DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family was invited to an Easter party at my husband's sister's home. We agreed to bring a dish to pass. She also wanted our children to participate in an Easter egg hunt.
As we dropped off our dish-to-pass at her home, my husband was informed he'd be contributing $20 toward the entree. We were shocked!
After the meal, we were told we owed $8 for the Easter egg hunt. We paid so as not to cause trouble, but I can't believe this is proper etiquette. Where can I look for written rules spelling out if this is proper?
GENTLE READER: And how much should your relatives be charging you for Thanksgiving?
Miss Manners suggests that you not waste your time looking for this in etiquette books. How to bill your relatives for family hospitality and bring commerce home for the holidays is not a topic we cover.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am nearly alone in my political convictions within my discipline, and my professional and social lives are tightly entwined. I kept my political views pretty quiet when I entered my current situation and with many, if not most, of my colleagues I am "closeted."
Therefore, in social situations my colleagues don't realize they are in mixed company, and some of them, although they pride themselves on their open-mindedness, can be very nasty about their political opponents. I never incite political conversation, but when it occurs I usually sit through it quietly unless someone directly addresses me, and then I confess my sympathies.
The reactions are of two kinds: 1) A very awkward silence as everyone recalls the names they have, by proxy, called me, and casts about for a new subject; or 2) I am set upon by questions of the when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife variety, with an entire roomful of people staring at me. Both are hideous. Unfortunately, it's inevitable; not every conversation can be deflected to reality television.
How should I deal with the reaction, and am I justified in being a little put out with those who do know my political beliefs and say nothing in my defense? I am (supposedly) very close friends with some of them, and I feel they are leaving me out in the cold. I don't think something along the lines of "Aren't you exaggerating a little? I certainly don't think my friend here is a fascist!" is too much to ask.
GENTLE READER: Sure it is. As you have noticed, Miss Manners has enough trouble trying to get people to talk civilly to and about their opponents without asking them to defend the other side.
You need not do that, either, if you prefer not to get into political debate that is characterized by the mutual respect that allows people to consider one another's views. When invective is being spread, you might say, "If you will excuse me, I believe it is time for the Loyal Opposition to withdraw from this discussion."