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Miss Manners: Declining an invitation doesn’t require a lecture

Dear Miss Manners: I did quite a bit of work for a group I belong to, and the organizers of the event wanted to thank me by taking me to lunch.

I don’t like eating in restaurants and never have, and if someone is trying to thank me, that’s the last thing they should do. I declined and explained why.

I was told by someone else that this was unkind of me. This has happened before, and I find myself at a loss as to what to do.

Should I accept a thank-you that is uncomfortable for me, or should I continue to explain that a nice note in the mail would be perfectly acceptable? A box of chocolates is always nice, too.

Gentle Reader: And if they gave you chocolates, how could they be assured that you wouldn’t give them a lecture on why you don’t like eating chocolates and never have? You don’t have to accept the restaurant invitation. You may politely decline. But, Miss Manners begs of you, spare the group your reasoning – or helpful suggestions of what they could give you instead.

Parents pooh-pooh presents

Dear Miss Manners: I have small children who are frequently given gifts from family members, some of which we don’t feel appropriate for a child (toy weapons or revealing clothing for little girls, for example).

The givers fall into two categories: those who give the items because they say they know we will not purchase them for our children, and those who simply don’t have the same point of view as we do about parenting.

At the moment it is possible for us to write a thank-you note stating that we are so touched that the person loves our children and has thought of them, and then put the gift away. However, this will get more difficult as the children get older and become aware of us withholding these gifts.

I wouldn’t think of trying to tell people they should buy the children specific things, as of course gifts should never be expected, but I am at a loss of what to do. I worry that someday they will find out that we take the gifts away and be hurt.

Gentle Reader: Once your children have reached the age of awareness, you can’t reasonably take away presents that they were witness to being given. It is, however, well within your parental rights to mandate where and how the undesirables may be worn or played with (i.e., only behind closed doors).

Even if you could police your friends, monitor the exchange or remove the presents entirely, Miss Manners warns you against it. If your children really want them, they will find a way to procure the coveted objects eventually anyway. Wouldn’t you rather they do it under your guidance and jurisdiction?

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s daughter, Jacobina Martin.