DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend's wife is very faithful in sending a greeting card for every occasion, which I appreciate very much. However, I have a small problem with the way the envelope is always addressed by her, e.g.: "Mrs. Jane and Tom Smith"
Why should I have a problem with my wife's name appearing ahead of mine on the outside of the envelope? Is this anything to get all bent out of shape about?
Greeting cards from other friends are always addressed with my name first, which seems to be the correct way -- correct me if I am wrong.
Should I ignore how the envelope is addressed and just be thankful that my name appears on it, or should I regard this as a subtle way of emphasizing that her relationship with me is incidental to that with my wife? I'm just guessing, but don't think I have ever given her cause to take offense with me personally.
We enjoy our friendship too much to jeopardize our relationship with this couple, and I have never made an issue of the matter with them. Am I just being overly sensitive over such a seemingly insignificant bit of trivia? I would appreciate a response, Miss Manners, let the chips fall wherever they may.
GENTLE READER: All right, here is one chip: The address this lady uses is wrong, but not because your wife is listed first. It should have been "Ms. Jane Smith/Mr. Tom Smith," granting you both titles and surnames.
Miss Manners realizes that your assumption that gentlemen should precede their wives is based on the "Mr. and Mrs." construction, which uses only the husband's name and therefore puts his title first. But in no other social situation does a gentleman not yield to a lady. The problem you encountered was that those who have abandoned the traditional form are inventing their own, and not doing a coherent job of it.
The other chip seems to be on your shoulder. People don't usually send Christmas cards with the purpose of making digs at the friends they enjoy.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an elementary school teacher. During the holidays and other special days during the school year, I receive presents from many of my students.
However, many of my students are not in a position to buy gifts for me, and have expressed concern, dissatisfaction, and even guilt about it. I have let the students know that a handmade card, a handwritten note, or simply a, "Thank you" from them is the best gift for a teacher.
Would it be appropriate for me to let the students' parents and guardians know this as well? If so, any advice on the wording of such a notice will be appreciated.
GENTLE READER: This should be done, but it is best done with a school-wide policy. With the best intentions in the world, anyone who announces what she does and doesn't want is in the unpleasant position of showing that receiving presents and praise are on her mind.
Should you have to do it alone, Miss Manners suggests sending out a notice stating that you do not feel that you can accept presents from your pupils, however much you appreciate their intentions. (This has to be your blanket policy to avoid singling out those with financial difficulty.) Then you can add that in the past, some have taken the end of the year as an occasion to write appreciation for what they have learned -- and that you treasure such efforts.