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

To Stop Talk of Illness, Fight Fire With Fire

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I need some help on how to cut conversations short gracefully when acquaintances and strangers start going on and on about their intimate medical problems. I don’t want to seem uncaring and do not want to go around hurting others, but I am frankly fed up with self-centered people.

I am not close to these people, but I am about to start cutting them off with something like: “I am sorry to hear of your illness/misfortune, but I really can’t deal with hearing the details. Please rest assured I give you my best wishes, but I really must be going.”

Please give me something more polite!

GENTLE READER: Would you settle for something more effective (but within the bounds of politeness)?

In your most compassionate voice, say, “Please stop. I feel for you -- so much, in fact, that I get squeamish when I hear about illness, and you won’t want to be around me. I’m really sorry, and I hope you understand.” Miss Manners trusts that they will understand that the physical consequences of nattering on would be dire.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Are there etiquette rules for when restaurants suggest how much to tip? Most restaurants these days are helpfully calculating various tip percentages and printing them on the check.

Typically they calculate 15%, 18% and 20%, but I’ve also seen 25%. In the past, I would calculate 20% and round up or down to a whole number of dollars. If the restaurant is helpfully suggesting 15% as a possible tip, is it rude to only tip that much?

GENTLE READER: Generally, it is not a good idea to take tipping advice from those expecting to be tipped. Often, ridiculous amounts are suggested.

But while 15% is a reasonable tip, Miss Manners hopes this will not discourage you from exercising your customary generosity.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I got married a little over a month ago, I did not register for gifts. We were surprised and delighted by some homemade presents and useful objects, some generous donations on our behalf, and some cards and cash.

But about one-third of our guests gave us nothing -- not even a card with well wishes. I was prepared for “no registry” to be read as “no gifts,” but I was surprised that so many attended without even bringing a card.

I’ve heard that wedding guests have a year to give a gift; do we need to wait a year to see if one is given? Or should we send notes thanking them for attending when we send thank-yous for the gifts and cards? I’m worried that will come off as a reminder to pony up a present.

GENTLE READER: Yes, it will, but that seems to be your intention.

When you decided to forgo a registry, Miss Manners fondly believed that you were that rare bride who does not believe her wedding to be an opportunity to shop at other people’s expense. And she was glad that you appreciated receiving thoughtful presents. Please do not spoil this by focusing on getting more loot.

Yes, wedding presents may be given -- or not -- within a year after the ceremony. But hosts do not normally write to thank guests, and there is no point in wedding guests handing over cards.

(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.)