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Miss Manners: Greet in-person family before electronic visitors

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 12, 2018

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Upon returning home from a 20,000-mile business trip, I immediately lifted my yearling son and began enjoying the moment with him. My wife, who was on a video conference with her parents, interrupted to insist that I was being “extremely rude” not to greet her and them first.

Aside from Miss Manners’ insistence that it’s rude to point out others’ rudeness, would she grant a bit of indulgence for excited young children and fathers?

GENTLE READER: Human interaction takes precedence over electronic (although the retail and business world would have you think otherwise), so it was actually your wife’s second transgression not to have excused herself for a moment to greet you. How polite of you not to have pointed that out.

In the future, however, to make all parties happy, Miss Manners recommends that you say a quick hello to all electronic visitors as you run to hug your son – and then come back later to finish the conversation.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A few months back, I attended a family friend’s wedding. I gave cash as my gift. I received a phone call from the mother of the bride a few days later, and was informed that about 10 envelopes from the wedding went missing. Mine included.

It was heavily implied that I should re-give my original gift. I explained it was cash, and I was rudely cut off. Since then, the family has cut contact with me. Was I obligated to give my gift again?

GENTLE READER: No. But Miss Manners cannot help pointing out what a compelling argument this is against giving cash as a present. Or being friends with people who are so willing to extort it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a private duty nurse, I assist a disabled person with dressing, appointments and meals while his wife is at work (I prepare the meals for the patient and myself). When his wife arrives home from work, she insists on paying for my services just before I leave, and she often brings supper with her. I feel as if I have invited myself to dinner and am invading family time. My commute to their home is more than 30 minutes, so I cannot just pick up my check later. Will you suggest an appropriate way to excuse myself and receive payment?

GENTLE READER: It is difficult for Miss Manners to determine if you are truly worried about infringing on family time or would rather not conflate your professional duties with social ones. Both are valid, they just require different answers.

If the former, it is possible that the couple might actually enjoy your company and relish the break in their routine. You may accept their invitation without worry if you are so inclined.

But if you are asking how to politely make a quick, polite getaway while also getting paid in a timely manner, you may say, “I would love to join you, but I am afraid I have a prior commitment” – even if that commitment is to your television.

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

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