Miss Manners

Quick Favor Becomes Prolonged Fight

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband asked me if I would hand him a specific item from his sizable work bag, which was across the room. I brought him the entire bag instead of removing the requested item.

His response was to angrily snap at me that I might as well have not done him a favor at all, and went on to imply that if I’m too lazy to do a favor in the manner requested, that I should say so and he would just do it himself.

I was floored at the rudeness of it all and stubbornly stood my ground, saying that he should be more clear. He maintains it is common sense that I should have brought him the specific item requested, not the entire bag, and that it is not unreasonable to expect a favor to be done precisely as it was worded.

He apologized for his overreaction, but he wants an apology from me -- for angrily telling him that the only proper response when someone does you a favor is “thank you” and that his argument is absurd.

I just can’t bring myself to apologize for doing him a favor. I have a feeling this argument is going to stay around until I break down and apologize, but fear it will set a precedent wherein asking for favors will become a dreaded question.

GENTLE READER: At the risk of getting herself embroiled in this volatile dispute, Miss Manners will say this: Her own dear mother taught her never to look inside anyone else’s belongings and to just hand the whole bag over, as you did. She permits you to relay that to your husband. But for the sake of the marriage, you might preempt it by saying, “I am sorry that I got angry, dear, but ...”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve quit drinking alcohol, and now drink tonic water in social situations. Is it rude to bring a bottle to a dinner party where I know a lot of different wines (but no other drinks) will be served? Or should I stick to water, as my friends don’t usually have tonics on hand?

GENTLE READER: Stick to water -- for the moment, at least. Bringing your own beverage should really only be relegated to potlucks and fraternity parties. However, if you request the drink enough times when asked for your preference, Miss Manners has high hopes that eventually it will appear.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother recently gave me a photograph in a frame. I had given her that photo and frame 20 years ago. Her gift was hurtful to me, since I thought it was a meaningful gift when I gave it to her.

Is it necessary to thank someone for a gift you originally gave to them?

GENTLE READER: If it happens again, you might watch for memory loss. But Miss Manners will allow you to say, “Funny. Our tastes are so similar. How meaningful for us to have the same photograph in both of our homes.”

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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