DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner of many years and I broke up last year under what could euphemistically be called “difficult circumstances.” I was, as they used to say, the innocent party.
Neither I nor my three adult children had (or have) any desire for continued contact with this person, but when he and I met casually at a social event recently, he made reference to something he had seen that he wanted to get one of the children for Christmas.
Now, we were all raised to be gracious in receiving gifts and prompt in acknowledging them; however, I can assure you that such graciousness may well be beyond the reach of my very well-bred children.
Is it ever permitted to refuse a gift? If so, how does one do that? All of my children live out of town, so the anticipated mode of delivery would probably be the U.S. Postal Service.
I was too surprised when he brought this up to say, “Oh, I don’t think that would be a good idea,” but I also want to protect my children as much as possible from a really impossible situation.
GENTLE READER: Gifts cannot be refused merely because you loathe the gift. But they can be refused if you loathe the giver, or distrust his intentions -- an exception the Trojans forgot, to their peril.
Doing so is not a neutral gesture, which is why it is not to be done indiscriminately. As your children are adults, they may have to mail the unopened presents back themselves. Were they still in your immediate care, Miss Manners would agree that the task would fall to you.