Dear Miss Manners:
I work for a small to mid-size urban museum, the oldest cultural institution in the state, but one that is inwardly focused and not well known. As we have begun to do more public programs, step up publicity and expand how we serve the community, we have won awards for our exhibitions, programs and restoration of our historic building.
I've been working here six years, and I am tired of people confusing us with the "other" cultural institution in the city that is more well known. When I say I work for the X Museum, people respond, "Oh, is that the same as the Y Museum?"
We are so different! I am so tired of being associated with the other place in people's eyes! What is a polite response to the people who confuse us?
Apparently, you have been looking inwardly for far too long. When you look outward, it is supposed to be with pleasant anticipation, not disgruntlement.
Miss Manners finds it particularly unreasonable of you to be annoyed that people are unfamiliar with your museum when you say it has just begun the effort to make itself known. Why don't you help that cause by using these opportunities to speak of the museum enthusiastically, in an attempt to enlighten and intrigue people who are unaware of its attractions?
Dear Miss Manners:
At my wedding -- which was otherwise lovely -- guests, if so inclined, could speak a few words about us.
An acquaintance of mine, with whom I had a short liaison several years ago, began his comments, in front of our assembled family and friends, by explaining that he used to date me (which, among other things, is not exactly true).
I found this humiliating, and while the gentleman did not intend to injure me, he has also not been tremendously apologetic. Because I don't wish to be reminded of any of this again, and because I was friendly with him at the time of the wedding only because I had been forgiving of previous lapses, I would like to return his wedding present. (Throwing it out does not seem quite final enough.)
I would return it with a polite note. Is returning the present acceptable? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts.
Miss Manners is thinking about how it would have sounded if, instead of describing himself as having dated you, the gentleman had described himself as only an acquaintance who had had a short liaison with you.
She will have to trust that the speech itself was in bad enough taste to justify your extreme reaction. Returning a present is a powerful and final rejection. (Those who do so because they just don't like the particular present should take note.)
If you must do so, the accompanying letter should say, "Under the circumstances, I'm afraid I cannot accept this."
Dear Miss Manners:
What is the polite way one goes about eventually learning the last name of a new acquaintance?
As much as it used to be the case that one would first introduce oneself by one's last name, and reveal one's first name only under more intimate circumstances, it is now the custom in most social circles to introduce oneself solely by the first name. I find myself generally reduced to the subversive tactics of finding some list in which the name is written or asking a third mutual acquaintance who happens to know, but surely etiquette has a better solution.
You might ask at the time of the introduction. Miss Manners finds that most people remember their own surnames when prompted, even if they haven't used them for years.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.(c)2003, Judith Martin