DEAR MISS MANNERS: There was unpleasantness at our table last night.
For 11 years, I have cooked dinner for my husband, and for the past eight years, I have cooked a separate dinner for our (now) four children. The children dine at 5:30, then, when my husband comes home from his very demanding job, we eat a separate and much nicer meal, with wine, together.
Over the years it has chafed that my husband never says "thank you" for the meals I prepare. He enjoys them; if I ask, "How's your pasta?" he'll say, "Wonderful." But never does he volunteer any gratitude.
Last night I brought this up, saying that I felt unappreciated and wished that he might express thanks. To my dismay, he said he didn't feel any need to say such things because, in essence, cooking dinner is part of my job, just as going to the office each day is his job. He asked, rhetorically, whether I ever say, "Thank you for going to the office," or whether I express gratitude to him when I write a check.
As it happens, I am thankful, aloud, that he supports me and our children. But I feel this is beside the point, and that even if I were an ungrateful slattern, good manners would still dictate that he say "thanks" when he sits down to a meal prepared by me.
Miss Manners, what to do? Am I correct, and is he being rude? If so, by what means can I bring him to concede this basic point of politeness?
GENTLE READER: Did you make dessert? Because this dinner table is badly in need of something sweet.
Instead of requesting sweetness from your husband and providing some for him, you have cast this as an etiquette issue -- and one on which you happen to be wrong.
Mind you, Miss Manners spends half her life trying to get people to say thank you, and another chunk explaining that the home is not an etiquette-free zone. Your husband should thank you every time he asks you to please pass the salt, and you should thank him every time you ask him to please pick up some milk on the way home.
But for him to thank you each night for making him dinner would cast him as a guest in his own home and you as his hostess, rather than his wife. For you to thank him for supporting you would be even worse, as it would cast him as a philanthropist and you as the beneficiary of his largesse.
You are supposed to be a family. Miss Manners would be horrified to hear that you have taught the children to thank you for giving them meals and him for supporting them.
What is lacking here are not acknowledgements of indebtedness, but generous helpings of praise ("Wow, you really outdid yourself") and sympathy ("You poor dear, you work so hard") that you should be passing on to each other.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the length of time a person can take to send a thank you for a birthday gift, Christmas gift or any gift, for that matter?
GENTLE READER: Before the initial enthusiasm for the present subsides, or just after the initial disappointment does. However, Miss Manners sets the time limit at 20 minutes.