DEAR MISS MANNERS: With the advent of so many ways to communicate, I am sometimes at a loss to know how to avoid misunderstandings and missed messages attributable to using the wrong medium.
Some of my friends and acquaintances prefer telephones to email, while others prefer text messages. Some prefer landlines to mobile phones, etc., ad infinitum.
Is there a rule, or at least an expectation, that one should reply to a message in the same medium in which it was proffered?
GENTLE READER: It is getting so that one has to keep dossiers on one’s friends: what do they refuse to eat, what forms of address (honorifics, surnames) do they find insulting, and now, what forms of communication do they refuse to use.
So yes, it would help to notice the means in which messages are sent, and to respond in kind. Miss Manners realizes that acceding to that preference deprives the flexible person of choice. But, then, those who will not speak by telephone and those who do not communicate by keyboard are not going to have a future together, anyway.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it appropriate to bring my girlfriend to a first-time family reunion?
GENTLE READER: Only if you will find it appropriate for every single member of your family to ask her when you are getting married.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am lucky enough to be living in a coastal area with abundant seafood. Mussels are inexpensive and fun to cook with, plus they show up on the menu of several local restaurants.
But how does one eat mussels in the shell -- in, say, a soup or sauce-laden dish -- without making a mess of it?
GENTLE READER: Mussels are considerate little creatures, in that they provide you with a tool with which to enjoy them.
That is, Miss Manners has never seen one actually hand over a seafood fork, which is what you would use to pry them from their shells. But after that, they provide the spoon-shaped shell with which you can properly enjoy the sauce.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My granddaughter invited two cousins and their families to her wedding. Both of their responses were to return the RSVP with the “Regret” portion ticked. There was no other communication such as a note or phone call to explain why they could not attend. My granddaughter is an only child, and these cousins are two of her closest relatives.
Am I correct in assuming that they owed her some reason for not being at her wedding? As recipients of the invitation, should they send a wedding present?
GENTLE READER: No, they do not owe a reason, and they do not owe a present. What they owe, in all decency, is an expression of regret at not being able to attend, along with their good wishes.
But Miss Manners notices that the invitation itself invited that curt response by providing a place to decline with a mere check. Apparently it already expressed regret, which is an odd thing for the host to presuppose.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)