Q: My former in-laws refuse to call my daughter by the name she chooses – her middle name, which is a family historical name on my mother’s side. The family knows her preference, but insists that they will continue to call her by her childhood nickname, which ends in “y” and is a nickname for her first name.
She is in her 30s and using her middle name in the town where she has relocated. All her friends, colleagues and employers use her middle name.
I say, shouldn’t we call a person by the name they choose?
This gets no response except, “Other people can call her whatever, but she will always be (….y).” They sound so firm and united that I am bewildered. I’m not going to get into an argument with anyone, but this seems rude and domineering to me. Of course my daughter is disappointed in them.
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A: While you are correct that it is impolite to address someone by a name they do not use, exceptions are made for family members who remember when, in first grade, your daughter demanded that she henceforth be known as Rapunzel. And for teachers of preschool, where all the girls ask to be called Elsa.
If your daughter cannot allow her grandparents this liberty, likely arising from an affectionate association with her childhood nickname, protesting against it should be left to her.
Q: I work for an answering service. Callers don’t realize that when they call in the middle of the night.
They think that they are going to speak to someone in the company’s office. Often after I say the company’s greeting, the caller will ask, “Am I speaking to a real/live person?” They think I am a recording or automated.
What is the correct response to that? Should I just say, “I am not a recording”?
A: Any day now, the recorded messages will be saying that.
Miss Manners understands your frustration, but is even more attuned to that of your callers. You should not take offense at the question, because they genuinely do not know. A greeting as the company’s answering service, not the company itself, should help.
Q: My boyfriend’s mother paid for her entire family (with spouses and children) to go to a Mexican resort for a week, and she graciously included me (even though she’d never met me).
My boyfriend bought the plane ticket, but she paid for the accommodations and food. I bought a card to thank her with while I was there, but in the flurry of getting back up to speed when I got home (I was moving), I forgot to send her the thank-you note until the window closed without it being awkwardly late.
Now four months have passed, and it’s on my mind again. How can I repair the damage?
A: Apologize. And apologize again. Grovel. This will, Miss Manners notes, be more convincing if you take the time to write an effusive handwritten letter rather than relying on a store-bought card that is stained by whatever has been sitting on top of it for the past four months.
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.