DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was riding a crowded metro train at rush hour, people tightly packed together, with no chance to move away from a group of eight people who were loudly mocking, berating and laughing at me and other passengers. It became obvious fairly quickly about whom they were speaking, and equally obvious that they were intending us all to hear.
Except to endure the embarrassment as it continued unabated, was there any recourse at all?
GENTLE READER: You might say, to the other innocent victims in an equally loud voice, “I do so love street theater, don’t you?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: For various reasons, I’m estranged from my parents and, by extension, so are my husband and children. While the estrangement is irrelevant to my father, it bothers my mother, but not enough for her to make proper amends.
Although she has access to her other grandchildren, I think the threat of embarrassment and shame looms, as she’s the only person in her family and social circle to be denied access to relatives. So far, she has been able to conceal this fact, and I have not said anything -- and will not. (My children see my in-laws frequently, so they’re not missing out on grandparents.)
As a way to get back into my good graces and gain access to my children, my mother continues to send gifts for all holidays, special occasions, and for no reason. These gifts come in the mail, directly addressed to them.
Rather than explain to them why they get presents from a grandparent they’ve never met and probably never will, I’ve been telling my kids the gifts are from me. My husband is none the wiser, and I do not think he cares, as he has always been indifferent and uninterested in the estrangement. My children have also never inquired about my side of the family, but when they do, I have an age-appropriate explanation ready.
I confided this information to a close friend, and she was shocked. She said I should either give the gifts away or send them back, but I shouldn’t be telling my kids they’re from me as this is quite rude and an etiquette violation.
What is the etiquette for receiving gifts from estranged individuals? I intentionally do not write thank-you notes, although I would otherwise, as I’ve made it clear I do not wish to engage. What should I do?
GENTLE READER: This practice is not so much rude as it is fraudulent. Miss Manners is also forced to wonder what creative reason you have given your children for why you’ve sent them some presents and given others in person?
If you are not going to acknowledge the presents, the only honorable thing would be to return them. Or to send a letter saying that you do not wish to receive any more.
However, if you insist on keeping them, Miss Manners warns you that you may be setting a dangerous precedent for year-round Santa operation -- a practice you might find difficult to maintain, and harder from which to come clean.
(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.)