DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was feeling tortured last year at Thanksgiving and was wondering how to avoid that feeling this year.
For the last 20 years, my husband and I have been invited to the house of his brother and sister-in-law. I really do appreciate all the work that is involved. However, people do thank them for their work, and they get to keep the leftovers.
We drive more than eight hours (sometimes it's worse, depending on ice and snow, overheated engines and the number of diaper changes), and last year was emotionally the worst. Our 16-year-old daughter decided to use that time to tell us how much she hates us. Our 13-year-old son, usually very calm, was upset when somebody stepped on and broke his boom box. My 6-year-old said every other minute, "Are we there yet?"
When my husband started yelling, I asked to get out of the car, but that doesn't really work because then it takes longer to get there.
The minute we got there, my brother-in-law sent me right out for pizza for the whole family. I think he wanted to be sure that we pay our share and do our share. My sister-in-law made an angry comment that we hadn't brought the kind of Scotch they wanted. (I couldn't find it.) The next day, I grocery shopped, and I always spend more than $200, which I'm happy to do, except that it's never enough.
I don't think it's an accident that their uncle's wife stopped coming to Thanksgiving as soon as he died. I don't believe she ever felt truly welcome. I know another cousin feels that way, too.
I'd have it at our house, but the others all live elsewhere. I just wish that once they could do the drive, and they might treat us better when we got there.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is not as confident that exposure to the behavior in your car would inspire your relatives to treat you better. Perhaps it might shock them into realizing how horrid family life can be when people feel free to unload their ugliest feelings on one another.
Yet that does not seem to have occurred to you. Please, then, allow Miss Manners to make some recommendations.
Before you get into the car, you need to have a pleasant family council, asking for suggestions on how to make the trip enjoyable, or at least bearable, for all of you. A few rules would be in order, such as no yelling and no unloading pent-up grievances. There's not much you can do about "Are we there yet?"
The next topic should be how you can assist your hosts, including showing patience and tolerance if they seem unreasonable, perhaps to set them a good example. In this regard, Miss Manners believes you would find it helpful to avoid dwelling on their great good luck in being able to keep the leftovers in exchange for merely entertaining a houseful of grumpy people.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The media have been printing and airing lots of photographs and videos of dead bodies. I was under the impression that it is wrong to photograph the dead or take pictures at a funeral. Is it really bad manners, or is it just something I find offensive?
GENTLE READER: It is not, per se, bad manners to photograph the dead in a dignified way. Indeed, representations, sometimes including death masks, were sought as keepsakes by the bereaved in past times.
It is displaying these, including in public venues, that is an etiquette problem and an extremely difficult one. The trade-off for the media is between protecting people from being unnecessarily horrified, and giving them the news of any horrors being committed. Weighing these factors in each case is what Miss Manners considers proper behavior for journalists.