DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister's husband is on the board of trustees of a local charitable organization. It is a first-rate operation and serves a worthy cause. I am upset, however, with how my brother-in-law solicits me for contributions.
I am a high school teacher, currently paying college and university tuitions for three people. Nonetheless, I donate somewhere around 8 percent to 10 percent of my income to charitable causes of my choosing.
My brother-in-law, who lives next door, has brought up the issue of my making a capital gift to his organization more than once in social settings in which I find it is impossible to get him to drop the subject. On Christmas Eve, he handed everyone envelopes stating a contribution had been made in our name to his charity. My envelope included a brochure and a pledge envelope.
I find this social aggression extraordinarily uncomfortable, and, as worthy as his cause is, I am progressively more disinclined to donate to his charity. He has certainly not been responsive to my polite demurring and attempts to change the subject. I have asked my sister to give him a clue to back off, but that has not worked either. Do you have any suggestions how to handle this problem in the future?
GENTLE READER: Yes: Try not changing the subject. You need to tell your brother-in-law plainly, but of course politely, what you have told Miss Manners: that you give what you can to charity and will not be contributing to his.
But there are two more things he needs to be told. One is that you do not discuss your personal finances, even with members of the family. And the other is that, in fact, you have already given to his cause, as he has kindly made that your Christmas present, for which you must thank him.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I thought I'd share with you a "thank you" note I received last Christmas:
I hope you had a nice Christmas with your family. Thank you for the bowl. I am not fond of blue; did it come in other colors?
If not, would you like to have it back?
Our home is rather full. In the future, gifts of wine or food would be appreciated. Thank you for understanding.
Though tempted to gift this "friend" with a bottle of Blue Nun and a pound of Bleu Cheese this year, I decided simply to send a nice card. Thank you for allowing me to get this off my chest.
GENTLE READER: And did your friend like the card you sent her? Did it have a theme she approved? Were the colors used ones that she likes? Was it mailed when she thought it ought to be?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I feel an obligation to attend a certain goodbye party. I said I would attend. I also made reservations for a theatre event on the same evening.
Now I am wondering what is the least amount of time I can spend at the party without appearing to be rude?
GENTLE READER: While it is true that the purpose of the party is to say goodbye, slightly more is expected of a guest who has accepted an invitation. If it is a stand-up party, you need a pause of at least 90 minutes between that and the time you have said hello. If it is a seated dinner, Miss Manners is afraid that you need time to find someone who can use your theater tickets.