DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in a quandary about giving a Christmas present to my cleaning lady. I had to cut her hours back from every other week to once a month.
At Christmas I always gave her a small present and a check for one week’s work. What do I give her now — the same amount as before? I don’t want to lose her, as I really like her.
GENTLE READER: In what sense do you like her? Before social media perverted that word, it implied a certain fondness that, when applied to actual living beings, indicated a modicum of empathy.
In that case, you might consider that however much financial problems of yours may have led you to cut back her hours, her financial problems must be worse.
Or perhaps you mean only that you like the way she cleans your house.
In either case, Miss Manners recommends generosity. This is a rare opportunity to use a selfish motivation to do a selfless act.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter thinks I need to attend her future relatives’ family Christmas party. I do not feel I belong there, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t want to go. I am not marrying them; she is marrying into the family.
After trying to explain this to her, her response was, “I would like you to do this for me.” I said I still feel the same.
GENTLE READER: Like it or not, marriage does join two families. If there are children, you will have blood relatives in common.
However, Miss Manners gathers that you take a rather cool view of family claims. Your own daughter’s plea that you do this for her sake seems to have moved you no more than her wish to include you in her new life. Ultimately, this will probably be sadder for you than for her.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I often host an open house during the Christmas season. While it is certainly not my intention to collect gifts, that is what happens.
The first year I was stunned. The second year, nervous. The third year, I worried about how to handle these well-intentioned, but certainly not necessary, gifts. The worst part is that guests often don’t put a tag on the gift, so I don’t know whom to thank.
Is there a “catch-all” phrase that can express my thanks to people for attending our open house and also providing a gift (if they have done so), without suggesting to those who did not bring a gift that they are deficient?
GENTLE READER: Hosts do not normally write letters to thank their guests simply for showing up; it is guests who are supposed to write to thank their hosts. The reversal is chiefly popular with brides who want to shame guests, whom they consider to be their debtors.
So no, you do not want to do that. Even mentioning the problem in general terms would be interpreted as declaring to all that good guests gave presents.
No one would suffer more from the inability to write a letter of thanks than Miss Manners. She can only hope that the donors will reveal themselves, and she advises you in the future to assign someone to leap at any deposited present to mark down the name of the giver.