Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Pacifier foe should keep her hands to herself

niversal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a relative who frowns upon family members who allow their babies to use pacifiers. Beyond chastising the mothers about the matter throughout her visits, she goes further. When the parents aren’t looking, she takes the pacifiers when she leaves.

The parents are left to care for crying babies. One baby cried much of the night because of the missing pacifier. The parents did their best, but it was a difficult night.

Is it acceptable for one to take a personal preference so far?

GENTLE READER: This goes beyond mere personal preference. This is a misdemeanor. Miss Manners is amazed that the baby didn’t press charges.

Unless there is true harm being done to the baby — and please don’t come to Miss Manners with studies about the damage done by pacifiers — parenting is best left to the parents. And stealing is best left to thieves.

Greeting card complications

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Here’s one for your book of First World problems: I enjoy sending greeting cards to family members for birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, etc. But I have two dilemmas.

One: Many of those to whom I send cards do not reciprocate. This does not bother me, but when I see them they’ll say, “Oh, you’re so good at remembering my birthday, and I feel guilty because I’m terrible at stuff like that and never send you one.”

I usually respond with something like, “Well, my goal in life is to make you feel guilty, so I guess my work here is done.” But I’m wondering whether I should stop sending them cards to ease their guilt.

Two: My brother and his wife have been married for more than 40 very turbulent years. A year ago she moved halfway across the country to act as nanny for her pregnant daughter who is in the military and whose husband, also military, is deployed far away.

They now see each other for holidays and child-centered events, and both are much happier and don’t seem in any hurry to change the arrangement. Their anniversary is coming up, and I’m puzzled as to whether I send a card to them at their common home address, send each one a separate card, or just skip it altogether, since they don’t seem to be bothered about spending the day apart.

GENTLE READER: You do not have to ease anyone’s guilt or pay tribute to the true state of someone’s marriage to send them greeting cards. If you enjoy commemorating occasions, continue to do so.

Of course, Miss Manners assumes that these cards’ messages simply honor the event and aren’t truth in packaging. “You may not care, but I do” is not an acceptable sentiment. Nor is “Happy estrangement,” so one card to the common address will do.

Replying to no-shows’ regrets

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a large party yesterday with 100 people responding that they would come. Only 70 showed up.

How do I respond to people who sent me emails this morning saying: “So sorry we couldn’t make it. The weekend just got away from us. Hope you had fun”?

GENTLE READER: No response is necessary. If there is further inquiry, Miss Manners suggests telling your guests that time just got away from you.

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.

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