Dear Miss Manners: I recently felt compelled to give a baby gift to the first child of a close friend of my son's - their long-standing friendship was so close that for years the young man called me Mom.
When my son, his fiancee and I visited, mother and baby had been home from the hospital for two days and baby was less than a week old. We called before visiting, and the new father said he had to go to the store first, and we'd have to make it a short visit.We timed our arrival accordingly, and got there as the whole family arrived home. Within minutes, she started nursing and asked for a glass of juice. Her husband brought it and then asked if we'd like a drink. She told him, "No, we're not going to make a late night of it."
When we'd been there half an hour, she announced that visiting hours were over. The conversation was flowing, she was nursing, and finally, after the third announcement in half an hour that it was time to leave, we did.
The hour we were there flew by and was packed full, and it wasn't until the door closed at 9 p.m. that it sank in just how rudely we had been treated. If our visit was so inconvenient, we could have made other arrangements when we called. If we were not to be offered any refreshments, she should have told her husband beforehand, so she wouldn't have to rescind his offer in front of us. Then asking us to leave is beyond my comprehension. Putting my feelings aside, I think she, as a young professional woman, needs a lesson in manners. Is there any response I can make at this point without being as rude as she was?
Gentle Reader: It seems to Miss Manners that everyone in this situation needs a lesson in manners, with the possible exception of the baby.
But come to think of it, the baby did have dinner in front of guests without offering them any. Don't you want the baby to learn better control in case it decides to go professional?
You say that the hour flew by. That is because you had not just given birth and come home to take care of a newborn baby. Although the mother violated the strict rules of hospitality, you violated the even more basic tenet of manners that requires showing sensitivity to the feelings of others.
Another essential of etiquette seems to be lacking in the husband. Of course he should have told you, when you called, that this was a bad time to visit, and he should have suggested another time, but he was obviously too flustered to do so. He had better master the skill of saying no politely before he finds himself at the mercy of that baby, who will soon learn to ask for the impossible.
As for what you can say now, Miss Manners suggests: "I'm so sorry we got carried away with the pleasure of seeing you and your adorable baby that we kept you up. Please forgive us. We would love to see you all again; do let us know when it would be convenient."
Dear Miss Manners: When my wife and I get invited to the wedding of a son or daughter of our friends, we usually don't go to the church part, but always go to the wedding reception. We make sure to talk to the bride and groom and always take along a gift.
The reason we don't go to the church is that I'm not a religious person and my wife is not a member of a major religion, and this is known to our friends. But a number of people not involved in the weddings have let their displeasure be known to us in no uncertain terms.
Are we obligated to go to the church if we want to exercise our desire to go to the reception? Are we inconsiderate, and does this give them the right to be rude to us?
Gentle Reader: Miss Manners does not recall "the right to be rude" as being in the Bill of Rights, and grants it to no one. But she can certainly see how you and your wife tempted these people beyond endurance.
Attending a wedding ceremony is not an expression of one's own religion, or an endorsement of anyone else's. It is participation in a ceremonial milestone in the lives of people who are important to you, in a way that merely attending their social events is not.
What you and your wife have done, by following your idiosyncratic reasoning unrelated to the understanding and customs of the society, is to establish the idea that you attend parties but not ceremonies.