DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude to say “nice to see you again” when someone introduces themselves as if you’ve never met? You don’t really know until you get past this greeting whether someone remembers you or not.
As a longtime employee, I often remember those I’ve assisted over the years. I fear I’ve put people on the spot this way, when I was simply trying to convey some warmth upon seeing them again.
GENTLE READER: Recognizing a returning customer is flattering, but you do have to be prepared if others’ memories are not as good as yours.
Miss Manners assumes that people of average acuity, when greeted as you propose, will have the grace to pretend remembering you. If they look surprised, then you may offer minimal additional information (“I helped you when you were here last week”) lest they start looking for the exits.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My in-laws retired and moved to a remote part of the country that is quite expensive to fly to, and would take several days to drive to. We visited when they first moved two years ago, but no one has really visited them since.
We received a letter stating there would be a family reunion at their property, along with a list of all the expensive things they have done in preparation for this reunion. Not a single family member lives in their state, so this is an ordeal for all relatives involved, and there were no such reunions when we all lived in the same area.
It seems to be an attempt to draw in visitors. We received another letter stating that this will be the “first annual” reunion, implying they expect this yearly.
My husband and I are fine going this one time, as it would be nice to see everyone, but we also agree that we will not be doing this yearly – we would like to have vacation money to experience other places besides their backyard.
They are quite well off, so they can afford to visit us whenever they like, and I have already extended an open invitation. But they are easily hurt and prone to giving the silent treatment (sometimes for a year or so) when angry.
My husband does not want to broach the topic, but I feel that it will be better to get it over with so they can be mad and then recover. How should we approach this with them?
GENTLE READER: Accepting the invitation for this year does not, technically, commit you to future attendance. But Miss Manners agrees with you that it will allow your in-laws to say, next year, that they took your silence to mean you were in favor of an annual event.
She agrees with your husband, however, in not looking for trouble. You need to establish that you accept or decline invitations on a one-by-one basis – which can most easily be done if you are not available to attend this year. If they ask about future years, you will then have your opening to say that with everyone’s schedules, you simply don’t know; you would like to attend when you can, but many times, it may not be possible.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website www.missmanners.com.