Baby Showers and Pregnancy, Vol. 6, Issue 39

Dear Etiquetteer:

My husband and I are expecting our first child. He is preparing to send out a birth announcement with photos to close family and friends by email (and we'll send out cards to people offline). A few people have offered to throw a shower after the baby is born, but we are not really comfortable with being the center of attention and will probably just throw some kind of regular party instead.

But that does not solve the question of gifts from people who will want to get us something. Our dilemma is this: We are going organic (from bedding to clothing to food) and are not buying anything for the baby from China or other places with suspect environmental or regulatory standards. (A lead-painted rubber duck, anyone?) We also don't want to do a formal registry telling people what to get us! But we know gifts are inevitable from some people.

We thought the best thing to do would be to add a link to the announcement to a Web page for those who want to give gifts. On that page is a note saying that gifts are not necessary, etc., but explaining that we are going organic and offering a selection of ideas with live links to organic baby stores, independent book stores, two charities, and other ideas. This way, we won't get a few dozen China-made things we can't or won't use from the big baby stores like [Insert Name of Colossal Chain Store here]. But we will make life easy for people who don't have the time or inclination to ferret out creative outlets without our making a registry of and asking for specific gifts.

So, Etiquetteer, what do you think of this? Is it proper etiquette to send mention of the link to our gift page with the announcement? Should we instead wait for people to ask us about gifts and just return or deal with the ones we can't use from people who didn't? Should a friend or family member be the one to circulate the gift ideas site instead of us? We want to be practical and considerate without being crass. We look forward to your response.

Dear Mother to Be:

First, allow Etiquetteer to congratulate you and your husband on the impending birth of your Little One. Etiquetteer wishes Your Baby a Long and Happy Life of Perfect Propriety.

Etiquetteer understands your reluctance to be in the spotlight at a shower opening gifts. On the other hand, you are throwing away the only opportunity you have to keep from looking crass and picky by denying your friends the chance to throw a baby shower for you. That way they end up spreading the word about your preference for lead-free organic products for Baby and not you. And as Etiquetteer thinks about it, an organic baby shower might be kind of fun! Everyone could wear hemp and unbleached linen and cotton (or at least neutral colors), eat organically grown crudités served from bamboo serving dishes, and enjoy themselves. Someone could even apply henna tattoos in the bathroom! And thank goodness Champagne is organic.

Because right now, Mother to Be, you are looking pretty picky. Etiquetteer has always said that it is rude to tell people what to get you until they ask. Including gift preferences in a birth announcement is not Perfectly Proper, even though it isn’t a registry. And your directives are sufficiently extraordinary to most people that they may feel demanding. Your friends and family members will want to do something for Baby, as long as it isn’t too difficult. As Gwendolyn Fairfax says in The Importance of Being Earnest, "If you don’t take too long, I’

ll wait all my life." So Etiquetteer hopes that you will reconsider allowing your friends to hold a baby shower for you, which is really the most elegant solution.

Dear Etiquetteer:

Recently, I was discussing the joys and woes of pregnancy with a friend who is currently expecting her first child. She bemoaned the constant health inquiries, the need for complete strangers to touch her abdominal area without so much as a by-your-leave, the insistence that she not carry large boxes, etc., While my dear friend understands that all of the inquiries as to good health, box carrying prevention comments, and so forth, all stem from The Place of Good Intentions, enough is enough. Pregnant women are not public domain, nor are they celebrities who have chosen to live a public life. And honestly, would you go around rubbing just anyone's tummy without asking? I think not. What, then, is Perfectly Proper when it comes to expressing your excitement and concern for the health of pregnant friends and strangers?

Dear Thoughtful:

Oddly enough, Pee Wee Herman has the best advice for what to do when a stranger touches you, pregnant or not. Remember what you’

re supposed to do when anyone says the Secret Word? SCREAM REAL LOUD! Etiquetteer is quite serious.

As for comments about heavy lifting, Etiquetteer hopes your friend will take them seriously. Marie Antoinette Herself miscarried after the effort of shutting a stuck carriage window! Your friend need only respond that she is grateful for their concern, varying the temperature of her response to the degree of acquaintance: frigid for total strangers, warmer for acquaintances and friends, warmest for her mother-in-law.

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Holiday Tipping and Baby Showers, Vol. 4, Issue 51

Dear Etiquetteer:I recently moved to a new apartment. Unlike my last living situation, this is an apartment building with someone at the front desk 24 hours a day, maintenance staff, and a building manager. Since I have never lived in a building with staff in all my years of existence, I have no idea about proper tipping during the holiday season.Not that it is important, but we're not talking a doorman with a hat and epaulets, who will call me a cab; the round-the-clock staff is more security focused.Dear Tipping:Etiquetteer congratulates you on your move and commends you on your thoughtfulness for those employed in your new home. Indeed, your query raised many happy memories of Etiquetteer’s days as a concierge in a condominium of some 100 residences. Christmastime invariably saw many discreet presentations of gifts at the front desk, from bottles of wine to books (from the people who really knew what Etiquetteer liked) to home-baked cookies. And, of course, cash. Cash is always the most Perfectly Proper gift in this situation. Etiquetteer strongly encourages you to get those gift envelopes with the oval cut out so you can see the president’s face on the bill, and to have a crisp new bill in the envelope. Etiquetteer has no idea how many people are on the staff of your building, but encourages you to remember as many as possible. Start with the building manager, continue with the staff with whom you interact most, and then the remainder. Please don’t forget the late shift, who rarely gets to see everyone in the building unless there’s a fire alarm.To Etiquetteer, a minimum cash gift of $10 seems appropriate for the holidays; less than that might appear cheap. So if your budget is less than $10 per person, Etiquetteer thinks a gift (perhaps chocolates) will be received in the proper spirit.You do not have to present each staff member his or her envelope or gift personally; if you wish, hand everything to the manager, who will distribute accordingly. Just please don’t bake a fruitcake, wrap it in tin foil, and send it down in the elevator.

