DEAR MISS MANNERS: On my daughter’s 17th birthday she received, in my view, an insulting gift from her grandparents. Birthdays in my family and for me are special days, and the birthday girl or boy is made to feel like a king or queen in celebration of their birth.
This gift was a gift card and a packet of thank-you cards.
My daughter was crestfallen as she absorbed the not-so-subtle insult. I was able to make her feel better, but the damage was already done.
My daughter wishes to express to her grandparents how deeply they hurt her feelings but does not wish to have a confrontation. Do you have a suggestion or two for this circumstance?
GENTLE READER: As you encourage your daughter to feel like a queen, she might consider ordering their execution. However, you do not seem to have warned her of the usual eventual fate of despots who are harshly unjust even to their most loyal subjects.
But perhaps it is Miss Manners who is being unjust by assuming that the apparent insult may have arisen from a legitimate grievance. If it did not, she acknowledges that a polite protest might be included in the letter in which your daughter first thanks her grandparents for the gift certificate. She could admit then to being somewhat puzzled by the thank-you cards.
“As you know,” she could continue, “I have always eagerly expressed my gratitude immediately upon receiving your generous presents. Would you rather that I did so on these cards, instead of on the paper I have been using? I would, of course, be happy to oblige.”
Indigestible food talk
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am dating a lovely man who is perhaps all I could ask for in terms of character. I am always reassured in terms of how he handles difficult topics, moral dilemmas or anything having to do with our relationship.
I greatly value him for this. And we have interests in common. We are both athletes and love to entertain, and he’s active in his community, as am I.
Unfortunately, I am bored by his conversation. He runs a restaurant, and though I am interested in business and love to cook, he talks endlessly about the preparation of food. There is a significant discussion around every meal, where he can find this or that item, what he will eat this morning, this afternoon, tonight, as well as a litany of topics related to what is served at his restaurant.
Clearly he is in the right industry! He obviously enjoys these conversations, and I see the value in many of them, but not 10 times a day. Is there a way for me to politely divert him? Or are we a mismatch?
GENTLE READER: You soon will be if you let on that his conversation bores you.
It is not that Miss Manners lacks sympathy or is unwilling to rescue you. It’s too bad that she cannot invoke the etiquette rule against talking about food at dinner parties (not that anyone obeys it) because these are private conversations.
What you could try is carrying on about how much you would enjoy being surprised by what he makes and allowed to guess the ingredients. This should eliminate the preliminary talk.
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.
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