DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am currently a senior in high school, which means I have been through 12 years of public school with a consistent etiquette issue -- that of fundraising.
In my school experience, we were always handed glossy brochures and large, pre-printed envelopes with the instruction to sell the lackluster goods to relatives, neighbors, our parents' friends and co-workers, and even to teachers. I usually demur and offer to pay my own dues for whatever club or field-trip, because I was taught not to ask people for money, which is, in essence, what fundraising is.
Usually the heads of such fundraising efforts tell me to get over myself, and I end up buying a lot of useless things in order to avoid bothering people. I am also intensely awkward saying no whenever I am asked to buy overpriced chocolates and candles to support someone else's extra curriculars.
Is fundraising of this sort rude or not? If it is not, you can, of course, also tell me to get over myself. If it is indeed rude, I would appreciate any tips you have for dealing with these situations.
GENTLE READER: Yes, no matter how well intentioned and for how good a cause, embarrassing people into buying things they don't want is rude. Good intentions do not justify bad behavior.
But nor does your recognizing the rudeness excuse you from recognizing the need from which it mistakenly sprang. That you should refrain from buying or selling over-priced goods is reasonable. That you should disdain supporting the activities of your school on behalf of those who cannot pay dues for them is selfish.
You could do your school an important service by suggesting alternative fund-raising methods. If you research the profit allocations of the company that supplies the merchandise, you may find that the school gets a disproportionately small share. Using the labor and talents of students -- whether in old-fashioned bake sales, car washes and concerts, or at something more innovative -- may turn out to be more profitable. And selling useful services is not rude.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper etiquette when receiving a knife as a gift? I always was told that the receiver of the knife was to pay the giver a penny or other monetary sum so as not to sever the relationship.
Now I have been to a few bridal showers lately and am being told that the giver is to give the receiver the penny as well as the knife. The latter doesn't make sense to me. Please help!
GENTLE READER: Superstitions are not supposed to make sense. The idea behind this one is, as you realize, that the knife is bought (for a penny) because to give and accept it would indicate the wish to sever the relationship.
But what if you bring such a present, with all warm wishes, to your dear friend who is getting married -- and she doesn't happen to have change? Should you quickly return the dress you bought to wear to her wedding, since by that time, you are likely to be enemies?
Or, to ward off this calamity, should you give her another present -- a penny -- at the same time, so that she is sure to have change and will not have to re-do the seating chart at her wedding dinner?