Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Friends Can’t Enjoy Lunch Without Their Phones

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in my early 30s and recently engaged. One of my issues is that I dislike being the center of attention -- a fact that I have been working at more and more, as there are so many bride-centric activities.

I have struggled with anxiety that has been crippling at times (i.e., I had a period where I was unable to leave my house for two months). Through hard work, I have gotten past most hurdles, and my family has been very kind and supportive.

My family members are throwing me a shower, and have agreed (somewhat begrudgingly -- I suppose there is a limit to the support people can give) that it will not be a surprise, due to my anxiety. But I am struggling with the prospect of opening gifts at the shower, and the anxiety issues this could cause. I have a large family, and with both families and friends, this could be an event of close to 100 women.

I have been a guest at such events, and this part becomes tedious and boring (a sentiment cousins and aunts have shared with me as well). I would much rather be talking to family and friends then sitting in a chair opening gifts.

How can I graciously bow out of this tradition without offending my hostesses, who like to stick with tradition, and without having it seem like my anxiety is a card I am playing to get out of things?

GENTLE READER: How supportive is your family if it insists on giving you a shower you dread?

It is apparently not well known that a marriage can be perfectly valid -- and even happy and lasting -- without a round of parties, a diamond ring, a $5,000 dress and a catered dinner dance. It is time to explain that to your family, and to point out that to throw a party for someone who will be upset is hardly an honor.

If your family wants to feel included, which is understandable, they can arrange small, informal visits in ways that you specify you can handle.

If you are stuck with the party, the gift-opening ritual -- which even some of them admit is tedious -- can certainly be skipped. It only requires putting someone in charge of making sure the boxes are labeled (cards tend to slip off) so you can write thanking the givers later.

But as your relatives apparently love surprises, why don’t you surprise them? Elope.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)