DEAR MISS MANNERS: Several months ago I was in a serious car accident. I am recovering well, but the accident has left me with lingering pain and mobility issues.
At least a dozen friends and family members have felt the need to tell me how “lucky” I am that the outcome was not worse. Although I am, of course, grateful not to be dead or paralyzed, it is not pleasant to be tired and in pain, and I find it a little difficult to smile and agree that yes, I am lucky.
Is there a polite way to let people know that these sentiments, though well-meaning, may come across as thoughtless and hurtful? I’ve come dangerously close to snapping, “If I were lucky, none of this would have happened in the first place!” but perhaps you can suggest a more elegant approach.
GENTLE READER: Ah yes, a car crash. Some people have all the luck. Miss Manners agrees that this all-too-common response to the troubles of others is peculiarly annoying. Notice that these people are not expressing their own relief and gratitude that you were not killed. They are directing you to do so.
It is true that nearly any situation could, theoretically, be better or worse. Cheerful people often tell themselves that misfortunes could have been worse (while others make themselves miserable by complaining that their good fortunes are never enough). But it is not for others to say.
A milder version of your rejoinder would be, “Well, I wish you even better luck than I have had.”
Helping with dinner
DEAR MISS MANNERS: An out-of-town friend invited my daughter and me to dinner. My daughter’s boyfriend ended up joining us for the trip, and I told my friend of the boyfriend’s addition and gave her the option of withdrawing her offer, as I did not want to invite guests to her party.
My friend said all three of us were welcome. Thinking I would reduce the stress and expense on the hostess, I told her I would bring bread, fruit, wine and dessert.
The hostess did not “hear” my offer. I do not know or care whether it was intentional or not, as it was certainly well within her “rights” as hostess to do so. She had a full meal and dessert for us, and sent me home with all my “gifts” and the kindest of words.
Since my friend was a true hostess, I am now in a position of having offered her nothing in return for her generosity except my thanks. Circumstances make it unlikely I can ever return her hospitality with dinner at my house. I am not complaining but want to make it right.
How do I apologize for not allowing her to be a proper hostess in the first instance by trying to supply half the dinner, and thank her for being such a generous and gracious hostess?
GENTLE READER: You write her a letter extolling her graciousness, and express the hope that she will visit you in your town. You could also, if you wish, send flowers or a little present.
Miss Manners is just glad that you seem to have learned the lesson that you cannot repay hospitality by usurping it. You meant well, but bringing part of the meal without authorization from the hostess is neither helpful nor flattering.
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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