DEAR MISS MANNERS: A former teacher of mine, a beloved figure in the community, is being given a surprise retirement party by his students, colleagues and friends. The hush-hush invitations read sternly, "PLEASE, NO GIFTS! A money tree will be provided!"
The rationale is that given his modest salary, he will need the money to help him retire, rather than the "clutter" of presents.
I very much want to attend and honor this man; however, I am bothered by a dictate that shuns individual gifts for a crass financial payout. Also, I can hardly believe that he would sanction this, particularly as he taught us that money should never be a motivating factor in our lives.
Would it be rude of me to forgo the request for a financial contribution and bring an actual gift to the party, along with my sincerest wishes for a happy and healthy retirement? Incidentally, his contributions to my life have been priceless.
GENTLE READER: It perplexes Miss Manners when hosts neglect core duties -- providing the food and drink is a common one -- only to assume others: in this case, bullying the guests about a gesture that should be both personal and optional. Just stop it.
When it happens anyway, you are free to thank your host and say that you have already taken care of getting him a present. But better to put the gift in the mail than to draw attention by bringing it with you to the party.