DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I received a good bottle of red wine from friends as a thank-you for a favor we did for their family. We brought that bottle of wine with us to my sister’s house for Christmas dinner.

My brother-in-law made prime rib for dinner. We asked him to serve the bottle with dinner. He chose not to and explained that his bottle of wine went better with the meal.

We felt slighted since we really wanted to try the wine. After the meal was over and we were all still at the table, again we asked him to open it. He declined with another excuse.

Here we are, days later, and they kept the bottle of wine. Should we ask for it back? I know my friends will ask us how we enjoyed the wine, and I don’t know how to tell them that we didn’t and admit that we no longer have it.

GENTLE READER: That one bottle of wine certainly had a lot of strings attached to it.

Some friends gave it to you, but are expected to demand a report back on it.

You then gave it away, with the unmet demand that it be substituted for the wine your hosts had chosen to complement the dinner they had planned. Now you feel you should tug on a string to bring back the bottle that, for all you know, may have been given to your friends by others who required a report, which they were planning to base on your assessment.

Miss Manners begs you to let go. You gave it away. There was no obligation on the part of the people to whom you gave it either to pour it down your throat or to return it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve asked my adult niece to call me “Aunt (my nickname).” All my other adult nieces and nephews address me like that, but this niece has said she’s not sure she can honor my request because she says I am trying to control the way she communicates with me and show she is subservient to me.

Ironically, when she was about 10 years old she asked family members to stop calling her by her nickname and address her by her given first name. I have complied since day one to her name request, because I feel strongly that one should address people as they prefer to be addressed.

Am I asking too much for her to return the favor or, for that matter, to be addressed as I like to be addressed? She would like to call me only by my nickname, which disappoints me. I could call her by her nickname, but I don’t think two wrongs make a right.

GENTLE READER: Your niece is being what we used to call impertinent. Actually, Miss Manners still considers — and calls — it that when a young lady claims to feel degraded when expected to show respect for her aunt, who is probably also her elder, and asking merely for the same courtesy she accorded the niece.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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