A not-so-good friend at my office canceled the plans for her wedding. She and her husband had their service at the county clerk’s office — nothing glamorous at all. Although we’re still working from our homes, a woman in the office is putting together a major joint gift for the couple, and she’s sent out an email asking everybody to sign up and pitch in. That’s pretty awkward, I think. When I got married last year, I didn’t invite her to the wedding ceremony, so she didn’t give me a gift. We just work together. But I figure everybody will be able to check the email list. Do I have to be part of this nonevent? — Anonymous, Sylvan Park
Conventions can get unconventional if we give them a chance. Group gifts are a questionable idea, whether you’re working from home or at the desk next to the bride of the moment. You’d have thought you’d get through this one without having to pony up for a present, but now you’re stuck in a distinctly uncomfortable position. The guest list might have been limited to 25 or so if the invitations went out by mail, but now, it seems to have grown exponentially. You clearly didn’t expect to make the cut, which means you wouldn’t have had to send a gift, even as an anonymous member of the office group. Who thought of this idea, especially the listing of the names in an email? Not the newlyweds, let’s hope, unless they’ll want to know to whom they’ll need to send thank you notes or thank you Tweets. If you feel intimidated enough, make a payment via PayPal, but just a few bucks will be more than enough. Surely, amounts won’t be shared. Or you can bite the bullet and not respond. That’s a perfectly appropriate nonresponse to a nonevent. At least you won’t have to show up for the hot dish luncheon.
On the Welcome Wagon
I’ve lived in my house for a year, but I’ve never bothered to learn my neighbors’ names. Now that I’ve been seeing them all the time for the past half year, I know it sounds stupid, but I still don’t know their names. They look perfectly nice, and we always say hello when we make eye contact, but this is getting to be embarrassing. What do I do? — Anonymous, Bellevue
Who’s supposed to go first? The folks next door might have dropped by with a bottle of wine or loaf of bread, just to say hello. Maybe you might have even shared it. By now, time’s wasting or is already wasted. If they seem nice, or even if they don’t, go ahead and shoot straight with them. They may be caught off guard, but just walk up the next time you’re out rolling your garbage bins to the sidewalk. Admit that introductions are well overdue, tell them your name and hope that they give you theirs. If they don’t, that will show you how nice they are. They might come in handy for checking your mail the next time you’re out of town — whenever that happens. You’ll probably be joined at the hip by that time.