DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sisters and I will be hosting a party for my dad's 75th birthday. This happy event will soon be followed by another, when one of my sisters gives birth to her first child. She is thrilled, we are thrilled, my parents are thrilled ... and her boyfriend is thrilled.
Unfortunately, when this thrilled family meets up with its various extensions -- aunts, uncles, cousins -- at my dad's party, there are going to be a lot of pointed questions and comments about the order in which my sister has engaged in some of life's big events: getting pregnant, buying a house and eventually getting married.
Since our guests are the same people who spent several years trying to corner all of us on why we hadn't yet made my mother a grandmother, I think my apprehensions are well-founded. I don't want to be rude to the very people we have invited to celebrate with us, but I am afraid my sister is going to go ballistic and I dread spending the day with a fixed smile on my face trying to head things off at the pass. Please, can you tell me how we can best avert disaster? Or should we just assume that the worst will happen and live with it?
GENTLE READER: Why don't you use the same technique with which you discouraged these people from asking why you hadn't yet made your mother a grandmother?
Oh -- it didn't work?
Miss Manners supposes that this is because many consider it their duty to dispense futile advice to the younger members of their families. If your sister really wants to make that point -- instead of going ballistic and thus proving their contention that she doesn't know how to handle herself -- she will say, "You're right; I think I'll postpone having this baby."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend and I are not the adventurous types when it comes to restaurants, and therefore find ourselves frequenting the same couple of places week after week after week. Eventually the staff gets to know us, and occasionally the manager or owner will offer a drink or dessert on the house.
These gestures are appreciated, but there is one problem. If it's dessert that is offered, we graciously accept and justify our increased caloric intake that evening by convincing ourselves it would be rude not to eat it. But neither my friend nor I drink alcohol as we're both recovering alcoholics, and sacrificing our sobriety in the name of polite behavior is above and beyond the call of duty, so even daintily sipping on the beverage is not an option.
How does one decline the kind offer of a drink on the house without looking ungrateful and rude, while simultaneously conveying to the person who bought it for us that we are flattered by his or her thoughtfulness? Is there a diplomatic way to say "Thanks but no thanks"?
GENTLE READER: Yes: "That is extremely kind, and please convey our thanks, but I'm afraid we don't drink."
Miss Manners could also tell you how to decline those desserts politely, but she suspects you are just as happy not to know. (Oh, here it is, just in case the staff gives you second desserts to replace the drinks: "It looks wonderful, but we're still savoring your excellent food, and better leave it at that.")