Bad Advice On Wedding Gifts And Other People’s Children

flickr / M Pincus
Welcome to our latest Bad Advice column! Stay tuned every Tuesday for more terrible guidance based on actual letters.
Dear E. Jean: A few weeks after our wedding, I learned that friend A and friend B got together after they met at our reception (one of them mentioned it to me). They had a great time together and are planning to hang out again, and I’m incredibly jealous!
Aren’t I supposed to be invited, too? What’s the etiquette here? Isn’t there an unspoken rule about how to conduct oneself in these situations? Isn’t one supposed to go through the mutual friend, and not behind her back? I know it’s normal for adults to meet new friends through their social networks, but I want to tell them I feel disrespected. Is it my insecurities?
— From “FEELING ISOLATED,” via “Ask E. Jean” in Elle, 22 November 2017:

Dear Feeling Isolated,

What’s insecure about mandating that your friends arrange their social calendars according to the degrees of friendship from which they link themselves to you so as not to errantly enjoy themselves in your absence? Why, nothing at all, that’s what! The mutual affinity that these two share is plainly an attack on you personally and is expressly intended to come at your expense.

These friends of yours are not simply entitled to enjoy themselves when you’re not around as if any old, grown-ass person has a right to make friends with any other old, grown-ass person who returns their interest. People just aren’t capable of, like, knowing a bunch of different other people and being able to use their judgment about who they want to hang out with and when. What would that world be like? Folks just genuinely enjoying each other’s company and encouraging the people they love to find comfort and joy wherever they can, even if it means growing and expanding friend groups to include ever more people who love and appreciate each other on their own terms? Unthinkable.

It’s perfectly normal to demand your fair share of the finite amount of love available in this life lest someone you treasure experience even a fleeting moment of their own independently won joy, thereby chipping away at your personal ration of cheer. Every mutual smile and giggle that these two share outside of your presence depletes your own store of happiness.

This is a fact they well know, which is why they’re going to such extreme lengths — directly contacting each other without obtaining your permission first! The sheer gall! — to share each other’s company. A truly respectful adult would be sure to refrain from entering into the unchaperoned presence of another adult until they had been assured that all of their shared acquaintances had been consulted to their respective satisfactions.

Remind these friends that you are the social glue that binds them and gives their acquaintance worth, and request that they cease and desist all attempts at getting to know each other without you. If necessary, demand to be Skyped into any meet-ups you can’t attend in person, and you will soon find that that you will no longer feel isolated.

I recently spoke on the phone with an old friend from college. During the call she mentioned that her son is taking a drug for A.D.H.D. and that it really helps him focus. I know there is controversy surrounding this class of drugs, but I didn’t feel comfortable bringing that up. I assume she has looked into the pros and cons, and I know her mother is a psychiatrist. But should I mention my concerns nevertheless? Or should my concerns about seeming a busybody outweigh concerns about her son’s future health?
— From “NAME WITHHELD” via “The Ethicist,” New York Times, 20 November 2017

Dear Name Withheld,

The fact that you are literally aware that some controversy exists over a pharmaceutical should in no way stop you from giving your friend unsolicited advice about her child’s medical condition and any related treatment. Your Google probably works totally differently — and far more deeply — than this lady’s Google, and it’s important that you share everything you found in Reader’s Digest with her, lest she continue to rely on her own capability as a parent and the expertise of her son’s own doctor, who knows the specifics of her son’s case in the decisions she makes with her family about her child’s treatment.

Without your essential recollections of that thing you heard those people talking about on “The Chew” last week while you were getting your toes done, your friend may continue to believe that she herself, in conjunction with the degreed medical providers she has retained for the purpose, is in the best position to decide the course of her child’s care.

Dear Miss Manners: My wife and I got married about two months ago. We just finished going through all our cards and gifts, discovering in the process that there are still quite a few people who have not given gifts.
I have heard people convey that the proper window for giving wedding presents is from six weeks to one year after the wedding. What is the actual correct time frame to expect gifts, and after that time has passed, how do we go about inquiring with these people about the (lack of a) gift?
I do not want to be rude by making our guests think we are waiting for a gift (though we are), but actually our main concern is that perhaps the gift or card got lost at the venue or in the mail, in which case we and our guests both lose.
I’d like to simply send out a text message to each with something to the effect of, “Hey, please don’t feel ANY pressure to give a gift at all, but we went through our presents and did not find one from you, so we just wanted to make sure it didn’t get lost or misplaced.’’
However, I am afraid this will be interpreted as a thinly veiled (and rude) attempt to “remind’’ the guest that they have not yet given a gift.
—“Miss Manners” via Washington Post, 24 November 2017

Gentle Reader,

Only the most self-absorbed guest would interpret a mass, form text message sent to dozens of people concerning the whereabouts of absent gifts as a reminder about an absent gift, instead of what it obviously is, which is a deeply concerned and personal entreaty inquiring as to the dear guest’s good health as it relates to their capacity to materially reward you for publicly pledging to stay in a relationship with another human being for the rest of your life.

To take the time to type thirty-eight entire words, let alone and press send, shows just how deeply invested you are in these relationships, to the extent that you care passionately not just for the people, but for the things they really ought to have bought for you by now. We can only hope that your wedding guests see things as you do, and respond accordingly.

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