Q: Sometimes, when at a loss as to what to get someone, I opt for a gift card. A while later, I have pleasantly asked what they got with it.
Oh my goodness, you’d think I’d rudely asked them if they were wearing any underwear! And they won’t say or can’t remember. Not just one time, but every time — the teenagers are the worst.
So I adapted, and at the giving time I have sweetly asked (with brief eye contact) to please let me know what I “got” them.
Oh yes, they certainly will. Happiness and smiles all around. But then they don’t. Is it wrong to ask what someone got with their gift card? My current solution has been to tell them I will be giving them a gift card and ask where would they would like to use it.
A: The reason Miss Manners dislikes gift cards is that they show a lack of knowledge or effort or both on the part of the gift giver.
So it does not seem fair that, having not yourself made the effort to determine what the recipient would like, you should also burden them with having to report back the results. The simplest way to know what you give people is to give it to them.
Q: Is it OK to spoon out the remains of the froth from a cappuccino coffee?
A: Foods that cling to the tableware are always a challenge, particularly as they tend to be the tastiest bits. Miss Manners has no objection to your dislodging the clinging froth, so long as no inadvertent spectators are injured.
Q: When friends invite me over for dinner, sometimes the meat they have lovingly prepared is served with large amounts of fat. I have always trimmed it off and set it neatly to one side as I would bones, and no one has ever said anything.
Still, I have begun to worry that this may imply a criticism of their meal. I have been unable to determine if they eat or don’t eat it.
A: Presumably it is easy enough to see if your hosts eat the fat on their own plates, and Miss Manners does not inquire what happens to food on your plate after it is removed from the table. If the dog is enjoying the bones, she has no objection.
You are entitled to eat or not eat what you wish, so long as you do not attempt to explain it. And if no one is complaining, your concern appears to be unwarranted.
Q: My brother-in-law corrects me when I don’t say “please” to my husband. What I say is, “Will you get me some coffee?” That is asking, not demanding.
I am 62, and my brother-in-law is 60. This is crazy!
A: Crazy, in Miss Manners’ opinion, is eschewing polite forms with someone with whom one lives. And, for that matter, attempting to teach manners to one’s stubborn sister-in-law.
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.