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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Locker blocked by swarm of preteens

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I am a 12-year-old girl in middle school, sixth grade. I have a locker right next to this really popular girl. Because she’s so popular, there is a huge group of other popular kids surrounding her locker and mine. It makes it literally impossible for me to get to my locker without shoving my way through. How can I get them to go away without making them never want to talk to me because I’m too “unpopular?”

What happens in security stays in security

DEAR MISS MANNERS – Have I missed some change in the culture of taste and decorum in the last few years? When we leave work, the security checkpoint requires placing items on a table before going through the magnameter. Often this is just for ease with such things as keys, cigarettes, newspapers, food and the like being placed on the table.

Blandly wish them well

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the appropriate form of congratulations for a couple who have lived together for many years and recently married? When I congratulated two such couples, I was told in each case, “We only did it for the insurance.”

Get a whiff of these lack of table manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS – Is it appropriate to smell your food at the table? I grew up in the South and was told time and time again, “You can go anywhere in the country and know what to do at any table if you have good table manners.” Having worked at the White House and spent many meals in dining rooms across the country, I have found that to be true.

Won’t-be suitor needs polite no

DEAR MISS MANNERS: There is a young man I met through mutual friends at college who has been asking me out. I considered him an acquaintance – an acquaintance I had become increasingly unfond of. He likes to be argumentative (I am sure he thinks of it more as intellectual debate), and I have actually found him rather offensive (although I am sure he does not know). I avoid arguing or disagreeing with him, and he now thinks that we have everything in common and lots to discuss.

Colleague shows she’s no friend

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was laid off after six years, it was not unexpected – there had been a change of ownership over a year ago, and it was only a matter of time until the entire “old management team” was replaced. I was actually thankful, considering how unhappy I had been, and the fact that I’m now eligible for unemployment insurance. But I found that a number of people with whom I worked – people whom I felt were more than “just work friends” – have completely ignored me, and have not sent any word, either directly or secondhand, about my departure. Nothing expressing regret, or sadness, wishing me luck, or – at a minimum – saying how it was nice to work with me for so long.

When rudeness escalates

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I foolishly did something I should not have. I’m very embarrassed to have made such an error, and of course have rectified the situation. Honestly, it was pretty minor. Unfortunately, the wronged party sent me a very self-righteous, negative e-mail that was full of anger at my rudeness in committing said error. If it had been a nice or even neutral letter informing me of the rudeness/error of my ways, in response, I would have apologized profusely, bent over backwards to admit I was wrong, vowed to make amends and apologized once more.

Miss Manners: Plan for dream wedding leaves out certain relatives

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am thrilled to be planning a dream destination wedding. We have picked a remote spot in an exotic location. We can afford to have a fabulous wedding day event for anyone that can attend (with a few other activities thrown in); however, we can’t afford to cover hotel costs for everyone. We might be able to help with some of the transportation (with miles) but not for everybody. We are hoping that with advance notice, relatives and friends can budget the time and funds necessary to join us.

Miss Manners: Graduate dodges ‘smart’ comments

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a selective technical school for my undergraduate degree and have encountered the same problem over and over again, ever since I graduated. Whenever someone finds out that I went to MIT, there is a good chance that they will say something like “Oh! You must be really smart, huh?” I have no idea how to respond to this question!

Miss Manners: In room of 80, only one gets plate right

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Ever since I can remember, the salad plate and bread-and-butter plate are on the left side of the dinner plate. But at a wedding rehearsal dinner in an Italian restaurant, where there were eight tables each seating 10 people, everyone (I mean everyone) used the bread and butter plate on the right side (which I thought should have been the plate used by one’s neighbor sitting to your right). Is this plate change something new? I used the plate on my left and confused my whole table. It has bothered me ever since it happened.

Miss Manners: Bless the sneezer despite your doubts

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Of course, the proper reply to the all too common sneeze is a cultural issue. But many people are insulted if one does not provide the common English expression of “Bless you” or “God bless you” addressed to one who sneezes. Yet there is no basis or known origin for this often-expected reply.

