DEAR MISS MANNERS: Your saying there is an etiquette rule against a lady's accepting valuable jewelry from a gentleman to whom she is not related caused me to think about a diamond necklace I received one Christmas from a man I was dating who admitted he'd been lying to me for five months.
I broke up with him because I knew I could never trust him. Because he's an admitted liar and the bag he gave me the jewelry in said "Sears," I question how valuable the necklace really is, even though he said at the time he was keeping the appraisal certificate in case I ever wanted it.
I do not wear the necklace, nor do I plan to, because of the negative memories, but I had thought that I would be offending him by giving it back, and my father agrees. What do you think in this situation?
GENTLE READER: You mean to say that you don't want to offend a cad who deceived you?
Here Miss Manners spends her life trying to persuade people to refrain from offending the innocent, and you go and pass up a classic opportunity to create a legitimate offense. The grand and satisfying gesture of flinging an engagement ring at a faithless fiance is perhaps the only act of violence that etiquette sanctions. We don't require it, exactly, but we don't discourage it, either. However, we do require returning love token valuables by some delivery system.
True, many ladies pass this up for less benevolent reasons than yours. They want to keep the loot so they are willing to forgo the gesture. You still ought to return the necklace, although you can do it as civilly and kindly as you please. It doesn't sound to Miss Manners as if this would be much of a material sacrifice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Some weeks ago my house burned, and my family and I lost everything. There have been many people who have responded to this situation with kindness. We have received clothes, towels, linens, dishes, etc. I have promptly replied to these people with a handwritten letter of thanks.
However, there are a couple of people who have decided that we are a good way to dispose of old, broken toys; clothes that are dirty, stained and have holes; and so forth. It seems that they have decided to use us as a means to get rid of their old trash.
I don't appreciate having to deal with other people's garbage at a time when I am grieving over my lost pets, trying to get my children's and my life back together, which keeps me busy from morning to night. That is just one more extra thing to do.
My mother always taught me that it is the thought that counts and I should thank everybody for anything they might give me, but I'm wondering what thought it is that would make someone give me their garbage.
GENTLE READER: You have a plausible theory already, although Miss Manners recommends dropping it. Surely you have enough misfortune to lament without adding this resentment.
Let us presume, instead, that these people saw your need as being for stopgap supplies before you can replace your household goods as you see fit. Believing this takes a bit of doing, as it presumes their conviction that their castoffs are still useful, but let us try, anyway.
You do need to thank them, simply because that is the proper thing for you to do, never mind what they should have done. However, Miss Manners will let you put it as mere thanks for thinking of you, rather than for thinking of what they could unload on you.