DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude, or simply not appropriate, to congratulate other people's mothers on Mother's Day?
I've been dating "George" for 10 years, and he never congratulates me on Mother's Day. When I asked why he has never said "Happy Mother's Day" to me, he replied that for him it is awkward to congratulate anyone other than his own mother. He went on to say that that's the way he and his friends were reared.
I'm a mother of two wonderful kids; he's very close to them, too, and always points out what a wonderful mother I am. I'm from another country and don't know if this is part of the American culture or just him.
GENTLE READER: Personally, Miss Manners believes that Mother's Day is rather an oddity. As her own dear mother put it: Is there a day of the year in which mothers need NOT be honored, respected and brought breakfast in bed?
Still, it may be useful to have a holiday in which mothers did not have the job of reminding their children to be grateful, and to focus enough to devise suitable presents. (The answer continued to be handmade ceramic ashtrays long after mothers had ceased to smoke, but we trust that era has passed.)
Now, however, apparently many mothers have resumed that job. Over the last decade, Miss Manners has had increasing mail from mothers complaining about not receiving Mother's Day honors -- not just from their own children, but from others.
First it was the fathers, who at any rate were responsible for guiding young children's response, so it didn't seem a stretch to expect them to participate on their own. They could use the occasion to reflect that if it weren't for the mothers, they would have to do this on every holiday.
But then the demands widened. Bitterness was expressed that non-resident fathers had foregone the opportunity, and that stepfathers and resident partners had not taken it up. Then, as you noticed, it spread to non-resident gentlemen, to the point where you speculate that this might be an American custom.
But when letters began coming in from mothers who were angry that their own mothers and mothers-in-law did not use the occasion to pay them obeisance, Miss Manners' patience ended.
Perhaps it should not have been unexpected in an era when people now routinely throw parties in their own honor. If mothers want to teach their children to express gratitude, they can demonstrate it by their own behavior to their own mothers.