Drop attempts to reconnect with ex

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My “first love” from my junior and senior years in high school was just heading off to Army boot camp when we broke up. Our breakup wasn’t terrible, but not a happy one to say the least. About two years later, I called him because I wondered about his status, as the Middle East conflict was quite prevalent in the news. We spoke briefly and pleasantly, he explained he was getting married and was expecting with his fiancee.

Miss Manners: Guests treated as sources of income

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation to a “gift card shower” for “a wonderful couple to celebrate their marriage and their new home.” There was no party or get-together. Instructions on the invitation indicated that this was a surprise and that those wishing to participate should send a gift card (from various retail stores listed) to the couple’s new home address.

Miss Manners: Rattling mom takes a village

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am 25 years old and currently pregnant with our first child. At a morning prayer group for the women of my church, my mother and mother-in-law were both present (fortunately, I am on excellent terms with both) and the majority of women were their friends or women of the generation above theirs. Almost all of them knew my husband and me as we grew up and so feel deeply connected with us, even though (in most cases) our actual interactions have been very limited.

Miss Manners: Are thank you notes for bonuses appropriate?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The small company I work for hands out Christmas bonuses every year. The last two years I have been with the company, I have received a bonus, but I was not sure as to whether or not I should send a thank you note to the owner, so I didn’t. Once again, I’m torn – do I write a thank you note or don’t I? I was always told as a child that when you receive a gift, the proper thing to do would be to send the giver a thank you note. Are bonuses considered a gift or is it a thank you from the employer for your contribution to the business for the last year? Should one write a thank you note for their thanking you? What is the proper way to accept Christmas bonuses?

Too many gifts for thank you notes?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My children, who are 6, 7 and 12, have three sets of grandparents, 14 aunts and uncles and eight cousins. We live a good distance from all of them but visit as much as we can. We usually spend Thanksgiving with the relatives, so Christmas time is a time for just us. It has become an especially difficult time concerning the gifts my children receive. In the past, we’ve allowed Christmas morning to be joyous and crazy and full of laughter as the packages are ripped open. Thank you notes are written in crayon with drawings and x’s and o’s but not specific to the exact gift given (ex: Thank you so much, Grandma, for the wonderful gifts you sent at Christmas – I had a wonderful day).

Miss Manners: Give breakup inquirers new topic

DEAR MISS MANNERS – The holidays mean that friends and family fill each other in on the year’s happenings. For the last few Christmases, I have had the same boyfriend. It was getting very serious and my relatives really liked him. We have since broken up, and it was not pleasant. Now all my family members ask about him, since they haven’t yet heard the news of the split. It’s still painful to discuss, and so, I’d rather not.

Miss Manners: General rules offer exceptions

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I are both fortunate to come from large families with whom we love to spend time, and do so frequently. We are also blessed to belong to more than one large circle of friends. Consequently, we receive a fair number of invitations to various gatherings, from impromptu and very casual barbecues to more structured gatherings like birthday parties, weddings and dinner parties. We happily attend the vast majority.

Miss Manners: Table settings should be logical

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I enjoy eating dinner with our children at home most nights. The children are generally charged with setting the table and clearing plates, and an issue has arisen relating to spoons. I urge the children to include a spoon in the place setting, but then (perhaps unreasonably), I counsel against its use. This generates much eye-rolling from my husband, who believes that it is appropriate to use one’s spoon to eat such things as peas that are difficult to eat with a fork.

Miss Manners: Give thanks for family going home

DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I can contain my anger, let me relate the Thanksgiving Day “celebration” at our home, with my large family. Since there were more than a dozen people, I bought and paid for a complete, ready-prepared dinner package from the local supermart, a convenient and economical way to feed the family and eliminate lots of work. Everyone was told that I paid for the entire doing, but I got not so much as a polite “thank you” from anyone, only a passing “Oh, that’s nice.” Nothing more. My “dear” sister insisted on making some dishes of her own, and without asking or saying a word, threw a few of the paid-for items into the trash. (I must say that her cooking would proverbially sicken a goat. She’s terrible in the kitchen!)