Dear Miss Manners: I’m writing to ask the proper way for me to ask my boyfriend to marry me. Since I don’t think he would want an engagement ring (he doesn’t wear any kind of jewelry or accessories), I don’t want to present one, but it does seem like the situation warrants some gesture of that nature. (Personally, I do want an engagement ring and do not mind paying for it myself, but I’m sure Miss Manners will agree it would be tacky to make that part of the proposal.) Does Miss Manners have any suggestions about the appropriate way to handle a nontraditional situation like this? Asking him to ask me to marry him seems a bit ridiculous. If it makes any difference, there is no doubt in my mind the answer will be yes.
Gentle Reader: Then allow Miss Manners to wish you and the fortunate gentleman great happiness.
Now let’s talk about accompanying jewelry: Engagement rings have gotten out of hand, so to speak. They can, of course, be charming, but they are not essential to an agreement to marry. As you surmise, a proposal attached to the requirement that you get a ring would not be a good idea. Yet that is what people have come to believe must be a part of the male proposal of marriage. The custom seems to have shifted from the already-engaged couple choosing a ring together to a ring’s being part of the offer. Thus, the proposer has to select it alone, and the proposee is distracted by examining jewelry while pondering (or not) that life-changing question. Miss Manners has heard from more than one lady who was happy to spend her life with a particular gentleman, but not enthusiastic about spending it wearing that particular ring. And presumably there are also ladies who wished to accept the ring but not the gentleman proffering it. So she would suggest that you concentrate on expressing your love and your hopes for your joint lives ahead. Later, you may hint that you would like a ring, or merely announce that you are thinking of buying one so that people will see tangible evidence that you are engaged – or stop asking why you don’t have one. You could also consider dispensing with an engagement ring and perhaps acquiring some sparkle in the wedding ring that you and your fiance select.
Hosting a baby shower
Dear Miss Manners: Who should host a baby shower?
Gentle Reader: No one who stands to benefit from the shower of presents associated with such an occasion. So first, that means the baby. But also his or her prospective parents, grandparents and other close relatives. Once, Miss Manners would have thought it unnecessary to specify that one should not say, in effect, “I have a great idea for a party everybody will get together and give me (or my daughter/granddaughter/sister) presents.” Nowadays, she realizes sadly, it is. Well-wishing friends are the proper hosts for a baby shower.