Q: My email address is apparently very similar to that of a woman who doesn’t remember hers very well. I periodically get emails that are intended for her from her various friends and relatives.
Even reading the subject lines of these emails tends to make me fume. They are racist, offensive and completely the opposite of my political beliefs.
I know the correct thing to do is probably just to ignore the emails or send a one-line response about the email address being wrong (which I have done), but is there any way I can also convey that the emails are completely offensive?
I guess it’s hopeless to make people change their views, but barring that, how do I get over my own anger triggered by these emails? Sometimes finding one and realizing that people out there believe such terrible things can ruin my whole morning.
A: In the pre-email days, it was understood that it was impolite to open another person’s correspondence even if it was mistakenly laid at your doorstep. This was not always observed. It is all too easy to slice open an envelope without proofreading the addressee. But in those cases, etiquette dictated that the fiction be maintained that the contents remained private.
The same applies to email even if you only learn of the misdirection by reading the subject line. Following the older form — in which it was acceptable to reply coldly, “Please be aware that Mrs. Pence no longer resides at this address” — you may answer: “Please update your address book. Your subject line can be considered offensive, and as the email was not intended for me, I wish to avoid any future misunderstandings.”
Q: I have recently retired and plan to travel with my wife. My brother and his wife, who are also retired, have suggested several times that we travel together.
Although he is a hale fellow with many interests compatible with ours, his controlling wife is not. For example, she often, at the last minute, decides not to participate in a previously planned activity but insists that the three of us go ahead. If we do, however, she pouts and takes it out on him.
How do we decline their traveling suggestions once and for all without generating family discord?
A: By declining their traveling invitations one at a time.
You cannot tell someone, “We are never going to travel with you” and expect to avoid the inevitable follow-up question. And there is no plausible answer to “Why not?” that avoids family discord.
Miss Manners does not propose that you lie about your reasons or that you tell them truthfully. Better to leave their suggestions at, “We are so sorry, but we simply can’t go then/there,” and to tell them your plans only when it is too late to change arrangements. If this is done often enough, your relatives should grow tired of asking.
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.