DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was 22, several dear friends were kind enough to send gifts when I participated in a debutante ball. I thanked them all in person.
However, I am now 30 and have failed to send written notes. I feel terrible about this and have for years, but I am uncertain if sending notes at this stage would simply remind them of the insult.
GENTLE READER: Penning a few notes at the time would have been far less work than fretting about it for eight years, a fact of which you must now be aware. Miss Manners mentions this for the benefit of those who complain that their lives are too busy for gratitude.
While etiquette does not have a statute of limitations, your friends are unlikely still to be thinking about your omission. Sending thank-you letters now is more likely to frighten than to atone: Your friends will either worry about either your mental equilibrium or their own postal service.
That you are still worrying over your slip suggests that it has not recurred. The next time you express gratitude to one of these friends for a new gift, include a light–hearted reference to the original gift and mention that you still remember it with affection.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have now reached the age when service people find it amusing to say, “Can I help you, young man?” – the joke being that I am obviously not a young man.
Would it be rude to reply by saying, “Yes, thank you, handsome” (or “beautiful”)?
GENTLE READER: It took Miss Manners a minute to get this, and your service people may take it at face value. But she congratulates you on a comeback that meets her requirements of making your point without being rude.
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