DEAR MISS MANNERS: My elderly mother enjoys participating in the social activities at her senior living complex. In addition to weekly card games and coffee klatches, they also have seasonal brunches, lunches and dinners. As you might imagine, the same people attend these events time after time.
Mom is a great cook who likes to make "special" dishes to take to the informal gatherings and potlucks. When everyone else is bringing fruit pies, she takes a chocolate cake.
A voracious reader, she collects recipes from a wide variety of sources. As time goes on, she finds it difficult to stand in the kitchen for long periods of time, forcing her to seek out recipes that do no not require lengthy preparation. Because she assiduously tests recipes, she always comes up with a winner.
People frequently ask her for the recipe. Being the gentle soul she is, Mom complies. One neighbor has taken a dish made from Mom's special recipe six times to these community events, and another resident was insistent that Mom share a recipe. Mom feels she must drop these from her potluck repertoire.
Don't they realize they're stealing Mom's thunder? It not only hurts her feelings, it forces her to research and test new recipes. At age 90, Mom would like to slow down a bit. Is there a polite way to decline to share recipes with these folks?
Please, no reminders about imitation being the most sincere form of flattery.
GENTLE READER: Whether or not the flattery is sincere, it is obviously effective. Miss Manners considers it high time to teach your mother to resist flattery and say no politely, or there's no telling what trouble she might get into at her senior living complex.
Flattery is best fought with flattery. If your mother smiles coyly and says warmly, "No, no, it's a secret I'll never tell because I want you to keep coming back to me for more," it may not be sincere, either, but it should be irresistible.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I purchased an electronic appliance for a family member as a Christmas gift. As with many modern products, the price the store posts and advertises is the net price I will have paid after I successfully receive my manufacturer's rebate.
After giving the gift, I hate to look like a cheapskate and anxiously ask the recipient to break the shrink-wrap so I can cut out the bar code and send away for a cash rebate. But I also do not want to be another statistic, feeding the corporate fat cats who know very well that a fraction of customers will never send in to get their own money back. Can you shed any light on the dilemma?
GENTLE READER: Rather than shedding light on capitalistic warfare, Miss Manners would prefer to solve the problem. If the bar code is on the shrink wrap, cut it out and cover the hole with a Christmas sticker. If it is inside, re-wrap the present, buying shrink wrap for the purpose if you are afraid the company will not otherwise accept a return from the recipient.