Dear Miss Manners: If you are invited to a large Thanksgiving dinner and you offer to bring desserts and the offer is accepted, should you still bring a hostess gift?
The overdone practice of guest participation — bringing part of the meal and presents — arouses Miss Manners' suspicion that it is intended to replace the obligation of reciprocation.
She acknowledges, however, that the cooperative meal is a legitimate Thanksgiving custom. But in that case, you become one of the hosts and need not bring yourself a present.
Dear Miss Manners: We received an invitation to visit our neighbors and have dinner with them. We received it by voice mail. I returned the call to let them know we would be there. I did not actually reach them, but left a response on their voice mail telling them we would love to accept their invitation and would see them later.
When we arrived, we were welcomed and introduced to their other guests. The husband was surprised to see us, which confused me, but we stayed and had a wonderful visit. When it came time to have dinner, the husband asked if we were staying. I looked to his wife and she indicated we should stay, which we did.
Later on, the husband told us his wife had forgotten that she had invited us, and that she hadn't checked her voice mail and so had not received my response saying we would be there.
Were we wrong to attend without actually talking to the wife? Afterward, my husband and I were talking and thought maybe we should have said our goodbyes before dinner. I am still feeling uncomfortable about the way it played out.
Your discomfort is understandable, but entirely a product of your hosts' rudeness, not your own. Forgetting one issued an invitation and neglecting to check voice mail are merely incompetent. Making a guest feel unwelcome is inexcusable. Many readers have complained to Miss Manners about uninvited guests. But if your hostess's husband (incorrectly) thought that described you, he should have made sure of his facts before twice broadcasting his feelings. Being polite is always the safer course, particularly for those with bad memories. Should you choose to accept any future invitations from these people, putting it in writing makes good sense.
Dear Miss Manners: Many people sent beautiful flowers to the services of my nephew's wife. I'm fairly certain my nephew has not written a thank-you note to anyone in at least the 25 years his wife was able to do so.
I am his closest living relative. Would it be appropriate for me to write them on his behalf? Would I start with a ''Mark wants you to know he . . .'' sort of thing? I'd like to make sure it's acceptable before offering this bit of help to him.
Yes, but then after a sufficient and respectful waiting period, Miss Manners advises you to encourage and tutor this nephew to start writing them on his own. Eventually he will want to return to socializing, and this skill will only help ensure that he is successful.