DEAR MISS MANNERS: My roommate received birthday cards in the mail from her friends, but the only card she received from a family member had something in it that I thought very disturbing when she shared it with me.
Inside, on what was supposed to be a happy moment for her, was an obituary notice from the Internet announcing the death of her cousin who had died almost three months ago.
This is not the first time this has happened to her. There have been other deaths in her family relations that the family doesn't seem to let her know right away, and it's upsetting, frustrating and angersome to her.
Is there any kind of etiquette to sending special-occasion cards to family or friends?
GENTLE READER: Yes: It says that "Happy Birthday, Your Cousin Is Dead" is not a good message.
Miss Manners would have thought people could figure this out for themselves, but apparently not. Every Christmas, she hears from people who have received death notices in otherwise cheery cards. They want to know how to reply with a polite version of "Oh, well, win some, lose some."
Because that is impossible, that multitask messaging is rude. Word of deaths should be sent (if not by the immediately bereaved, then by their friends who ask what they can do to help) in a timely fashion to those who may be presumed to be interested.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are fortunate to have moved to a home next to the ocean. Also, we are pleased to be in a position to host our friends and family in a pleasant location.
I only want to have my company come when it doesn't conflict with our plans. We are a family of six, including two serious athletes, so our schedules can sometimes be complicated. I understand that the polite response is to say (if it is inconvenient or an otherwise undesired visit), "Oh, I'm sorry we cannot host you right then, but I'm happy to let you know of several nice hotels in the area."
Please advise me on how to handle would-be guests who reply that they'll slightly change their schedule, or worse, insist that they won't be any trouble so they'll come along anyway? Finally, how should one politely handle a close relative (is this possible?) who doesn't register inconvenient schedules? I'd rather not become inhospitable through sheer frustration.
GENTLE READER: You seem to have lost control of the invitations to your own house. Admittedly, there is some leeway allowed to relatives about proposing themselves, but it is the host's privilege to set the dates.
Miss Manners suggests your jumping in and doing this when a proposed date is inconvenient. You cannot sound inhospitable when you are saying, "How about the weekend of the second? Or the tenth?"
That is for guests you do want to entertain. For those you do not, the hotel answer will do, but you can also say firmly, "I'm so sorry, but we have such a crowded schedule right now. Why don't we call you when we're free?"