DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I respond to the rampant trend of people soliciting gifts and charging cover fees for birthday parties?
One month, I had two party invitations for the same night. The first was a 30th birthday party with a minimum $35 cover for coffee, tea, and three hors d'eurves I could not eat (I'm a vegetarian), and $50 to attend a later performance. When I RSVPed that I could not attend because it was a bit pricey, the organizer (a friend of the b-day girl) sniped at me that it was quite a bargain.
The other party that night was a house-warming/40th birthday party for a high-earning friend who has everything she and her high-earning, live-in boyfriend could need.
This weekend, I am attending a bridal shower for a 35-year-old friend who is about to have her second wedding to a well-to-do man, with whom she already lives. The wedding follows in a week or two.
Both of these invitations specified where they were registered.
I think all this mandating of presents is utterly crude -- not to mention not applicable to their life stage or status. These are intelligent people who should be capable of deflecting consumer programming and seeing the crassness of their behavior -- or are they?
A co-worker thinks I need to recruit new friends. Please advise.
GENTLE READER: Good luck in finding them. The self-celebration, complete with self-selected material tributes but guest sponsorship, is, as you say, rampant.
The only way this crude practice will stop is if the targets refuse to cooperate.
Miss Manners suggests that you make a start by declining such invitations. This does not require an explanation or excuse, only a conventional expression of regret that you will be unable to attend. If you send your congratulations and good wishes to your friends, it may eventually become clear that your objection is not to them but to their form of entertainment.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am the social director for my department in grad school. This means that I have a small budget with which to throw parties and other events for the grad students in my major. This is fine and so far the parties have gone well.
Once in a while, a student will bring along their significant other or favorite professor, who I have served with the rest of my guests. In small numbers, this is manageable, but how do I subtly remind them that these events are for grad students only?
I would like to accommodate everyone, but I cannot afford it. Also, what do I say to others who ask if they can bring guests after this ad hoc precedent has been set?
GENTLE READER: Subtlety is a lovely quality, but it is not always the most effective method of getting information across. Or even the most polite one, if it leaves your guests in doubt.
Bringing along a professor to a department party, or even a friend, is not quite equal to the crime of bringing unexpected guests to a private party, and goodness knows there is a lot of that going on.
Here it strikes Miss Manners as a simple misunderstanding. You should say when you announce the party that it is only for the graduate students themselves, and answer queries with an apology that you are unfortunately unable to accommodate others.