DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who shows up every morning with her two toddlers, whether I asked her to or not. She doesn’t understand that I don’t have children and am a little slower to wake up in the mornings. I think it’s rude that just because she texts and I don’t answer, she feels she can just show up.
Am I wrong? What should I do? I tried to explain my situation to her but she just got offended and left.
GENTLE READER: Thereby, it seems to Miss Manners, solving the problem. However, if you would like to keep the friendship and mend fences -- while also keeping them firmly in place -- you could say, “I am so sorry, but I’m afraid that I was half asleep and do not remember your visit. Please forgive me if I was brusque, but perhaps we should just stick to making plans in advance instead of spontaneous visits, so that I do not again act rashly out of sleep deprivation.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have one sister and no other siblings. She has two sons. One had a birthday a few days ago; the other’s birthday was a few months ago.
I am only invited to their house for holidays. When I extend an invitation to them, it is always declined. Because of these spread-out holiday celebrations (Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas) I brought birthday gifts for both nephews to the Easter celebration, at which much of my brother-in-law’s family was present along with me. I presented the nephews with their gifts.
When they were opened in front of the family, my sister exclaimed, “I don’t know why you got them that. They’re not going to like it. I don’t know why you didn’t buy what I told you to buy. Now I have to spend my time returning them.”
She then directed the nephews to put the gifts aside so she could return them. She also stated that she didn’t know why it took so long for me to get their gifts to them when I could have easily mailed them.
To say that I was humiliated and embarrassed is an understatement, though I said nothing. What type of response, if any, is appropriate in such a situation? I don’t want to cause an irreparable rift in the family.
GENTLE READER: While you are correct not to take out on your nephews the appalling behavior of their mother, clearly you are not going to impress upon her what it means to give a present. “My intention was to please them,” is all that you need say.
After that, Miss Manners suggests that you quickly develop a separate relationship with your nephews so that you can have direct communication with them about their (reasonable) likes and dislikes in the future -- without your sister acting as go-between. This may well have the added bonus of driving your sister crazy.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)