Nice people tell Miss Manners that they simply cannot believe it. Her often-stated lament that we have turned into a nation of beggars -- beggars who are far from destitute, but are trolling for luxuries -- is not their experience.
Well, yes, someone will recall, there was that wedding invitation from a distant cousin accompanied by a request to contribute money to help them buy a house. But that branch of the family never did know how to behave.
And there was the neighbor's son who sent out emails asking for sponsors so he could buy a car. But he was only a teenager, and his parents couldn't have known he was doing this.
Oh, and the colleague who asked for money to buy his wife a special birthday present. He has a high-paying job, but he probably has problems we don't know about.
There is a simpler explanation for all of these incidents and the huge number of similar ones being reported to Miss Manners every day. It is that people no longer plan in terms of luxuries they can afford or save to buy, but of what they want now, and they are shameless about asking others to pay.
A brief sample from her mailbox:
-- "Help me! I am 10 years old and I don't want to go to the library to check out books. But it is too expensive to buy an electronic book reader. What should I do to get it?"
-- "My nephew posted on Facebook that he was more than disappointed that he didn't get wedding gifts and how people came to the reception and HE paid for their meal so they got a free ride. He also posted that because of people not giving him money, he doesn't have enough to go on his honeymoon. He then requested donations! He and his new wife were really trashing people for not giving a gift and how broke they are now. What's amazing (well, not really) is that he never sent thank-you cards to the people who did give."
-- "My son is a college student and is saving to travel to Germany in the summer so he can visit a friend. Is it polite to let friends and family know that he is saving for a trip? And if it is, how is the best way to do it. By email? Facebook? Phone call? Or handwritten letter?"
-- "I was invited to the birthday party of a 6-year-old family member. I received an invitation by email and was asked to bring money as a gift. What do you think about this? I thought it was rude, and I am not attending at all."
-- "My husband's nephew will be making his confirmation today and all that has been mentioned is the amount of money to give, which I find crass and offensive."
-- "I received a group email regarding a pregnancy meal planning schedule. The young daughter of one of my friends is having a baby and wants everyone to sign up to bring meals or gift certificates for restaurants in our area. The request was for homemade dinners with likes and dislikes listed, restaurants that the couple frequents or gift certificates."
-- "In the past year, three different couples have sent me 'solicitation' letters for money to go toward the adoption of a new baby.
"Miss Manners, I was under the impression that becoming parents was a decision between spouses and their Creator, not a community service project that required donations from outside parties. While in some cases it may 'take a village to raise a child,' I certainly don't believe the village is responsible for the funding of the project.
"I know people, all too well, who delayed, sacrificed and saved to have a family. We all know the people who have worked two jobs, put off an education and made numerous untold sacrifices to become parents, without the 'community' becoming involved in their parenting efforts. Not to mention the people I know who have spent countless dollars on infertility treatments in the struggle."
Miss Manners knows people like that, too. They are the ones who say it cannot possibly be true that traditionally proud Americans no longer believe that asking for handouts is the last desperate and humiliating resort of the destitute.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)