Holiday Gift-Giving and Wardrobe, Vol. 4, Issue 46

Dear Etiquetteer:What is the proper monetary range for a gift to a 12-13 year old making either a Roman Catholic confirmation or a Jewish bar or bat mitzvah?Dear Villager:Etiquetteer really dislikes assigning a specific dollar amount to occasions such as these. It makes them seem so much more like a business transaction and so much less like a gesture of goodwill from the heart.Etiquetteer encourages you to consider a gift appropriate to a young man or woman, and NOT a boy or girl. That excludes toys and games of all types and technologies, and let’s be very clear about this. The Jewish rite of bar mitzvah is all about becoming a man. A gift of video games, to Etiquetteer, just isn’t the right message to send at that moment.So, what are good gifts? Etiquetteer always likes the idea of an Important Pen, the kind that can be an heirloom through daily use in one’s future career. If you’re feeling VERY extravagant, you could even have it engraved with the recipient’s name or initials. A briefcase would be overdoing it, however; and besides, when did you last see a young executive carrying a briefcase? You could also select a book of "inspirational literature;" Etiquetteer’s dear mother gave him a paperback copy of "The Pilgrim’s Progress" when he turned 13. For a young lady, a gift of grown-up jewelry might be well received.The point is, no matter the cost, your gift should reflect grown-up tastes.

Dear Etiquetteer:It looks as if I might be moving to another city at the end of the year -- contingent, of course, on selling my house. My problem is Christmas. With a move likely, the last thing I need is more stuff coming in. I plan to shop for friends and family as usual, but would prefer to receive no gifts, at least this year. Is there a proper way to let my traditional gift-list people know of my preference?Dear Holiday Elf:Etiquetteer’s answer, invariably in such situations, is that you can never tell people how to spend money on you, unless they ask. That said, Etiquetteer couldn’t possible stop you from the occasional "Oh, I just don’t know how I’m ever going to get everything packed. I have so much stuff!" in your conversations. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get all sorts of useful gifts for your move, like decorative storage boxes, trunks, or exotic foodstuffs for your new pantry. Etiquetteer also has to confess to some discomfort to the phrase "gift-list people." Wouldn’t "friends and family" be just as accurate and less businesslike?

Dear Etiquetteer: My husband and I have been invited to a Debutante Ball. The invitation does not specify a dress code. Will a black tuxedo be acceptable? Or is it assumed "white tie"? And is it acceptable for me a wear a simple floor length gown, or is black a reserved color?Dear Invited:What a delicious opportunity! Etiquetteer hopes that you and your husband will enjoy yourselves watching the young debutantes make their bow to Society. Still, Etiquetteer must admit surprise hearing that no dress code was specified on the invitation; that sounds awfully sloppy for a debutante organization . . .Never assume "white tie" for anything. Let’s face it, the only folks whom we see in white tie these days are magicians, conductors, and community theatre types who have just appeared in My Fair Lady. Without any clue from the inviting organization, Etiquetteer thinks black tie most appropriate. Thank you for specifying a BLACK tuxedo. This is not the occasion for one of those plaid dinner jackets, or a white dinner jacket (summer only), and definitely not one of those pastel numbers we used to see in the late 1970s. As for you, a simple floor length gown should be Perfectly Proper as long as it isn’t white – obviously that’s reserved for the debutantes – scarlet, or "Yale blue," according to the late Emily Post. Etiquetteer will also profess a preference for any color BUT black. Knowing you as Etiquetteer does, a wine red or lustrous deep grey would become you tremendously. Remember, Anna Karenina wore black to a ball and look what happened to her . . .Etiquetteer vigorously suggests you contact the debutante organization that invited you and find out exactly what they have in mind, especially for your husband.

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