DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I own a cottage with three of his siblings. As we all have different decorating tastes, it has become difficult to agree on what decorations have been brought into the cottage.
There is one decoration that I feel is absolutely tasteless and wondered what you think I should do about it. My sister-in-law framed a picture of her 22-year-old son on the toilet and put the picture on a shelf in the bathroom next to the toilet.
I really don't think it's appropriate. We have many guests and visitors (many of them are children) and I'm embarrassed by the picture. I have turned it around and placed it in a drawer, but it always ends up on display. I even tried moving the picture to a bookshelf in a different room, so it wouldn't be as conspicuous, but as I feared, my sister-in-law moved it back to the bathroom shelf.
During my last visit to the cottage I took that picture and hid it where nobody will ever find it. Was that the right thing to do? This is a serious letter. My husband's family feels I'm being too sensitive and unnecessarily offended.
GENTLE READER: That's not a tasteless decoration; it's a tasteless joke. Miss Manners realizes that this doesn't make the picture any prettier, but it does make it easier to deal with.
People get touchy when their notions of tasteful decoration are questioned, but they are happy to blame failed jokes on other people's deficiency of humor. To encourage this, you should tell your sister-in-law apologetically that you are afraid that uptight people are squeamish about her little joke and that furthermore, you are afraid you are one of them. Thus removing the picture -- especially now that everyone has seen it -- would be a kind concession to your fastidiousness, not an admission of her vulgarity.
And what do you care, so long as the vulgar thing is gone?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A "casual" friend of 20-plus years called me with the exciting news of her daughter's engagement and told me to "save the date." She filled me in on the wedding plans, sought my advice on altering her heirloom wedding gown and asked me to clip the engagement announcement from the newspaper.
As the "saved date" approached, no wedding invitation came in the mail. About one month prior to the wedding, we received an invitation for another affair on the same date. I was uncertain of what to do. Should I call my friend and ask if the promised invitation was forthcoming?
I concluded that such a phone call could cause embarrassment (canceled wedding?) and chose to accept the other invitation. A few days following the "wedding date," we received a beautiful wedding announcement! Obviously, we were cut from the "A" list! We responded with a modest gift and card. I have said nothing, but am hurt and offended. When the "promised" invitation was not delivered, should I have called my "friend"? After all, it could have been lost in the mail and my lack of response would have been perceived as rude.
GENTLE READER: You could have called and asked if you were saving the correct date, but it is probably just as well that you did not. In that case, Miss Manners is afraid that your putative friend would have had to invite you, after all. And then, having admitted to saving the date, you would have had to attend.