DEAR MISS MANNERS: On September 11, the whole world fell apart. Members of my family had to walk from Manhattan across the bridge to get home to Brooklyn. The next day I was still told to have a nice day. This time I asked, "Do you really think I can have a nice day following what happened?" All I got was a silly stare.
Miss Manners: How can we stop this kind of meaningless invitation? I realize it has become so entrenched it is automatic. Even the bus driver says it to each passenger as we get out. No, I do not say thank you. Anyway, what is a nice day? The weather?
GENTLE READER: A nice day for Miss Manners would be one in which people realize that there is enough hatred in the world without their taking umbrage at perfectly harmless and routine expressions of good will.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I are in our mid-40s and resigned to the fact that we will not have children. We are content with that, have become accustomed to caring for each other and have never discussed adoption.
My only and older brother, who is in his early 50s, has a new fiancee in her mid-40's who is expecting twins and has hinted to my wife that we will be asked and expected to be godparents, though my brother has not mentioned this to me. He and I are fairly close, as is our family, and everyone is beaming at the prospect of children finally arriving in our family.
However, my wife and I don't think that we want to assume the responsibility of being godparents, partially out of not knowing what to do and the level of commitment involved. What happens if, heaven forbid, misfortune should occur, my dear brother and his fiancee don't remain together, or even get married for that matter? We don't see ourselves as parents at this stage of our lives, and my wife has seen many women come into and depart my brother's intimate social circles, so she isn't confident that he'll properly carry his weight or remain committed to a marriage or a child, let alone two. We don't want to become the babysitters or chaperons for the children when their parents' agenda warrants.
On the other hand, we don't want to be viewed as inconsiderate, insensitive or lacking familial courtesies or deference. What should we do to continue showing our love, and keep the peace and our reputations intact?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners will refrain from asking whether you realize that your inexperience with children doesn't matter, that it may be making you unduly apprehensive, and that most people find it a tremendous joy to have such a connection to the next generation. She just wants you to know that she is finding it a strain.
That said, you may decline graciously if you acknowledge the fact that the offer is a great honor and that you are declining because you will not be able to do justice to the position, although you will look forward to having a close avuncular relationship with both children.