DEAR MISS MANNERS: My younger brother recently announced his engagement to a girl he met two months ago (she's 19, he's 22). He's never met her family, and she's never met ours.
The thing that worries me (and everyone I've talked to, including my parents) is that when he called to ask her father for permission to marry her, Mr. Future-Father-in-Law said he required three or more letters of reference before he'd consent.
My brother says that her father is joking but serious at the same time, and that he really does want the recommendations. Her mother even said the letters would be on display at the reception so guests could read them.
My side of the family agrees that this is completely tacky, but my brother refuses to listen. Is it customary (or even polite) to ask a future son-in-law for letters of reference? If not, what's the best course of action?
GENTLE READER: First is for your family to stop sneering at a parent for wanting to know something about the stranger his teen-age daughter has agreed to marry although she hardly knows him herself. The business term "letter of reference" and the threat to display proof of respectability may be jokes, but the need to know something about him is serious and responsible.
Next is to initiate an acquaintance with the bride's parents. This is the duty of the prospective bridegroom's parents when an engagement occurs, and Miss Manners is sure that you would not want them to think you are so tacky as to be ignorant of that rule.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have lost 50 pounds, so it is obvious to people that I am watching what I eat. The personal questions that I get asked are a whole other subject!
I know that when people have food to share, it is polite to offer it to you. I feel that it is rude when I have to say "no" more than two times (I really do not like to say it more than once, but I have to be patient), and I have heard from others that people will act insulted if you refuse their dish, like when people bring cakes and cookies into work.
What is the proper response to a food pusher to let them know that I am strong about my response? What is the proper number of times to offer treats to someone? I speak for many dieters who do not feel they have to tell someone that they are watching what they eat.
GENTLE READER: The proper response is "No, thank you," and you keep saying it until people take no (thank you) for an answer. Miss Manners urges you to repeat it in full confidence that the rudeness here is neither in offering food nor in refusing it, but in pushing it.
That this is a problem in your office astonishes Miss Manners. Every other office in America issues complaints about someone who gobbles more than their fair share of the communal snacks.