DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was brought up in a home where I was expected to dress appropriately for special occasions, especially the holidays. My husband's family dresses far more casual and rarely goes beyond jeans. I have heard comments through the years about my clothes, appearance, etc., and have preferred to ignore them because I feel it's their problem and not mine.
However, they have now started to make comments to my daughter, which is where I feel they have stepped over the line.
My brother-in-law and his wife come in from out of state every Thanksgiving and Christmas and usually stay with us. During the course of a conversation, they asked my daughter if she shopped at a certain retailer, and she said no. My sister-in-law then made a comment that my daughter only wears a certain designer. (She has one T-shirt.)
I thought this was a very snide comment, especially coming from an adult. It upset my daughter, who felt she was being chastised. When this same couple showed up for Thanksgiving dinner in warm-up suits, none of us commented on their attire.
Another relative on my husband's side also made comments about how she can't believe our daughter is interested in clothes. (She's in the fifth grade.) Frankly, I don't know why she would even care. I am tired of tolerating this rudeness, especially when it comes from guests whom I have fed and housed for several days. How do you suggest handling future remarks?
GENTLE READER: By teaching your daughter to reply to general comments with a bland, "Thank you, you look very nice, too." The greatest protection against verbal sniping is a demonstration that it failed to hit the target, so Miss Manners considers this a valuable skill for her to learn.
The advanced course is to ask questions that display the fact that the sniper is more concerned with the subject than is the intended target. If your daughter has an interest in drama, she could have fun replying to the mention of her supposedly favorite designer with, "Who? How do you spell that? How can you tell who designed my T-shirt? Oh, you mean the name here is the signature of the designer? How interesting."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Help! Now that I've written all the Christmas cards for my single friends, I'm at a standstill. How should one write the address for a couple when you really know only the woman and not her husband? Does "Mary and Milton Moore" look too gauche on the envelope? Or would "Milton and Mary Moore" be acceptable? (Most people I know do not use their title unless trying to get a dinner reservation.)
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners has had occasion before to muse that if it were not for overbooked restaurants, there would be no incentive at all for learning proper behavior.
Oddly enough, she thinks it is even more important to treat your friends with dignity. Your exact relationship may affect what you call them in the letter, but it has nothing to do with how you address the envelope, which is for public view and should include whatever titles they use for their restaurant reservations.