Dear Miss Manners: As social distancing continues, my more extroverted friends are getting antsy and sending texts asking to "pop by" to drop off a homemade treat. What is the most polite way to say, "No thanks"? My old go-to was, "Oh, that is so thoughtful, but we have plans and will be out," but that obviously won't work anymore.
“Oh, that is so thoughtful, but our plans now are to stay in, so we won’t be able to see you.”
Dear Miss Manners: My elderly mother has had a stroke and multiple falls, resulting in broken bones, and is suffering from dementia. Our family wants to honor her wishes and keep her in her own home for as long as we can. This is made possible because my sister, our wonderful stepfather and myself are all actively involved in her day-to-day care. We also have the support of daily in-home help, along with regular visits from a nurse and two therapists.
We are so grateful for this outside help: These workers are invariably kind and patient with Mom, who is stubborn and often cranky. We probably could not maintain her in-home care without them.
These outside helpers are also invariably professional — except that they all call my mother, to her face, "darling," "sweetheart" or "dear." It makes me furious. In her day, Mom was a union organizer who negotiated contracts for workers all over our state. She ran political campaigns for top state elected officials, and raised three children as a single mother. To say the patronizing way they address her chafes at me is a real understatement.
I haven't said anything to her caretakers — yet. Part of me worries I am overreacting to a show of affection, and another part of me is sitting here stewing because I just overheard her occupational therapist call her "sweetheart." I want to scream, "She is not your sweetheart! She is a retired professional woman, and at the end of her life, she has earned your respect! Call her Mrs. Jones!"
Please come down from the ceiling. Snapping at people never helps, and you should especially not be attacking those whose service and dedication you value.
Nevertheless, Miss Manners sympathizes with your annoyance. And you needn’t cite your mother’s résumé to justify her being addressed in the manner that she has always considered dignified. You need merely say that she is used to that form of address, and prefers it. “You know, it is the old-fashioned way,” you can confide charmingly. You should slip this in with appreciation, on behalf of the family, for their care.
The correction won’t always hold, of course. The habit of expressing concern with those endearments is strong, and few people now understand the importance of dignity.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
2020, by Judith Martin