DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a single gay man in my early 60s. Three years ago, my niece came out to the family as a lesbian. One year later, she married her girlfriend. My family has been wonderful, accepting me, my niece and her new wife.
At the time of the girls' marriage, I discreetly asked if they planned on having children, in which case I would like to be the sperm donor. They didn't say much in reply.
A year later, at the annual family Christmas party, they made the announcement that my niece's wife was expecting twins this July. Everyone but me was thrilled by the news. I was hurt that they had never at least talked to me regarding my offer.
Although we three are all gay, we are seldom in touch. I have never been invited to their home, for instance.
When their twin girls were born, I was as thrilled as the extended family. I immediately ordered a beautiful bouquet to be sent to the maternity room.
Meanwhile, I asked my brother, the new grandfather, if he knew I had offered to be the donor. He said, "Yes, I knew, and it creeped out the girls."
I am very upset at the couple. Of course I will treat the babies with great love and affection, but the joy of this event is missing for me. How do I respond to them? I never received acknowledgment of the flowers, and I checked that they had been delivered.
GENTLE READER: Indeed, your niece and niece-in-law should have thanked you for the flowers.
Please forgive Miss Manners for seizing on this easy etiquette problem. It is just that she is weak with relief that the brides did not write her at the time, asking for the polite way to decline an uncle's wedding present of his sperm.
You do not seem to appreciate that this was not comparable to asking whether they would like the family china, to which they could have replied, "That's so dear of you, but we already have as much china as we can use."
The only possible way to introduce this idea would have been if they had brought up the subject of having children, and you had requested permission, as an uncle, to make a personal inquiry. And then, in a seemingly offhand way, you could have asked whether your niece was perpetuating the family genes. Had they then said, "We can't do both sides," you could have responded, "Can I help?"
That way, if they had had any interest, they could have said so. Had they instead laughed nervously, courtesy would have demanded that you rescue them by joining the laughter to pass it off as a joke.
How should you react to them now? Like a proud great-uncle, with no references to the past.
Well, all right, one reference, but only after you have admired the twins without regard to their provenance. Then you can say, "There is one thing I'd like to get back to" -- thus scaring the daylights out of all the adults present. You could then say, "The florist assured me that they delivered the flowers I sent to the maternity ward. Did they?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Who buys the future husband's ring?
GENTLE READER: The person who plans to give it to him.
(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.)