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Miss Manners: In my experience, these men who ‘don’t do gifts’ are always duds

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 21-year-old daughter has been dating a conservative young man since high school. He seems nice enough, and he is highly intelligent. They are both studying business in college.

She seems to want to marry him, and I have reservations. I am wondering what your thoughts might be on the following:

He does not give gifts, and may skip occasions such as wedding anniversaries (if they have them), birthdays, Christmas and all the rest. He says that there is far too much commercialization around holidays, and that it forces people to purchase and receive gifts that no one really wants.

I am worried because people tend to take each other for granted the longer they are married, unless they work not to do that. My husband and I have been married for 30 years, so I know how easy that is to do. It looks to me like it has already started, and she does not even have a ring yet.

My daughter is no saint, but she is a giving person with a lot going for her. If he is showing her his appreciation in other ways, I am not privy to it. In my experience, every man who has ever said they “don’t do gifts” has turned out to be a dud.

What is your opinion? Should I worry?

GENTLE READER: It seems unlikely that you need Miss Manners’ permission to worry if a potential son-in-law is good enough for your daughter, but you have it, along with a bit of advice: Remember that your concern is that he treat your daughter well, not that he buy her things.

You and Miss Manners understand that his position on gifts is immature, pedestrian and self-serving — not to mention confusing, as most business students at least tolerate commerce. But the young man believes it is logical, modern and, the poor dear, original.

What you need to know is whether there are more important aspects of the young man’s behavior toward your daughter that you need to worry about. Talk to her.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How should one respond to a stranger’s questions about one’s ethnicity?

I was checking out of a grocery store when the cashier asked me, “Are you (insert ethnicity here)?” This is not the first time I’ve been asked this intrusive, increasingly annoying question by a complete stranger. I think it’s rude and I don’t want to answer.

In this case, I asked her why she needed to know. Her response was, “Because you look like you’re from there.” The entire interaction annoyed me. I would like to know how, or even if, I should respond to a stranger’s question about my ethnicity.

GENTLE READER: “I don’t know you that well. Are the peas on sale?”

Miss Manners includes the second half by way of illustration of how to change the subject, not because of a premonition about the vegetables in your local grocery.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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