DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are having a party for our employees and want to be sure we are politically correct with our invitations. We want to invite employees and their spouses or significant others (girls of girls and boys of boys). How do I word this invitation to accommodate our lesbian and gay employees?
GENTLE READER: Although Miss Manners lauds your desire to make everyone feel welcome, you have made her realize that trying too obviously hard to be inoffensive is, in itself, somewhat offensive.
Instead of researching all possible personal ties your employees may have, you could use one simple word: “guest.” Tell them that you would welcome each of them bringing one guest to the party. Or that each invitation is for two people.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper etiquette when receiving a gift one already possesses?
I took a good friend to lunch for her birthday and gave her a gift, a book which was absolutely perfect for her. It was so perfect, unfortunately, that she already had a copy of it.
I asked if she would like to take it back to the bookstore and exchange it for a book of her choice. She then slid it across the table and said that she knew I could choose something else she might like. I have again purchased a book, which I hope she would like and does not have.
My own response would be not to mention that I already had it, to exclaim how perfect the choice was, and then either to give the book to someone else who might enjoy it or to make the exchange myself.
GENTLE READER: Your own response is the polite one. When someone has tried to please you, it is rude, as well as disheartening, to respond by announcing that the effort was a failure and the would-be donor should go back and try again.
Had Miss Manners been in your position, she would have slid the book right back and said, “Oh, I’d probably just make another mistake. Just dispose of this in whatever way is easiest.”
A different definition of ‘urgent’
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What do you make of people who ignore a friend’s urgent texts or emails for several days, but can be seen by that friend simultaneously, and at length, corresponding with many others on social media outlets, putting the lie to any claim that she was out of reach or busy?
GENTLE READER: It is true that a friend responds to an urgent message quickly. But friends may have different definitions of what is urgent.
Also, we don’t know what else is in your friend’s in-box. Not being privy to that correspondence, Miss Manners cannot dictate which message has precedence. She can only hope that your friend sorts her correspondence intelligently and compassionately, taking note of different uses of the word “urgent,” from emergencies to mere impatience.
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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