DEAR MISS MANNERS: My best friend emailed this Christmas wish list on behalf of her 12-year-old daughter to her friends (no family members):
"Greetings all. Zoe has asked me to email you her Christmas list. We're going to my parents'/grandmother's for Christmas, so if you need the address to ship anything there, please let me know."
The list included a particular laptop, (flat screen) TV and DVD player, money/credit gift card, certain video games, a new bike ("she outgrew her old one"), gift cards (naming a number of stores), a tablet and so on.
Then, "Look forward to talking to you all soon."
Am I wrong for feeling accosted? She is constantly sending out appeals for money or gifts. I wouldn't have minded a wish list that was actually reasonable, but my friend constantly makes remarks like, "You don't have any children, so you should have plenty of disposable income."
How do I respond? Normally, I would ignore it, but I feel like this is just too egregious and something needs to be said because her emails/requests become more outrageous with each round.
GENTLE READER: Once you have said that you wouldn't have minded a more modest list, Miss Manners notes that you have conceded that you do not object to this family's dunning you. Once you accept the principle that they can help you dispose of your disposable income, you are just haggling over the price.
If such is the case, you need only ask your friend for other suggestions, in the hope that a reasonable one will slip in. But if you are as appalled as Miss Manners is at the very idea of begging for luxuries, the best rebuke is to ignore the email.
As your friend is not shy, the talking she threatens may be a demand to know why. You could tell her that you assumed that it was intended for those who had said that they planned to buy Zoe a present and had asked for suggestions.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend and I are planning on going long distance. He is currently away on vacation, but I noticed he is very distant and doesn't answer my emails even when he does get them and read them.
I'm feeling very lonely and don't think we should continue with the relationship. I feel that this is what a long-distance relationship will be with him. I want to break up, but Christmas is coming and he is not returning until the 20th. I don't know if breaking up with him then is too cruel. Should I wait until after Christmas or should I do it before?
GENTLE READER: What if he comes back excited to see you, bemoans the unreliability of email and hints at the wonderful Christmas present he got you?
Miss Manners is just checking whether yours is a momentary pique, or a sign that you really want out.
In either case, you should lead up to it immediately, by saying that the separation made you realize that the long-distance plan will not work for you. Should he convince you otherwise, you may both still have a pleasant Christmas. If not, you will have saved you both from exchanging and then returning presents.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)