleasure not to be denied?
Must I now, though, feel guilty at even thinking of depriving starving children of my largesse? Which, while tasteful, is not large enough to change history, medicine or politicians' hearts.
Or send a spoon and a check? Or throw up my hands in exasperation, send them their darn check, and forget about weddings until sense and manners reign again?
GENTLE READER: When will that be? Miss Manners can hardly wait.
The charity plea is at least well meant. It says, in effect, "We know it is customary for guests to pay for attending weddings, but we are donating the proceeds to a good cause."
The problem is their premise. Yes, wedding guests customarily give wedding presents, but it is still rudely presumptuous of their hosts to tell them to do so.
Even Robin Hood and Maid Marian are not supposed to reach into the pockets of their own guests.
But try telling that to bridal couples who see the present potential as a shopping service or source of income, or to guests who don't want to put thought into pleasing the recipients. Among them, they have turned the charming custom of exchanging presents into a meaningless commercial transaction.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it proper etiquette to lick your knife at the dinner table? I have told my granddaughter it is not but await your answer.
GENTLE READER: No, it is not. And Miss Manners hopes she caught this in time, before your granddaughter slices off her tongue.