Advice Columns

Who writes the checks? None of their business

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am extremely lucky to have parents who are able to pay for college for me. I don’t qualify for or need any financial aid. I’ve been in a few situations where people start giving me advice on how to get financial aid. What is the best way to respond? I usually smile and say, “Thanks, but my parents can pay for my college,” and then they usually say, “Oh.” It’s a bit awkward, and I feel like a spoiled brat. Is there a better way to handle this situation? GENTLE READER:

How about: “Yes, we know how tough it is. That’s why my family endows scholarships for those less fortunate than we are.”

No, Miss Manners supposes not. Not even if it were true — and unlike your helpful acquaintances, she does not make assumptions about other people’s finances.

Just say, “Thank you, but that’s taken care of.” Should anyone be so rude as to ask how, the answer is, “We’ve made arrangements.”

Generosity in peril DEAR MISS MANNERS: We live in a small town where many people know almost everyone else. In the past two years, fundraisers have been held for a child with a brain tumor, two women with cancer and a young mother who was seriously injured in an auto crash. All but one of the individuals survived. Response to the fundraisers was exceptional. We made donations directly to the individuals.
None of the individuals or their family or friends who sponsored the fundraisers acknowledged our gift or the personal note we included with each donation, two of which were substantial. Are we expecting too much, or is this the new norm for manners? GENTLE READER:

If it is, it will soon be the end of such generosity as you and your fellow townspeople have expressed. Generosity and gratitude are inseparably linked.

Miss Manners knows to expect two dissenting reactions to that statement:

One is the standard defense by youngsters who haven’t thanked their grandmothers for sending them checks — that Grandma must be really selfish to expect any return, rather than doing it for the pure love of giving. This is a bit like saying that it isn’t true love if you care about being loved in return.

The other defense is that people in the midst of tragedy are excused from being grateful. But that is exactly when you find out who the compassionate and generous people are. Are those really the people you want to blow off?

The 15-minute rule DEAR MISS MANNERS: When one just “drops in,” what is an acceptable time to stay? GENTLE READER:

The rule, when people routinely paid unannounced visits on one another, was 15 minutes. A gentleman was not supposed to give up his hat, but park it next to himself as proof that he wouldn’t be a serious disruption to any plans his host may have.

But, as Miss Manners recalls, that was before the invention of the telephone, which miraculously allowed would-be visitors to inquire first about the host’s convenience. If they fail to use it, she considers that the 15-minute rule still applies.

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