Thursday, June 22, 2006

You tell 'em, Miss Manners

Advice colums are The Awesome. I don't know why I love them so... maybe because they're the print version of Jerry Springer, allowing you to experience effed-up families and situations from the comfort of your own home. Miss Manners is one of my favorites - she's very no-nonsense, and I love to read her shooting down people who try to use "etiquette" to get their way, embarrass others, or generally just be a pain in the ass. The classics, however, are when she slaps the hand of people who are trying to use traditionally done things to get others to give them money. Like this article (original can be found here):

Dear Miss Manners:

I have finally graduated from college at the age of 28. My family strongly feels that I should send out graduation announcements to the extended family and friends not only because they are proud of me, but for the monetary gifts that might result.

I, however, am rather embarrassed that it took me so long to graduate and do not want to trumpet the fact to my friends and relatives. I also am uncomfortable with sending out the "plea for money" that graduation announcements seem to entail at my age.

Is it wrong for me to strip my parents of their pride in my graduation by not sending out announcements or is this something that I can quietly sweep under the rug as I would like to do? BTW, my education was paid for entirely by myself so I do not "owe" my parents anything in terms of showing appreciation to them for my education.

You would not be stripping your parents of their pride. Nothing is stopping them from writing letters to everyone they know telling them of your graduation. For that matter, nothing is stopping them from sending around fundraising pleas, if that is what they wish to do.

However, Miss Manners congratulates you, first on your graduation and second on your refusal to use it to shake down others. A graduation announcement is innocent enough in itself, but in this case tarnished by the hopes that would be pinned on it.

The same logic applies to people who want to send out registry cards with their wedding invitations. The gifts or money should be an afterthought to why you're really all getting together. And graduation announcements do seem to be nothing more than asking for money, but most people feel obligated to send a little something anytime they get anything graduation-related. I remember when I graduated from college, my parents threw me a party, and the point of the invitation was to get them to come to the party (we specifically only invited people that I knew, which excluded some of my parents' friends that otherwise might have given me gifts.) However, most of the people who couldn't come sent something anyway. The party occurred, embarrasingly, after I had interviewed for my current job but before I had actually gotten it.. so I spent a good deal of the party telling people about the jobs I had interviewed for. And explaining what my majors were (physical anthropology and evolutionary biology), but that was normal for me.

Dear Abby has much the same philosophy about people who try to use what is "proper" to take advantage of others - like those who argue that the bride's (or groom's) family "should" pay for the wedding and reception and everything else that their side does not want to pay for, irregardless of who can afford it and how much money they actually have offered. Bums! I think a lot of those people just don't want to examine their own motivations for what they are asking others to do, and thus hide behind the veil of etiquette, which is supposed to be some kind of law that forces other people to do things for you.

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