DEAR MISS MANNERS: Sometime this morning, a small vinyl American flag on a wood dowel was put on my lawn next to my driveway, and frankly, I'm offended by the presumption of this anonymous person to express my national pride for me on my property.
I've looked at various Web sites for information on the proper display of the flag, and I can find no mention of the issue of displaying it on other people's property. I assume either it's because such is out-of-the-question acceptable, or out-of-the-question unacceptable.
Furthermore, I am also offended by such casual use, charging me with dignified destruction of a flag that was clearly intended to be disposable. Could you please clarify these flag-etiquette issues?
GENTLE READER: Happy Independence Day to you, too. How did the American flag come to be a weapon that loyal citizens brandish against one another?
Please do not take this to mean that Miss Manners agrees with your insinuation that the anonymous flag distributor was criticizing your patriotism. She prefers to think that it was someone merely filled with the holiday spirit, running around making little presents to the neighbors.
But she recognizes that your bristling comes from an atmosphere in which flag display is considered obligatory by some and ostentatious by others.
In any case, a small, vinyl flag does not obligate you to hold a ceremonial cremation, such as is done for tattered flags. If you cannot find room for it, give it to some organization, rather than a person who might consider it insulting.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a friend who lives out of town comes to visit, she complains about things -- she's too cold/too hot, the volume on the television is too loud/not loud enough, the reading light is too bright/not bright enough. It's always something.
I end up running around, adjusting every little thing to make her comfortable, but I'm never fully successful. I've even shown her how to adjust the temperature and lights and volume, but it falls back into the same old pattern with each new visit.
She even came into my bedroom at 1:30 a.m. and woke me up to tell me the house was too hot. It was the same temperature it had been all weekend.
After years of this, I've reached my limit. Even though we have some good times together, and I enjoy talking with her, the thought of having her stay for a weekend stresses me out. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I just can't do this anymore.
GENTLE READER: So don't. Stop inviting her. Most people would have reached their limit at 1:30 a.m.
You will now tell Miss Manners that you don't actually invite this person: She announces that she will be coming to town and expects to stay. Reluctant hosts are notoriously bad at defending their homes, apparently considering a guest's suggestion equivalent to a host's invitation.
It is not. You are free to say that it is not convenient for you to have overnight guests, but you would love to see your friend when she is in town.