By B. Elliott

We know it's not about white gloves or smiles anymore.

During the past holiday season, WVFC received several questions that fell under the general heading “How to Handle Awkward Situations.” Seasoned women of the world, we nonetheless often found ourselves at a loss, or even in disagreement, as to how to answer.

That’s when we turned to B. Elliott, friend and frequent WVFC commenter—a grounded, gracious woman who is naturally adept at “doing the right thing” in our quickly evolving culture. Her response below shows as much. 

And so a new Q&A column is born. Feel free to contact Ms. Elliott at WFVC for solutions to your troublesome social problems. Just address your query to B. Elliott and type it into the comment box at the bottom of the post.—Ed.

Dear B. Elliott:

Is it required that I bring a gift to a cocktail party or dinner party? I am working nonstop, have no personal time, and have a very limited budget. I always send a thank-you note.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        —Crazed in Chicago

Dear Crazed:

It’s complicated to know what to do in this situation, since so many of our friends and acquaintances seem to have everything they need and we fear that we are adding to their problems by giving them a gift they will have to dispose of.  It is even hard to buy a book these days, since your hostess may have transferred to e-books or you may not know her well enough to reliably select something that suits her taste.

Still, my answer to you is, “Yes, you should bring a gift.” It is helpful to remember that your hostess, too, has been working nonstop, and has spent both time and money to ensure that you have a pleasant social experience. Your question brought to mind my friend Mindy, recently downsized. She is now employed again, but working two part-time jobs; she has a child in nursery school, no help, and limited funds. Yet she ALWAYS brings a small gift—even just cute paper cocktail napkins. Truly, it is the thought that counts; thoughtfulness is always appreciated.

You can get around the time/money problem by buying some appropriate items when they are on sale. Perhaps you could purchase a case of affordable wine that you like, as well as some wine sleeves. Get a spool of grosgrain ribbon at a fabric or crafts store when the price is right, and you will be set for a dozen outings and will look as if you’ve fussed. None of these items is onerous to store. So stockpile some hostess gifts soon, and you will feel happier and less harried. Do continue to send notes of thanks—a nice touch in addition to a next-day phone call.

Look for more responses to your hostess/guest questions that are already awaiting me in our “in-box.”

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  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. January 31, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Welcome Ms. Elliot. We look forward to lively discussions as you are invited to address questions that plague us in the 21st century. I know so many women with lovely manners. This is an excellent suggestion for those of us who feel overwhelmed in the hostess gift category. I often take nothing or spend much more than I should since I just…never know. Now, I can create my very own “gift closet” which a dear friend has had for years. She buys dozens of some things she loves that will reflect her interests and that she would like to share with others. It is never a thoughtless gift this way.

    Dr. Pat

  • RozWarren January 31, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Agreed! Arriving to a party empty-handed just doesn’t feel right. Because I hate to shop, the solution I’ve arrived at is to always bring the same thing — something delicious from the Night Kitchen Bakery, a popular local bakery whose treats are not only tasty but so gorgeous that they’re almost too pretty to eat. (Almost.) The hostess can decide whether to share them with her guests or keep them for herself. (The ONLY time this solution doesn’t work is when I’m invited to a party by the bakery’s owners, who happen to live next door to me.)