Q: Your mom mails you a birthday card. She has no way of knowing if the card arrived the day before, the day of, or the day after your birthday. (She is not the mailman.)
She assumes it arrived before or on the day of your birthday. Is she obligated to call you on your birthday, or by virtue of her sending the card, are you now obligated to call and thank her instead?
Basically, it’s “I sent the card, so now he needs to call me so I can wish him a happy birthday.”
And if you don’t call them to say, “Remember it’s my birthday” they get miffed.
A: Then call them. (“Them”? How many mothers do you have?)
You cannot seriously expect Miss Manners to come up with a rule about the timing of irascible courtesies. And even if she did, someone who is looking for an insult while in the very act of conferring good wishes is not likely to be satisfied.
A more relevant rule is: If you can placate a difficult relative with a trivial concession, do so.
Q: My fiance would like me to make his sister a bridesmaid, and I would love to do so as well.
However, my future sister-in-law loves to dye her hair every color of the rainbow and has many large, visible tattoos. While I accept and love that free-spirited part of her personality, I would rather not have colorful hair and tattoos prominent in photos that will last a lifetime, especially as she would be the only member of the wedding party with such features.
Would it be rude to request natural-colored hair and makeup covering her tattoos for the wedding day? How should I phrase this wish? I do not want to erase her individuality, and especially do not want to come off as a bridezilla.
A: But that would be erasing that individuality you profess to accept and love. And a bride who wants to remake others into matching background figures for her wedding album meets the definition of a bridezilla.
Besides, Miss Manners assures you that your photographs will mean more if they represent people as they are. If your future sister-in-law becomes more conventional over the years, any embarrassment over these reminders will be hers. And your friends and possible eventual descendants will be more interested in seeing real people than they would be in the phony, generic look-alike versions you think you want.
Q: An acquaintance told me that wearing a watch or other timepiece outside of work (social functions, over for dinner, etc.) was rude. “Watches are for work. Time shouldn’t matter when you’re with friends,” she said.
I have never heard of this. I am ashamed to think I may have been unknowingly offending my friends and family by merely wearing a watch. I would never want them to think that I didn’t value my time with them. Is this really rude?
A: As your acquaintance and Miss Manners are the only two people still on Earth who remember this rule, you may assume that you have not offended others. Leftover indignation may be directed toward those who check the time or anything else on their cellular telephones when supposedly socializing.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.