Dear Etiquetteer:Two of my close friends are getting married next month. This grand move was precipitated by the fact that the bride is pregnant, although they did plan to tie the knot anyway.Being the quintessential hostess myself, I've undertaken to throw the shower. However, what I had in mind was to have one shower to honor both events, the wedding and the birth, but keeping the theme generic (a spa getaway) so that neither is emphasized more.This is mainly for budgetary reasons, but also due to logistics. The bride may be relocating soon and it'd just be the same eight people (who are not all friends) getting together in another two months to do pretty much the same thing all over again.I'm told it's improper, and that it's poor etiquette. But I'm pigheaded, ‘cause I think my ideas are cute (I'm calling it "Pamper yourself!"). Please let me know if it is truly a bad idea. Thank you.Dear Pigheaded:Permit Etiquetteer to agree with your self-assessment. Now let’s discuss why.Etiquetteer adores a theme party, but in this case encourages you to consider something that will be more useful and less embarrassing to your friends. Etiquetteer’s late great-grandmother Houska used to say, "The first one comes anytime. The rest take nine months." Even though more and more people are not even bothering to get married before having children, it’s still the height of Bad Taste to underline the situation by combining a bridal and baby shower.Whose budget are you thinking about: yours as the hostess, or the honoree’s, who will soon have another mouth to feed and a bottom to diaper? While Etiquetteer acknowledges the cuteness of your "Pamper yourself!" shower idea, isn’t it the new baby the honorees will have to be pampering soon? Etiquetteer doesn’t know the circumstances of the expectant bride, but imagines that a spa getaway might be less useful than traditional baby shower gifts.

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Two Urgent Pleas, Vol. 4, Issue 48

Dear Etiquetteer:I received an invitation to an out-of-town baby shower a few weeks ago. Out-of-town in this case means the only way I could get there would be by plane. To top it off, the shower is on a Sunday afternoon, which bumps up nicely against the start of the work week. I have declined, and properly.Now I'm getting frosty vibes from one of the hostesses (my sister-in-law). I must attend a Thanksgiving get-together at said in-law's home in a couple of weeks. How do I contain the frost quotient?Dear Declined:By ignoring it. Please continue to treat your sister-in-law as you always have, which will only make her look like a petty and ungrateful fool. Honestly, these people!

Dear Etiquetteer:I hope you can help us. My 44-year-old daughter is marrying a 49 year-old man we believe to be a four-flusher and liar. I don't like him and never want to see him. I don't want to go to the wedding. He is not welcome in our home. One of her brothers feels the same, two don't care, and two of her sisters are supportive. My wife and I are in a quandary, 77 years old and not in the best of health. Our daughter is in tears because we don’t accept him. This is a first marriage for them both.Dear Father of the Bride:Well, looking at this strictly from an etiquette point of view, you’re making an unmistakable stand. You couldn’t communicate any better to the entire world how much you disapprove of the marriage than by boycotting the wedding ceremony as you plan to do. At anyone’s first wedding the bride’s parents are very much on display, and your absence would be lost on no one. On the other hand, absenting yourself would be better than actually objecting when the officiant calls for those who disapprove to "speak now, or forever hold your peace."You realize, of course, that this would create a complete and total break with your daughter. Once anyone chooses a life partner, that person’s allegiance is bound to be with that person, for better and for worse, etc. etc. etc. So once your daughter marries this Man You Hate, she would feel as unwelcome in your home as he would be. And Etiquetteer can only speculate what attendant fractures might appear in your relationships with your other children who support or don’t care about the marriage.Now, dropping the etiquette issues aside for the moment, you and your wife need to weigh whether your love for your daughter is stronger than your hatred for her fiancé. If Love wins, you will need to welcome this Man You Hate as a member of your family. It doesn’t have to be awarm welcome, but you couldn’t exclude him from your home or from family gatherings. If your love for your daughter is strong enough, you may find the strength to do this, buoyed by your children who are advocating for the marriage. If Hate wins, you must reconcile yourselves never to have your entire family at the same gatherings ever again, unless it’s a funeral.This is a tough choice, but Etiquetteer cannot make it for you. Of course Etiquetteer hopes that Love will win. This Man You Hate may be all the things you think he is (Etiquetteer can’t know that). If he is, and your daughter discovers so for herself a few years down the road, your acceptance of her now will make it easier for her to return to you without fearing the sting of "I told you so."And from the "Trust in God But Lock Your Car" Department, Etiquetteer suggests that you check your will to be sure that, when your daughter inherits, her husband can’t get his hands on her inheritance.

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