DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of my favorite things to do with the computer is make greeting cards, sympathy cards and birthday cards with software. The cards are made with high-performance paper and look very professional. Is it appropriate to sign the card using the computer or to sign the card in my own handwriting? If it is appropriate to sign with the computer, then what about monogram cards with the name on it?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners understands that there are times when one has more fun with one's computer than with one's friends, and possibly even enjoys a more intimate and satisfying relationship. Nevertheless, if you plan to involve your friends, as you do by sending them Christmas cards, you should bear in mind that a purely professional look, lacking even a signature, let alone a personal message, does nothing to warm their hearts.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I are in the 8th year of a second marriage for both of us. We are very happy, but I believe we are going to face what could prove to be a problem unless we address it correctly.
My wife has two daughters, both in their mid-30s, both single and childless and both, unfortunately, laid off from their employment. Neither was in a high-paying job, and both are looking for a "temporary stay" with us. Our house is not large, but we would be able to accommodate them.
Though I will not be charging any rent, nor do I expect to be paid any rent when they return to work, I believe that we should have some written guidelines. Since we are in our '60s, I don't want them coming in after 11 at night, and this should be stated as a condition of their staying with us; I don't want loud music; I expect them to help in defined household chores; I expect them to be engaged in looking for work; and I want to limit their time on the computer to a couple of hours a day each, but at defined times.
My wife, in general, is agreeable with the terms but does not want anything written down. I want it written down because I have no idea how long this "temporary stay" will be, and I feel to bring up these points at a later time will only lead to distress and disharmony.
GENTLE READER: And you feel that waving a piece of paper in their faces with the accusation that the terms were violated would not lead to distress and disharmony? Or perhaps you have in mind restoring family peace by a dispassionate lawsuit?
Families cannot be regulated in a businesslike way. Miss Manners agrees that you should make your step-daughters realize that it is necessary to make compromises in order to accommodate the generational difference and anything else that might cause conflicts, but surely this can be done in a warm, family way, with some words of welcome.
As they are not minors, they should be engaged in working things out. Putting them to bed early and restricting their computer time until their homework is done is not a way to treat grown-ups.
Of course, everyone in the household should share in the work, but you need to listen to their ideas of what they can do, which may turn out to be more than you would have asked. While you should be protected from noise, headphones would enable them to listen to what music they like, and care can be taken to re-enter the house late without disturbing your sleep. You can tell them when you need to use your computer so they keep it free then, rather than rationing hours as if they were tots watching too much television.
Will these rules be disobeyed occasionally? Of course. There is no upper age limit on stretching the limits. That is when you will acknowledge that this is not the ideal set-up for them, yet remind them that your and your wife's needs have to be respected; it is not when you can take them to court for violating their contract.