DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a long-time Gentle Reader, I am usually loathe to complain about the vagaries and insults of modern life (knowing full well that it does no good, generally), but I herewith tender an observation about the new "seasons."
Those that used to be called spring, summer, fall and winter now seem to have devolved into two "procurement seasons": that of spring and summer graduation and wedding "procurements," and that of Christmas or holiday "procurements."
By this I mean requests for money after having had the gifts already chosen by the recipients or their family members. I was just asked to send a check to cover "my" Christmas gift for a child, the parents having chosen what the child wanted and then dunning the "giver" for the cost.
Of course, I was reassured that a card bearing my name would be placed in the appropriate spot on the package. Comforting, indeed.
Call me old-fashioned, but I do recall a time when it was a pleasure to seek out the perfect gift, and watch the recipient open said gift with what one hoped would be surprise and joy. It would appear this charming ceremony has gone the way of crinoline petticoats and white gloves.
And whilst I am about it, very often the "request" amounts are usually more than the "giver" would have chosen to spend, propelling said unhappy "giver" into penury, or, at the very least, straightened circumstances.
GENTLE READER: You know what? You do not have to comply with this form of extortion. These requests are not binding debts. You may use your own judgment and budget in selecting presents, and if the recipients object, you may consider that they neither understand nor welcome true giving.
What most troubles Miss Manners is that the practice of soliciting funds and prechosen goods is so commonplace that many -- perhaps most -- people now think it is respectable to demand handouts. A once-proud people have become beggars, not from necessity but from greed.
It will only change if people like you (if there are any left, other than you and Miss Manners) refuse to comply with these outrageous demands.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am upset regarding the way someone went about the purchase of a Christmas gift for a supervisor.
My husband's co-worker took it upon herself, without anyone else's knowledge, to purchase a gift for the boss that cost over $500, and then notified the rest of the group that they were expected to contribute $50 each.
I was outraged to find out that she had committed us to that amount with no consultation whatsoever. My concern is for not only myself, but for the other families who were involved that may not have had that amount to give without a second thought.
Although Christmas is a time for giving, I think that everyone's financial situations and preferences should be considered before committing an entire group to that high of a dollar amount. After all, who wants the embarrassment of telling a co-worker that you cannot afford an amount that they have deemed as so "reasonable"?
GENTLE READER: What is unreasonable is for employees to give Christmas presents to their boss. If anyone, it should be the boss giving to the employees, preferably in the form of a year-end bonus.
Miss Manners understands that your husband is reluctant to plead poverty and advises him to enlist colleagues -- they can't all be eager to toddy to the supervisor with an expensive present -- to protest the expense, if not the concept. He can suggest that the instigator either return the present or be entirely responsible for the debt that no one else authorized.