DEAR MISS MANNERS: Some friends and I have noticed an uptick in people “correcting” us when we say “I’m sorry.”
It can be as simple as my saying, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day” (“Why are you sorry? You didn’t cause it”), to apologizing for being late (“No ‘sorry’ needed”), to expressing condolences over the death of a spouse (“Don’t be sorry; she’s in a better place”).
I feel discounted and dismissed, not to mention somewhat appalled that I would be admonished in public. Why don’t people just say “Thank you” and leave it at that? What gives, and is there anything I can say?!
GENTLE READER: The apology has indeed been much maligned by every means -- from considering it an admission of wrongdoing to being cited as the reason women do not receive promotions at work.
But like you, Miss Manners finds it a symbol of polite society, not yet another courtesy to be viciously picked apart for its literal interpretation. Even qualifying it with why one is sorry -- as in, “I am so sorry for your loss” -- can, as you say, be found to have fault.
“I meant I am sorry for you,” said weakly and with a sigh, seems to be about the best that can be mustered -- until we learn as a society to accept compassion graciously.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a neighbor who is extremely outspoken and opinionated about everything!
I, on the other hand, go with the flow in my life and don’t let negativity take up space in my mind if I can help it.
I struggle with knowing how to be a good neighbor and not wanting to hear all her ranting. Usually I try to make sure I’m not out when she is, and if so, I just wave or say hi, but pray she doesn’t run over and start up. What’s the best way to handle this, as I live directly across the street?
GENTLE READER: Keep something permanently cooking on the stove.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have friends who were supposed to be married soon, but due to COVID-19, they have had to postpone the wedding until the fall. Back in January, I ordered them a gift that is personalized with their names and original wedding date.
What is the appropriate thing to do with this gift? Should I still give it to them, or should I just toss it, since it can’t be returned? If I give it to them, should I do so now or wait until the fall? I just don’t want to commit a faux pas or upset them because they had to postpone their wedding.
GENTLE READER: As much as Miss Manners hates to see this thoughtful present go to waste, she is afraid that giving it to the couple might be an unfortunate reminder of what did not transpire -- or befuddling to their future children or archivists.
Perhaps the retailer will take pity and be able to design over the engraving or otherwise detract from it. If not, it might be more tactful to keep it, turn it the other way around and get the couple another present.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)