DEAR MISS MANNERS: On the occasion of my daughter’s graduation from college, my friend, an avid scrapbooker, gifted my daughter with the promise of a scrapbook of her college years. For this project, she asked my daughter to go through four years of photos and mementos, organizing them by date, occasion, milestone, etc., including explanatory notes to make the journey clear to my friend so that she could scrapbook it. She suggested that my daughter have copies made of social media pictures that would be included.
My daughter privately expressed her dismay at having to complete that extensive task just as she was concentrating on finding a job in her field and moving to another city.
This all happened two years ago. I am so grateful to my friend for offering this service as a gift, but frankly, it isn’t going to happen. My daughter has no interest in taking the time to do this. She wrote a lovely thank-you note to my friend, saying she was looking forward to gathering the material when she had time.
Now my friend is asking me about it, and I believe I hear an edge to her voice. Is there a kind way to let her know that this isn’t going to happen? And is it ever appropriate to “gift” someone with a service that requires a lot of work on the part of the recipient?
GENTLE READER: Whether they are proper or not, such presents are dangerous -- if you hope to instill gratitude, rather than annoyance, in the recipient.
Your daughter’s letter of thanks expressed the proper gratitude, and gave the proper warning. Your friend, unfortunately, did not take the hint.
Miss Manners fears that your daughter will now have to do one more thing she may not wish to do: She will have to let you apologize to your friend and explain just how busy she is. Your apology will imply that your daughter is failing to accomplish a reasonable task (“But what can one do?”). This is neither true nor fair. But on the bright side, it will save her from sneezing over old swim-meet ribbons.