DEAR MISS MANNERS: A family member recently arranged to have two DNA swab kits sent directly to my husband and me from a well-known scientific organization. The organization apparently is in the process of conducting a worldwide hereditary study.
We have no association with this organization and have never mentioned any interest in this study to the family member. From online research I did, the kits are quite pricey and also help provide revenue to the organization.
We have no intention of sending our DNA to this organization. These kits came out of the blue, as we haven’t exchanged gifts with this person in over 20 years and really have very little contact — maybe a note or call every few years.
How do we respond to the gift? Do we simply send a note saying we received the packages and thank you for thinking of us and then throw them away?
I would never re-gift this item, nor donate it to a charity for resale, such as one might do with a sweater or fruit bowl. Do we return the gift to the sender with a thank-you note, but point out that we will not use the kits and perhaps someone else she knows would value them? Do we return them to the scientific organization so the charged account can be credited?
GENTLE READER: Just don’t leave any fingerprints or stray hairs on that kit when you donate it back to the organization.
And ask for its discretion in not refunding the giver’s account. Send your family member a note thanking her and leave it at that.
Miss Manners has to admit that she would relish knowing what this person hoped to find out, but respectfully defers to your lack of interest.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it appropriate to recline in a recliner while entertaining guests in one’s home?
My husband leans back in his recliner or sprawls on an easy chair with an ottoman. I find it very rude and unattractive and think a person should sit upright (although I don’t object to feet on an ottoman) when conversing with others in a formal or semi-formal setting. I can’t help but think that a person would not sit this way in a job interview, although entertaining at home is quite different.
GENTLE READER: Yes it is. In a job interview setting, there is a distinct and necessary gap in status. But there is also a degree of formality, and an interviewer would not properly recline in deference to that. If one did, the interviewee would still not respond in kind because it would show disrespect.
When entertaining, however, a polite host wants to make his guests equally comfortable and shouldn’t partake in anything that he can’t reasonably offer them (unless it is by medical necessity). If there are not enough recliners for everyone, your husband should not indulge. However, do not blame Miss Manners if your husband comes home with a slouchy couch under the guise of being a better host.