Q: My husband is planning to visit his estranged daughter, who is a lesbian, married and now pregnant with twins. My husband’s Christian faith is a matter of contention for her, as same-sex marriage is not sanctioned.
Regardless, my husband loves his daughter and wants to avoid being alienated. He has plans to meet with her for a brief visit.
We have not met her wife, who recently gave birth to a son. The last time his daughter visited us, she condemned and swore at her father, so there is a lot of reconciliation that needs to occur.
Is a gift in order for her or the babies, or her partner and son? If so, what would be appropriate?
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A: You have kindly provided Miss Manners with a great deal of irrelevant information. And she knows even less than your husband does what would please your stepdaughter.
Why people keep asking Miss Manners to choose presents for people they know but she does not is a mystery. If there were an all-purpose present that would please everyone, everyone would already have it.
But she is going to give this one a try, based on the one legitimate clue you did provide: that there are going to be a lot of infants in this household. So it shouldn’t be too great a burden on the imagination to realize that their parents might need help.
Baby equipment times three? A service to relieve them of some chores? Or best of all, a grandfather willing to show loving consideration by pitching in.
Q: I bought an expensive engagement ring for my fiancee. She went to get the band sized and possibly a different style band. She then selected a much larger diamond that costs thousands more, and she knew the price difference. I heard this not from her, but from the salesman who (with her knowledge) phoned me to explain how she loves the new proposed ring and diamond.
Am I right to feel hurt and disrespected?
A: Yes, but what you should really feel is panicked.
Q: My mother taught me that it is inconsiderate to serve food to guests that someone at the table is not able to eat.
Today there are so many food restrictions, whether from medical necessity, religious laws or personal preference, that it sometimes seems impossible to serve a meal that everyone at the table could eat. What is a hostess’s responsibility to provide alternatives to a planned menu to accommodate all guests?
A: Tough as Miss Manners may be, she cannot reasonably ask people to be responsible for doing what you rightly point out is impossible. She dares say that even your gracious mother could not devise such a menu today.
It has therefore become incumbent on hosts to inquire beforehand if their guests have any food restrictions — and to hope that the guests do not interpret this as an opportunity to register their mere dislikes.
If, among them, they eliminate all the food groups, the best that the host can do is to see to it that all of them have enough for an acceptable and palatable meal, even if they cannot eat everything that is served.
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.