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

Congratulations vs. Best Wishes

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother taught me to congratulate a groom or newly engaged man, but to offer happiness and best wishes to the bride/newly engaged woman. I see many people congratulating both today, rather than offering best wishes to the woman. I find myself doing it more and more with the younger couples I know who are getting engaged and married.

My very elderly mother heard me congratulate a friend’s daughter on her engagement and lectured me on how inappropriate I was. Is there truly a correct way to offer such congratulations to a couple that expresses my joy and happiness for them? And if I am still supposed to offer much happiness and best wishes to a bride, what do I do for a same-sex couple?

GENTLE READER: Your mother may be pleased to hear that Miss Manners still makes this distinction. But nobody else does.

And as it is based on the premise that the bridegroom is lucky to have taken a bride, and that the bride may be in need of luck, it is hard to justify -- and impossible, even with that silly division in mind, to apply to a wedding of two brides or two bridegrooms.

Read more in: Marriage & Divorce | Etiquette & Ethics

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in my early 60s and have worked in my profession for over 30 years. I recently wore my hair pulled back, and a co-worker (with whom I get along) commented that my hairstyle was “cute” and that it made me “look like a little girl.”

I thanked her, and said that I knew she meant the comment as a compliment (I wanted to at least show that I’d give her the benefit of the doubt), but asked her politely not to call me a little girl. She asked, in a surprised voice, “Why not?”

When I said that I considered it disrespectful, another co-worker who was standing near us asked, in a challenging voice, “in what way” it was disrespectful. We resolved the issue when I said it was OK to say I look “cute” (I don’t like that either, but I wanted to end the conversation).

I told another co-worker, a friend, about the incident, and she again questioned what was wrong with the remark. The lady who made the remark might, indeed, have been trying to belittle me, and reacted defensively, with backup from the second co-worker.

But why would my friend not acknowledge the veiled insult? I consider her a close friend; I have socialized with her outside of work, and we share confidences. Could it be a cultural thing? Can you provide any insight on the matter?

GENTLE READER: You started out so well -- realizing that a compliment was intended, and responding graciously. So then why pick a quarrel with a co-worker who was trying to be nice?

Admittedly there are times when that characterization would belittle you. But in this instance, it was just the awkward compliment of someone who unfortunately has bought into the idea that all grown-ups want to pass as young -- even, in this case, ridiculously young. Miss Manners recommends dropping the grievance and the topic.

(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.)

Read more in: Work & School