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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Insulting Gift May Spring From Legitimate Grievance

DEAR MISS MANNERS: On my daughter's 17th birthday, she received, in my view, an insulting gift from her grandparents. Birthdays in my family and for me are special days, and the birthday girl or boy is made to feel like a king or queen in celebration of their birth.

This gift was a gift card and a packet of thank-you cards.

My daughter was crestfallen as she absorbed the not-so-subtle insult. I was able to make her feel better, but the damage was already done.

My daughter wishes to express to her grandparents how deeply they hurt her feelings but does not wish to have a confrontation. Do you have a suggestion or two for this circumstance?

GENTLE READER: As you encourage your daughter to feel like a queen, she might consider ordering their execution. However, you do not seem to have warned her of the usual eventual fate of despots who are harshly unjust even to their most loyal subjects.

But perhaps it is Miss Manners who is being unjust by assuming that the apparent insult may have arisen from a legitimate grievance. If it did not, she acknowledges that a polite protest might be included in the letter in which your daughter first thanks her grandparents for the gift certificate.

She could admit then to being somewhat puzzled by the thank-you cards. "As you know," she could continue, "I have always eagerly expressed my gratitude immediately upon receiving your generous presents. Would you rather that I did so on these cards, instead of on the paper I have been using? I would, of course, be happy to oblige."

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Family & Parenting | Teens