DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a town that bestows standing ovations as routinely as one draws breath. As a child, I was taught that one gets to one's feet when the performer is at the absolute top of his game and has moved one deeply. Otherwise, one applauds appreciatively, or, in some cases, politely.
Within two weeks, I attended a number of events where standing ovations occurred: choral music at an evening church service, an annual meeting in which certificates of appreciation were handed out, a concert performance by three tenors, a high school performance by students, and a bar association luncheon at which 1,000 lawyers leaped to their feet both at the appearance of the speaker (a Supreme Court Justice) at the podium and at the conclusion of his presentation.
All events were enjoyable and interesting. None qualified as "top of their game" and/or emotionally moving.
Am I hopelessly out of touch (always a possibility)? Just being a curmudgeon at my resistance to peer pressure? I do not wish to be unkind but find all this aggravating.
GENTLE READER: It is called Ovation Inflation, and serious aesthetes deplore it. It leaves them with no way of expressing real joy.
Performers ought to deplore it, as well, because it precludes enjoying a genuine triumph. Instead, many have taken to seeding the reaction by applauding their fellow performers and occasionally, Miss Manners regrets to say, themselves.
Sharing your regrets -- and let's not have any of those "out of touch" insults for proper behavior -- Miss Manners urges you to sit these ovations out with quiet dignity, waiting for those special moments.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were embarrassed by the gift we brought to an engagement party we went to last year.
We bought a funny relationship-comedy DVD and a box of popcorn to pop while the couple watched it. We thought it was a fun gift for them to enjoy during the stress of planning a wedding. The cost of the gift was probably $10. After all, it is still just an engagement that can be broken at any time.
However, when the engagees decided to open their presents in front of the group, we saw that they were receiving big-ticket items such as televisions and microwaves and other large gifts more typical of wedding presents.
What is the appropriate gift for an engagement party? Especially if, as in my situation, you are close with the bride and will also be buying a bridal shower gift and then the wedding gift? Or perhaps you are even a member of the bridal party and will have further expenses. Buying so many gifts for the same couple can get a little tiring -- and expensive!
GENTLE READER-- Making embarrassment sound like the best choice.
However, Miss Manners sees no reason for you to be embarrassed. You gave a thoughtful little present, appropriate to the occasion, and if others choose to give two or more sets of what are, in effect, wedding presents, do not let it bother you.