DEAR MISS MANNERS: My school-age daughters recently received as a gift from their aunt and uncle a donation to a religious charity that our family finds offensive. The charity supports a cause and a religion that is against our family’s beliefs.
We feel like this is a passive-aggressive jab at us in the guise of a gift to our daughters. Do my daughters owe their uncle and aunt a thank-you note for this “gift”?
GENTLE READER: It is rude not to thank someone who gives you a present, and also rude to suggest that you would have preferred something else.
But if you promise to keep that in mind, Miss Manners will give you a polite way to comply with the letter of the law while violating its spirit.
This requires subtlety, which is not guaranteed to work on adults who see a present to a child as a good opportunity to annoy the parents. “Dear Aunt and Uncle,” the letter could say, “It was kind of you to think of us on our birthdays. I know how much Charity X means to you. Love, your nieces.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it polite to turn one’s plate throughout the course of a family meal, rotating it so that the portion one is eating is closest to the diner? My daughter asked me this today, and I had to tell her that, though I wasn’t sure, I suspected it was not. While she might do this at home, it is most definitely not polite while dining out or at another’s home. Is this correct?
GENTLE READER: It is, although Miss Manners notes that it may cause more trouble at home than in public. At a formal dinner, serving plates with crests will have been cleared before the food is served, thus eliminating any danger of dribbling sauce over the host’s escutcheon when the plate is rotated. It will be more problematic at family dinners with young children where the pictures on the plates will then be upside down.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have recently suffered a severe head trauma. Thankfully, I seem to have recovered in most ways. Unfortunately, I have small holes in my memory. I do not want to hurt old friends’ and acquaintances’ feelings by ignoring them, but I seem to have forgotten some of their faces, even though I remember who they are.
My high school has a newsletter that gives people updates on how everyone is doing. I was wondering how to write in to warn people, to prevent hurt feelings without seeming maudlin or self-pitying.
GENTLE READER: Depending on when you were graduated, you may find that everyone is claiming memory problems, even when stuck on trivial matters that no one ever does remember. Miss Manners has observed even young adults smacking their heads in frustration and tastelessly claiming to have Alzheimer’s disease if they can’t remember who played a minor role in a film they saw years ago.
So she predicts that your classmates will be grateful if you write a cheerful note to the newsletter saying, “I hope we’ll have name tags when we get together. My memory isn’t what it used to be.”