DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm a man who was invited to a baby shower for the first time. Unfortunately, I think my inexperience with baby showers showed, and I'm worried I've made some mistakes in etiquette.
I received an e-mail from a stranger, with an attachment of a picture of an invitation to a baby shower to be held for a close friend the following week. It indicated where the expectant mother was registered for babywares.
With only a week's notice, I already had a prior commitment that day, plus the baby shower would have required me to travel a great distance. I sent my regrets through a reply to the stranger's e-mail. Later, a real invitation to the baby shower arrived at my home, but I did not reply, thinking I had already passed along my regrets to the hostess.
I feel awkward and ignorant because I'm not sure what was expected of me. First, how important are baby showers? Should I have canceled my previous commitment to attend (as I would have done for a wedding or similar affair)?
Second, how and to whom should I have sent my regrets? I received the invitation initially by e-mail from a stranger, so I had assumed she was the hostess and I should reply to her via e-mail, as well.
Third, what should I do for my friend? I only speak with her once or twice a year, so I don't know if I should call, write a note or go onto the baby registry to get her a gift (or all three).
I'm sure there are other things I've done wrong, too, and I've been upset thinking I've offended. This is all unfamiliar territory for me. I've just been invited to another baby shower (my second ever) but want to be sure I get this one right. What was/is expected of me?
GENTLE READER: Please don't panic. Miss Manners doubts that this is the first party you have attended that has been planned by ladies.
Normal social rules apply: You answer the invitation in the form in which it arrived to the person who issued it. You did that when you received the e-mail invitation. The oddity of its turning out to have been a preview of a paper invitation is not your responsibility. Nor need you worry about not attending. However overblown showers have now become, they are not ceremonial occasions.
But don't you normally congratulate your friends when the occasion arises? Whether you do so by telephone or mail is not important, and since you are not participating in the shower, a baby present can wait until you hear of the birth. But to ignore her news itself would be callous.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was asked to furnish the wine at my grandson's wedding -- which I was happy to do. The leftover wine I brought home, and I stored it. My grandson says it's their wine. I say it's mine. What's proper?
GENTLE READER: What could be more decorous than a grandmother and grandson fighting over leftover booze?
It would be proper for you, as the elder, to put a stop to this debacle by allowing him to take it.