DEAR MISS MANNERS: I brought a bottle of coconut rum to a gathering of close friends at a friend's house, and got caught in the middle of a "Which Bottle is Mine?" dilemma.
Another friend brought an identical bottle. Throughout the evening, everyone was enjoying their drinks (responsibly, of course). When it came time to go home, the other person told me how she "would take her bottle home since it wasn't opened."
Whether or not the unopened bottle is the one I brought or the one she brought is irrelevant in my opinion. While I don't see myself as a greedy person, was it a little presumptuous to assume the bottle that everyone used for mixed drinks was "mine" and the unopened bottle was "hers?"
GENTLE READER: Annoying as this was, Miss Manners cannot advise you to grab back the bottle and say, "No, that's mine! Mine, mine, mine!"
But if she is correct in assuming that you are more annoyed at having a dirty trick pulled on you than you are disappointed not to go home with your rum, she does have recourse to suggest. Say, pleasantly but loudly enough for everyone to hear, "Oh, I thought it was mine, and I was going to leave it for our host to enjoy."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone sneezes around me, I say "God bless you." But when a person continues to sneeze three or four times after that, is it still appropriate to say "God bless you," or is the first one sufficient enough?
GENTLE READER: The correct sequence is:
1. "God bless you."
2. "Bless you again."
3. "Are you all right?"
4. (and thereafter) "Don't you think you should be home in bed?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was in college I met the one girl in my life that I will never be able to forget. We were engaged, but she broke it off realizing we were both too young to follow through with such a serious commitment. We continued to see each other after college as very close friends.
Several years ago, we lost contact with each other and last month I found out that she died. Since I have finally admitted to myself that I never really got over her, I am devastated by the news.
Now I am trying to sort out all of my feelings surrounding her death. I find myself trying to find out the details of how she died and what her life was like since we lost contact, but it's been impossible to find out anything. I am considering writing to her parents to ask them my questions. Is that appropriate? I feel like I might be intruding on their privacy, but my urge to find out about her is constantly tugging at my heart.
GENTLE READER: Far from being an invasion of privacy, a letter of condolence to the bereaved is a kindness.
That is what you mean to send, Miss Manners trusts: a letter expressing your sympathy and your admiration, and omitting "So -- was she seeing anyone?" and "Did she regret losing me?" If you show a loving interest in the lady's life without sharing your misgivings, you may be sure that her parents will be only too glad to talk about her with you.