Dear Miss Manners: Is it considered good etiquette to ask why an invitation is declined? We were invited to a wedding that we cannot attend, and the bride asked why. I was under the impression that generally one should never ask why an invitation is declined.
Such an inquiry is neither proper etiquette nor common sense. The not-to-be-guest must then either tell the truth, which at best is another commitment, or lie, as an alternative to admitting to disliking the bridegroom.
Instead, Miss Manners counsels giving as little information as possible (“I’m so sorry, we just can’t”), lest the host compound the rudeness by using your answer to appeal the decision (“Oh, just find a babysitter”).
Dear Miss Manners: My sister-in-law has asked (several times) that my family stop giving gifts to her and my brother.
One of my sisters continues to give presents, but in the form of small "stocking stuffers" such as refrigerator magnets and stickers. Another sister continues to give very generous, substantial gifts, claiming that it is her decision to give or not, and that my brother and sister-in-law are free to donate these gifts to charity.
I'm being pulled into the middle of this, and I hope you will give us some guidance on the etiquette of giving and receiving.
The advice, you will be relieved to hear, is that you get out of the middle. There are only two parties in gift-giving: the giver and the recipient. Etiquette does not recognize a sibling-giver or a recipient-in-law. An agreement to reduce presents among miscellaneous adult members of a family is not uncommon, and simply ignoring such a request is impolite. But rather than say that to either of your sisters, Miss Manners recommends you talk to your sister-in-law about your own arrangement — and avoid commenting on those of anyone else.
Dear Miss Manners: What is the appropriate response when someone, upon hearing the name of your son — a name that took months and months to decide on, and that you believed was both unique and masculine because of its old English origin referring to a traditionally male occupation — tells you that so-and-so's daughter has the same name?
I have no wish to lie and say "Oh, that's nice" (when, to me, it isn't) or confront the speaker with, "That's most unfortunate, as it is clearly a boy's name." And it seems impolite to stare at the speaker in uncomfortable silence. Especially if you happen to be colleagues, or worse yet, related.
Being an etiquette columnist, Miss Manners considers herself to be reasonably well attuned to etiquette violations, but this comment seems more thoughtless than rude. It certainly does not justify an angry retort. The most that etiquette allows is a frosty “Yes?” — and even then, only if you cannot help yourself. How much worse it would be to be related to the speaker is an exercise Miss Manners leaves to her gentle reader.