Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Silence is the ticket on diaper raffles

Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the past few years, I have been invited to baby showers that ask people to participate in a diaper raffle in addition to bringing a gift. Anyone who would like to brings a pack of diapers and then is entered into a raffle for a prize.

I silently decline to participate, on the grounds that this comes across as grabby. When I offered my opinion as graciously as possible on a social media site, I immediately received numerous comments from people who thought I was the greedy one, among other unpleasant comments.

So now I’m wondering if I’m off base. What’s your take on diaper raffles, Miss Manners?

GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is happy to say that she doesn’t have one. But she feels that she need hardly tell you that if you express an opinion on social media, it will certainly be challenged. Your first instinct — to stay silent about a made-up ritual that you find distasteful — was the correct one.

How to greet Lady Gaga?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I encounter a celebrity whose stage name is different from his/her birth name, how should I address him/her? What about celebrities who go by only one name?

GENTLE READER: If you are being introduced to that person in a business situation, you use the stage name or names. If you have met socially, and the celebrity uses the birth name in private life, you may use that.

But Miss Manners suspects that you are speaking of encountering that person in public, without an introduction. In that case, it would be more useful to know if that particular celebrity generally reacts to being addressed with a smile or a fist.

When helpfulness is intrusive

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a petite 77-year-old woman in good health. I was in a theater lobby carrying two cups of coffee to a nearby table when a woman startled me by coming up right next to me and saying, “I’ll carry those wherever you’re going.”

I said I appreciated the offer but was fine. I set the cups down and said, “I don’t know why people think I need help,” and she said, “I thought you were going to spill them.”

A few days later, I was in line at the supermarket. There was a large plant in my basket and the cashier was coming around the counter to scan it when the woman behind me came up and lifted it to the counter.

I understand people want to be helpful, and these women must feel the world needs mothering, but wouldn’t it have been polite to say, “Excuse me, could you use some help with that?” before intruding into a stranger’s space?

GENTLE READER: Indeed, it would be an excellent habit, before these well-meaning folks start helping people across streets their targets don’t want to cross. Furthermore, unannounced physical interference is dangerous. Ask anyone who has had control of his or her wheelchair hijacked.

However, Miss Manners wishes you had made that point to the would-be coffee carrier, rather than suggesting that she had simply picked the wrong beneficiary. Surely we do not want to discourage people from being helpful if they inquire respectfully whether help is needed. The polite way to decline is to say simply, “Thank you, but I can manage.”

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,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

© Universal Uclick 9/19