DEAR MISS MANNERS: As wonderful as graduation is, it is driving me crazy. I am absolutely baffled about how to write a proper thank-you note for the material and monetary gifts that I am receiving.
I hate receiving thank-you cards to the effect of, "Thank you for the lovely (blank). I will put it to good use. Thanks again."
They have always seemed very insincere to me, but I have no clue what else to write! I need some form of outline to address any gift from $5 to a picture frame to $100 to a piece of furniture, etc. Please, help!
GENTLE READER: Rote letters are bad, Miss Manners agrees, but she must warn you that sincere ones can be worse. Sincerity is responsible for the etiquette crime of admitting that a present is disappointing and needs to be exchanged.
Good thank-you letters are about the writer's feelings for the present and for the donor. But even if these happen to be positive, they will require artificial enhancement. You don't say, "I liked the frame," but that you were thrilled by it; not "The $5 will come in handy," but, "I was touched by your generous remembrance." And for $100, you can make it "extremely generous."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a fabulous European city that most people only dream of visiting. My question, alas, relates to moochers.
Not infrequently, people call me up or write me to announce, "We're coming to your (fabulous European) city! Can we stay with you for 10 days/two weeks/one month?"
Sometimes they don't even ask whether they can stay with me -- they just assume that the answer will be yes and make their plans accordingly. Recently, a friend of mine, a European, announced that she and her husband have 10 days' vacation, and it would be a "good time" for them to come here. She added that wherever it was they decided to go, they would have to have free lodging. (They just returned from two weeks in Miami, where they did not have free lodging.)
My apartment is 78 square meters and has one bathroom. However, even if it were a palatial residence, I still think that two weeks is too much. We are all in our mid-30s, and we all have jobs.
My general rule of thumb for visitors is that one person who has come specifically to see me (and not just for a free hotel) can stay for a week to 10 days. Two people can stay for no more than four days, and if they have children or dogs, less than that.
Is that unreasonable? Am I too rigid? I am single but would never dream of staying in anyone's home for more than a few days, and in fact, I generally opt for a hotel when possible.
I should add that most visitors, although they are getting free food and lodging, seem to get wallet amnesia when I'm doing the tour-guide bit around town and country. Whether it's a cappuccino or a sumptuous dinner, when it's time to pay the bill, they decide to visit the facilities.
Am I a misanthrope? Or are my would-be guests out of line?
GENTLE READER: Sounds more to Miss Manners as if they are forming a line around your block. And who can blame them, as you are offering free vacations?
All right, you are not exactly offering. However, accepting reservations upon request amounts to the same thing.
Miss Manners fears that in learning the language of your country of residence, you may have forgotten how to say no. The polite way is, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I can't have you here, do call me, though, and we'll get together." Preferably this is delivered in advance, although if you have no warning, it can also be said on the doorstep.