Miss Manners: No good will come from arguing politics through e-mails

June 19, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: An acquaintance of mine sends me almost daily e-mails. During the election in 2008, she sent very rude messages about the party to which she was opposed, which happens to be the party for which I voted. After a while, I simply deleted them.

She has started again with the insults, and I don’t know if I should keep deleting them or make it clear that I do not appreciate her opinions. She is not a good friend, but I do not want to antagonize her, as she has done me some favors in the past.

However, I do not know how to gracefully handle this situation. Should I politely mention that I do not find these e-mails funny, or should I just be a wimp and delete them?

GENTLE READER: What is the purpose you hope to achieve? Well, besides saving yourself a few seconds on the delete key?

Miss Manners presumes that you regularly perform the chore we all now have of clearing the in-box of unwanted mail that manages to sneak through the spam filter. But she doubts that you consider responding to repeated sales pitches, pleas from foreigners who need your bank account number to claim their inheritances, and unsubstantiated warnings from ill-informed alarmists.

Yet you have trouble dismissing your acquaintance’s e-mails. See if you can overcome that.

First, dispense with the notion that you can disparage the lady’s wit and wisdom without offending her. It can’t be done. You may be sure that any answer you give will provoke more of the statements you are trying to avoid.

Then ask yourself whether you want to enter into a political debate with someone you find rude and insulting.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend of eight months surprised me on my birthday with a pair of what I am sure were overpriced, expensive earrings. They are pretty, but they will never be worn. They will sit in my jewelry box unless I go to a wedding.

I feel terrible about this. He probably paid too much for what they are. I would much rather have something else and less expensive. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, and I know he tried so hard.

What do I do? Keep them in the box for the rest of their lives or be honest?

GENTLE READER: An extremely proper excuse is available to you if you care to use it. That is that a lady does not accept expensive presents from any gentleman who is neither related to her nor in the act of asking to be. You need only thank him profusely but say that you cannot possibly accept anything so valuable.

No? Miss Manners is not surprised. We do not live in an era that understands such delicacy, and you are not likely to be familiar with it. Besides, you already accepted the earrings.

So wear them. Not every day, not even often, but on special occasions, even minor ones such as a dinner out. Ignoring a present, or, worse, asking for a trade-in, is a good way to discourage warmth and generosity.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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