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Husband Should Ask About Past Gifts

Judith Martin United Features Sy

Dear Miss Manners: What would be a correct way to prompt my husband’s married children to write thank-you letters or notes for gifts?

I have tried to convince my husband to stop sending them gifts altogether so they will get the message. He complains and feels that the girls don’t care, but still sends the gifts.

If it means hurt feelings, I’m not too sure I would bring it to their attention. But I would just like to know if it’s proper etiquette to stop sending the gifts or to write them and let them know what is happening.

Gentle Reader: Are you asking Miss Manners if it is polite to send out written punishments for Christmas?

Well, no. And that goes double for stepparents.

But here’s how to do it:

You send them Christmas greetings with your fondest love and a lot of warm family chitchat. Only at the end of the letter do you say you haven’t sent the usual presents because you gather from their silence that previous attempts to find something to please them have not been a success.

Miss Manners insists that only your husband can authorize such a letter, as they are his children. It would be best sent by him, but you could write the letter if you make it clear that it is on his behalf, not your own.

If he refuses, Miss Manners suggests that you prompt the daughters with a Christmas call in which you humbly ask if the presents were all right, thus eliciting some kind of thanks. Your object, after all, is to salvage his feelings rather than to rough up theirs.

Dear Miss Manners: I invited a family I have known for more than 20 years for oyster stew on Christmas Eve. The answer came back that the father of the family didn’t like oyster stew and didn’t like traditions.

Needless to say, I offered to prepare something else for him. Perhaps I should have said I thought it was implicit that the important thing was getting together with friends.

A few days later, much to my chagrin, the mother told me they had been invited to another family’s house for supper and had accepted. In my book, this is incredibly rude. This notion goes back to high-school proms in the ‘50s, when you either accepted the invitation of the first youth who asked you or turned down subsequent invitations.

Gentle Reader: Although you are right to invoke the prom rule, Miss Manners feels obliged to tell you that it was not as strict as you remember. Under your system, there would have been nobody at the prom except the Most Popular Girl and the Most Popular Boy (who, come to think of it, probably deserved each other).

Rather, you were allowed to turn down any number of youths until the right one came along, provided you did so graciously and without a false excuse - not because of its falseness, but because it would be discovered and hurt young feelings.

Thus, it was all right to say “Thank you so much, but I’m afraid I can’t,” but not “I hate proms,” much less “Not if you were the last boy on earth.” As the vague version could be interpreted as already having a date, one was free to accept another offer.

Miss Manners has not canceled this rule, so it is still in effect. Your friends violated both parts of it. She congratulates you on not having to spend Christmas Eve with such ungracious people.

xxxx

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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