Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Postage stamps do not need to match the season

Q: After my summer birthday, I mailed my thank-you notes for all the gifts I received. And because I had purchased too many stamps for last year’s holiday cards, I have been using the surplus postage for the past few months so as to not be wasteful.

Imagine my chagrin when a few thank-you note recipients gently chided me for using poinsettia stamps in the summertime. Miss Manners, was it in poor taste for me to use “seasonally inappropriate” stamps for my personal correspondence?

A: Wrong question. Was it in poor taste, however jocular the intention, for your correspondents to complain about the stamps? For goodness’ sake, do they know how often people do not receive any thanks at all for their presents?

That some people enjoy coordinating stamps with occasions, Miss Manners knows. Evidently you did so last winter. But this should not obscure the fact that stamps are the currency by which postage is paid. Do these people object if they are given bills on Presidents’ Day that picture the wrong president?

Q: I have a running disagreement with my wife. Is it OK to use the side of your fork as a knife to cut food from time to time? Must one always use a knife to cut?

A: When spouses disagree, Miss Manners always hopes to find a solution that gives each some claim to being right. It is her little contribution to saving marriages.

However, you alone are right. For mysterious reasons having to do with the history of flatware, the fork, although adopted centuries after the knife, is considered the preferable instrument to use when possible. The most she can do for your wife is to say that if cutting with a fork is so ineffective as to splash the resisting food about, the knife should be used.

Q: My same-sex partner and I have been together for 25 years and have gotten accustomed to having an “outlaw” relationship, so we’ve never felt the need to get married. However, now that marriage benefits are being extended to same-sex couples, we’ve decided to get married.

It will be totally low-key – we’ll take two witnesses with us, drive over, get married, go out to lunch and drive back. Then we’ll mail announcements to our friends and family.

We have two questions. First, if our situation calls for language in the announcement other than the traditional, what do you recommend? Second, since we’re retired and have everything we need, we simply want to announce our marriage and not generate a stream of unneeded gifts.

Would it be appropriate to include a short note with the announcements stating this preference? If so, do you have any language to recommend?

A: As you are willing to write short notes, Miss Manners recommends doing that in place of a formal announcement.

That is not because you are a same-sex couple — the wording would be no different — but because you want a low-key tone. And also, frankly, because of the vulgar but widespread notion that formal communications require recipients to reply with presents.

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.