DEAR MISS MANNERS: A male friend sent me a very nice Christmas card describing our friendship. It was pretty accurate; however, a very nice pair of earrings was sent along with the card.
We are both married (to other people) and he is considerably older than me. I am fond of him, but only as a friend. I thanked him for the card and the gift, but told him I could not accept a gift like that and that it made me uncomfortable.
I offended him. Was there a better way for me to have handled this situation?
GENTLE READER: It does not matter whether his indignation is because your assumption – that the gift suggested something more than friendship – is right or wrong.
As in many etiquette situations, Miss Manners warns you that you will have to take the blame upon yourself: You are so embarrassed, it is just the way you were brought up, etc. As your parents will not be present to defend themselves, your friend will have to accept this answer if he wishes to maintain the friendship.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve known my brother-in-law since he was a teenager. So recently, when he was telling his daughters about job offers he’d had in his youth, I knew the only truth to what he said was the location and time frame. The rest was absolutely ridiculous.
Then, at a family party, when we were discussing his daughter’s new job, her sister said she was “teaching classes”; her mother said she was “teaching classes and was in charge of the curriculum”; and when my brother-in-law caught me, he said, “My daughter’s boss is having her run the entire company.”
What is the protocol for dealing with these massive exaggerations?!
GENTLE READER: The proper protocol is a big smile. Whether you are smiling to acknowledge how important the job is or to indicate that you realize that your brother-in-law is exaggerating for effect should, Miss Manners cautions you, be ambiguous to everyone but yourself.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our group of ladies gets together every couple of months for lunch, to reminisce and catch up. If there is a noteworthy occasion coming up, one of the members always appears with a sweet concoction: pie, ice cream cake, etc. After the meal, she produces it, then asks the waitress for a knife, extra plates, forks and napkins.
I am always uneasy. Do we think the restaurant sweets are unworthy? How can we ask for implements for food they haven’t provided? I generally decline the treat, pleading diet or some such.
GENTLE READER: Restaurants, like hosts, provide food. Miss Manners reminds everyone that it is impolite to pack your own, something the restaurant has no doubt already told your friends if they are so unwise as to pull this trick more than once at the same establishment.
Declining the treat does not relieve you of all responsibility. It is better privately to convince one or two members of your circle, who can then help you bring the rest around to a better policy for future celebrations.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.