DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper response when an acquaintance or stranger says “She’s beautiful” about your child?
Even if I were my teenaged daughter’s biological mother (I’m not), I think “thank you” is a little strange because her beauty isn’t my accomplishment. Should the answer be different depending on whether my daughter is present?
GENTLE READER: Compliments are an expression of admiration, and sometimes also of gratitude, flattery -- or merely an attempt to move things along. Miss Manners expects that anyone who has toasted the host at a boring dinner party or been on a first date is aware of this.
Because compliments are not recognition for work well done, you need not worry about not having earned one. The proper response is “thank you,” meaning for having thought and/or said something charming. If the compliment is given to you about your teenage daughter in her presence, your daughter will have to be gracious about not being addressed directly, an approach more suited to a small child.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son and his new wife were married last year, with a wedding shower the month before. We have never received thank-you cards for either event, nor have any of the other guests.
This is very rude of my son and my daughter-in-law, in my opinion. Should I say something to them about getting busy writing, or just let them be rude? Is telling them to write them rude as well?
GENTLE READER: It is not rude when you are in loco parentis -- and even less so, if there can be less than no rudeness -- or when you are the actual parentis.
Miss Manners does suggest that when you raise the issue, you talk about the other guests’ not having received thanks, and leave your own grievance to the side. There will then be no way to confuse justifiable parental nagging with whining.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I both wear wedding bands with carved designs. My ring has no diamonds or jewels of any kind. I don’t have an engagement ring. I respect other women’s preferences, but I did not want my husband to spend unnecessary money on jewels. Our bands were not expensive and they are comfortable to wear.
Some people seem to think that a lack of jewels is an indicator that the husband is not truly devoted. One person even implied that an inexpensive ring means that there was a “shotgun wedding,” for an unexpected pregnancy.
We have been married for seven years, are financially comfortable, and we have no children by choice. How should I respond to people who ask why he didn’t buy me a diamond?
GENTLE READER: As if someone had questioned the value of one of your most treasured possessions.
Miss Manners is not advising a counterattack of the “I do not waste money on baubles” variety. The sentiment-vs.-expense point can be made more subtly. Your face should convey surprise, hurt and vulnerability, as you explain that your husband knows you so well that he guessed that this ring would mean more to you than any rocks would have.
(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.)