DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my fiance and I got engaged, I told him that I did not need a ring. He insisted that he wanted to give me one, which I was fine with -- I just didn’t want him to feel obligated to buy me an expensive ring.
Ultimately, he was gifted a gorgeous ring from his grandmother to give to me as an engagement ring. I am so very in love with this ring, for both its beauty and its source.
Moreover, I am often told that it is very fitting to me. My fiance spent a lot of time looking at rings before his grandmother told him she had something he might be interested in, and not until he saw her ring did he think anything he had looked at “fit” me. In short, it’s perfect.
While not ostentatious or gaudy, the ring is larger than I ever would have dreamed, and frankly larger than he would have been able to afford. Because of this, there is a degree to which I am sometimes (especially among certain less-affluent friends) a little self-conscious of its size. Frequently, after receiving a compliment on the ring, I explain that it is an heirloom, thereby cutting anyone off from thinking about its cost to my fiance.
I remember learning in French class that when the French receive a compliment, they respond with some version of “Oh, this old thing?” Is my response to compliments on my ring rude in American culture? Is it just another way of bragging (if I am honest, I am quite proud)? Is it rude or disrespectful to my fiance?
GENTLE READER: America has appropriated many countries’ practices to varying degrees of success (often for their monetary incentives), but Miss Manners has always disliked this particular one, although she hardly blames it solely on the French. She finds it not necessarily rude, but simply unbecoming. The supposed modesty in insulting the very thing that another has just complimented is misplaced. After all, are you not then insulting that person’s taste for liking it?
Your response should simply be, “Thank you.” If the subject invites further inquiry -- or a long pause in conversation -- you may proceed and explain its charming origin, as long as this is done so anecdotally, not apologetically.