DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our son has just learned that he is the father of a 4-month-old child. Mother and father are not together.
How do we inform our friends and family that we are grandparents? Would sending formal birth announcements be proper? Would hosting a baby shower be appropriate?
GENTLE READER: Do you perhaps have a bit of homework to do before you hit the social scene with this news?
Perhaps Miss Manners missed the part where you established more of a relationship with the mother of the baby than your son now has. But even under happier circumstances, it is not the place of the grandmother or any relative to give a baby shower, let alone one for a mother who is estranged from them.
Tell your friends the news so that you can deal with their questions as discreetly as you wish. Giving things to the baby -- not pressuring others to do so -- is one way to show your interest in the baby. A far more urgent one is befriending the mother. Should you manage that, you may be able to experience the joys of grandparenthood, including the minor one of receiving the congratulations of your friends.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm a recent college graduate in my mid-20s. I make a modest but comfortable salary and have been supporting myself since I finished school.
As a fairly "new" adult, I have repeatedly found myself in situations where I feel I am in awkward limbo between young person and equal, uncertain how to behave.
For example, when dining out with people in my parents' generation (friends' parents, my superiors at work, etc.), I am never sure whether I should offer to pay or cover the tip. I don't want to act like a spoiled child, but I also don't want to offend anyone by presuming to be their equal when I've only just started out in my career and adult life. I certainly don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.
Could you please offer some advice on how a young adult such as myself should act in the company of older acquaintances and colleagues? I am at a loss.
GENTLE READER: On the contrary. You have already accomplished the most difficult part of this transition: recognizing that you are an adult.
Many people never do, Miss Manners regrets to observe. There seem to be a lot of overaged spoiled children around, who feel forever exempt from reciprocating the generosity of their elders.
With your superiors at work, the key question is whether they are taking you out on an expense account to discuss work, in which case you owe only thanks. If not, you pay your own share.
Check-grabbing contests with your friends' parents and other social contacts are not graceful. What would be graceful would be to issue an occasional invitation to those who have entertained you. That it will not be in the same style is unimportant -- they will be immensely flattered at the sign that you enjoy their company, not just the meals they provide. Do it within your own price range -- perhaps for a drink, or tea, or brunch at your place.
If that is impossible, alternative forms of reciprocation could be occasionally bringing a small present, such as a book or DVD you think they might enjoy, or insisting on helping them with a problem they happen to mention (with a computer or new cell phone, or gardening or taxes -- whatever you can do that they admit is driving them crazy).