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

Replying to Online Birthday Wishes

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable for visiting grown children to take food from their parents’ fridge without asking? Or is it more appropriate to ask, “May I take such-and-such?”

GENTLE READER: Likely, Justin and Jenna -- who now have children of their own -- fondly remember helping themselves to cheese slices while doing algebra homework. What their parents remember is their annoyance at finding empty wrappers on the living room carpet.

But now those children are guests -- privileged ones, but no longer residents -- so they should ask. Fond parents may wish to preempt this with a standing offer to help themselves, which fond children should reciprocate by periodically restocking the refrigerator.