DEAR MISS MANNERS: A male friend sent me a very nice Christmas card describing our friendship. It was pretty accurate; however, a very nice pair of earrings was sent along with the card.
We are both married (to other people) and he is considerably older than me. I am fond of him, but only as a friend. I thanked him for the card and the gift, but told him I could not accept a gift like that and that it made me uncomfortable.
I offended him. Was there a better way for me to have handled this situation?
GENTLE READER: It does not matter whether his indignation is because your assumption -- that the gift suggested something more than friendship -- is right or wrong.
As in many etiquette situations, Miss Manners warns you that you will have to take the blame upon yourself: You are so embarrassed, it is just the way you were brought up, etc. As your parents will not be present to defend themselves, your friend will have to accept this answer if he wishes to maintain the friendship.