DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have long-term friends, with a delightful family. We have watched the children from infancy grow up to be bright and personable young people, and we love them dearly. The two oldest were valedictorian and salutatorian of their classes, and were accepted to Ivy League schools.
We were in a position to help them, and gave each of them graduation presents of a dollar amount to enable them to forgo student loans. We have continued this yearly.
The difficulty with our situation is the youngest child. He is a senior this year, and may graduate. He has often stated his belief that the others were foolish to study so hard and not have much fun. His grades reflect his attitude and lack of commitment.
Needless to say, he will not be going to college in the near future. What shall we do about his graduation gift?
If we give him an amount similar to his siblings, I feel it will be a reward for his lack of effort. And if we don't, it will seem like we love the others more than him, which is not the case. I know that one doesn't discuss gift amounts, but I know that our gifts to the others are general family knowledge.
GENTLE READER: As you are so fond of the family, Miss Manners hopes you will not give up on the youngest child. He may yet amount to something.
However, if the money you so generously gave the others was specifically marked toward college tuition, you need not match it. Rather you might give him, as a graduation present if he graduates, something of use in whatever he does plan to do after graduation. Ignoring his graduation would seem mean, but a note saying that you will be glad to contribute to tuition if he does decide to go to college might be encouraging.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is your opinion of a engagement party which is also a fundraiser for the engaged couple? They are upfront about it being a fundraiser, and it takes place at their house, where they are cooking a meal for cash.
The idea behind it is that the marriage is in part because one member of the couple is of another nationality and hasn't been able to earn money in this country. Because of their single income, they would like to raise money from friends for the wedding.
While I have nothing against fundraisers, combining it with the engagement party seems a little gauche to me, since many people I know feel like they must attend the engagement party or risk offending the couple.
GENTLE READER: If there is a difference between engagement/wedding festivities and fundraisers, you would not know it from Miss Manners' mail. Nearly all the bridal questions concern one form or another of extracting money or dry goods from guests.
And perhaps not-so-coincidentally, many of them refer to the partner in the engagement as being a "finance."
The overriding purpose of this event, as its hosts and beneficiaries have explained, is not to celebrate but to raise money. Those who agree that this is offensive should not attend, but this does not prevent them from showing their good will by congratulating the couple and wishing them happiness.