Dear Miss Manners: I am a 56-year-old woman who lost her job in late December. I was devastated and stricken with grief and loss and sadness. I alienated my family and friends, initially because I could not bear the questions/pity.
After thinking about the whole scenario, I wish someone would have just come and sat with me. But that never happened — only constant phone calls (which I never answered).
Now, months later, it's my birthday, and I have no contact with anyone. What can I do?
I want to make this right, but not be a burden on anyone. I am still depressed and working through this loss.
Retroactive suggestions are not much help, but this is why Miss Manners has the apparent cruelty to insist that even people experiencing tragedy respond graciously to kindness.
That does not preclude withdrawing from their company if that is what is needed at the time. But by simply shutting off all contact, you eventually convinced them that they were intruding, and you should not have expected them to barge through anyway. Those calls, had you taken them, would have been to ask your permission to visit, maybe just to sit with you. By the time of your birthday, you had made it clear that they were not wanted.
What you could have said was, “Thank you for your concern. I’m not up to seeing people right now, but I will get in touch with you when I am.” And then done so. So you should get in touch with them now, with an apology for not having acknowledged their kindness before.
Dear Miss Manners: My brother and his son are annoyed with me. I sent my nephew and his fiancee the set of pots that I found on their bridal registry. I had been told they preferred money, but I feel that gift money is mixed with other money and then there is nothing to remember me by in the future.
I exchanged a present for money when I got married and have regretted it for a long time. I think that it is nice to see something and remember the person who gave it to you long after they are gone.
My brother called me to complain for not giving money; apparently the $400 price tag was not considered enough. A comment was made that "you can't get anything out of this family." Not so, as I have paid bills and given my brother and sister money to help them out when they have called for help over the years, amounting to more than $20,000.
What should I have done, and how much was I supposed to give? Am I right in feeling insulted?
As presents are voluntary on the part of the giver, who is also supposed to choose what is given, there is no such legitimate concept as what anyone is “supposed to give.”
However, the sensible thing to give to people who don’t appreciate presents is nothing. It seems only to make them angry to receive gifts of any kind. And when your brother remarked that nothing could be gotten from this family, he is surely describing himself and his son, from whom you will get no gratitude.