DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a job in a scientific organization at a fairly high level. Most people who have attained this level are Ph.Ds. I am not, but I frequently find myself being introduced as "Dr."
What is the most gracious way of correcting people? In some situations, such as a speaker or at international forums, it may be impossible, but in others it might be appropriate. In correspondence, this is easier to right.
GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, you can't go around saying, "I don't have a Ph.D." Miss Manners cannot explain why it seems as boastful to brag about not having a degree as it is to brag about having one, but such is the case.
As you note, you cannot go around correcting people, but in correspondence you can use the title "Mrs." as you did in the return address, or in parentheses beneath your signature. Beyond that, you can only say quietly to those likely to repeat the mistake, "Oh, by the way, it's 'Mrs. Worthington,' not 'Dr. Worthington.'"
That this may lead some to believe that you not only have a Ph.D. but are modest and confident enough to refrain from using the title is neither your problem nor Miss Manners' fault.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My spouse and I had his widowed mother and younger (adult) brother as our guests at our vacation home last summer. We were happy to assume the financial burden such an expensive trip would have put on them, as we are in a better situation than they and thought they would appreciate seeing the area and spending time with us.
We were therefore rather dismayed when, upon arrival, my brother-in-law demanded that we pay the additional cost to add his name to the rental car agreement so he wouldn't be "stuck" with us the whole time. My husband explained that we could not afford it, and his brother let the issue drop, rather than volunteering to pay it himself.
Several times during their stay, I asked their mother to perform some minuscule function to assist me in my chores, and I was met each time with the response, "I'm not doing anything -- I'm on vacation!" And she didn't.
On another occasion, after I had listened politely to my brother-in-law recounting a story which was of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever, I requested his attention for what would have been perhaps 10 seconds, to look at some information on my computer screen. He immediately shot back with, "I'm not interested," and ignored me. I was hurt, but said nothing about his behavior at the time, in the interest of harmony.
My husband, who had observed his brother's behavior, explained to him that he had just been very rude to me, but failed to elicit an apology. His brother later wandered away at a crowded public event and was missing for over an hour. Upon my husband's finding him and escorting him back, no explanation or apology was offered, and I chose not to make a scene. I informed my husband privately before they left that, because of their inconsiderate behavior, they were never being invited back, and he agreed.
Now, we understand that they have both fallen in love with our summer home and are intending to return next summer. How do you suggest that we handle this?
GENTLE READER: How about lending it to them for a weekend? No, bad idea. Miss Manners supposes they would submit an expense account for food and incidentals.
It is not as easy to avoid inviting relatives as others, because relatives speak up more readily, and because they have ways of finding out what you are doing. So here is what you are doing:
Next summer, you may be having some guests, but only those who help out; you are also planning to have a real vacation yourself, free of the need to wait on guests. Since having guests and not having guests are the only possibilities, that should cover whatever you want to do.
Should the reply be that they will help, you should demur by saying, "Oh, no, I'm sure you don't want to run the household while I get rested." Perhaps skipping a summer will put them in a better frame of mind.