Miss Manners: It’s never too late to say ‘thanks’ properly

October 2, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I became engaged, the women of my religious institution (my mother’s contemporaries) held a shower for me, for which I immediately wrote thank-you notes for the luncheon and the gifts.

My husband and I were married by a judge but had a reception several months later in my home town. While I was mingling with the guests, one of the ladies who had attended the luncheon came up to me and told me, with a smile, that I had written her a thank-you note for the wrong gift (I got you X, and you thanked me for Y) and that she thought I would like to know.

I was mortified, of course. I apologized effusively, said it must have been new-bride idiocy, thanked her for the gift she did give me and retired red-faced.

It has haunted me since then, and I’ve never seen her afterward without feeling like a fool — and I’ve been married 29 years.

Should I have written her another thank-you note? What would have been the best response? Since no one else mentioned anything, I can only hope that the rest of the notes were accurate. It’s years too late, of course, but I’d love to lay this ghost to rest and feel I acted correctly at the time.

GENTLE READER: Twenty-nine years is a long time to feel like a fool, and Miss Manners would like to offer you some relief. But alas, she cannot bring herself to declare that the fact that the lady already had a (misguided) letter from you, or your including thanks with your embarrassed apology, took the place of a genuine and correct letter of thanks.

Presumably the lady herself has long since forgotten. But you have not, which does you credit. So the job now is to get it off your conscience.

You could write quite an amusing letter, but not about your guilt. Rather, you should say that you think you might have finally recovered from the bridal idiocy that made you thank her for the wrong present 29 years ago, and you want to tell her how much you have enjoyed the right one all this time.

Then, perhaps, you can get a good night’s sleep. Just please include specific details, or your benefactor will be up all night trying to remember what on Earth she gave you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is a guest to do if a bathroom is not equipped with individual guest towels? On many occasions at a party or gathering, there is only one measly towel hanging in a bathroom for all and sundry to use. In many cases, the towel is already very damp and obviously (over) used.

In a friend’s home, I would discreetly ask for another hand towel for the bathroom. However, I do not know the etiquette for advising a host/hostess of a lack of clean towels in the bathroom when the party is at full swing.

GENTLE READER: The towel sounds yucky, the hosts sound busy, and Miss Manners would not countenance leaving the bathroom without washing one’s hands.

What to do? Uh, there is paper somewhere in that room. Look around.

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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