DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a question regarding the etiquette of a married woman giving jewelry to a friend (male, also married). Specifically, I would like to give my friend a lovely vintage tuxedo set, with cuff links and shirt studs, for his birthday.
Another friend told me that cuff links are an inappropriate gift, and that they are considered so intimate that a man should receive them only from his wife or as a family heirloom.
Would it be unseemly for me to give my friend this set? My husband would probably be giving him a separate gift, but if it would make it more appropriate, I can present the set as a gift from both of us. Or is my other friend right, and there's no way for me to correctly give this type of item to any man who is not my husband?
Also, I realize that I have described the cuff links and studs as jewelry. Would they actually be considered accessories? It's not an important distinction, but I am curious.
GENTLE READER: As the least suspicious person in the world, Miss Manners assumes that you said to your husband: "I'm sick of seeing Orville wearing those stupid plastic things in his dress shirts when we all go out. His birthday is coming up, and I'm going to get him a decent set."
It's the next part that she has trouble imagining -- your prediction that your husband would then get him a separate present. Is there really a husband who would not be delighted to be relieved of the chore of shopping for a friend when he can simply share the credit for his wife's graciousness?
If the present is not genuinely and openly from you both, the friend who said it would look unseemly has a point. Even then, it would be potentially embarrassing if the jewelry (which it is if there are precious metals involved) is obviously more valuable than what has been previously exchanged in this friendship. Can't you think of something else to give him? Such as a good book?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a bachelor, I take most of my meals in restaurants, and I have always thought that the proper way to eat bread is to break off a bite-sized piece, butter it and pop it into one's mouth.
Yet I don't recall ever seeing anyone (except me) do this. Most people break a generous piece from the loaf, butter it and consume it in four or five bites. Is my information incorrect or simply outdated?
GENTLE READER: There is no need for Miss Manners to condemn anyone here, when a small amount of give-and-take will put you and your fellow diners on the same plate, so to speak.
The rule allows two or three bites, so you need only break off a piece that lets you take one or two more, and they should take one or two fewer.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would like something nice to say to a friend who is retiring.
GENTLE READER: Go right ahead. "Congratulations" and "I hope I'll see more of you" come to Miss Manners' mind. "What are you going to do with yourself?" does not.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)