DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have an acquaintance whose response to other people’s good news is almost always a fervent, and loud, “I’m so jealous!” This might be in response to forthcoming vacation plans, a dinner out or a restorative nap.
I’m sure that she doesn’t realize how unpleasant it is to be told that my enjoyment has caused her emotional distress. I’ve taken to avoiding conversations with her because I am not sure how to respond to this statement, and would rather not avoid all mention of any aspect of my life that might serve to inspire it.
I have often thought of answering her “I’m so jealous!” exclamation with a light-hearted “Oh, dear, I had hoped you might be happy for me! I am so sorry to have caused you distress!” but am not sure if this would be considered appropriate, or exactly which facial expression would best convey my meaning. I worry that others are also put off by what seems to be a habitual response and is, no doubt, meant to charm, not dismay.
GENTLE READER: Actually, Miss Manners finds your response to be perfect. The accompanying facial expression (eyebrows together, mouth turned down) should demonstrate equal parts hurt and confusion. With any luck, that will be the last time that you will have to indulge her.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Am I correct that food, once on my plate, remains my food even if moved to the refrigerator as leftovers?
My husband thinks that anything he finds in the refrigerator is fair game, even if it’s my carefully wrapped half of a lobster that I couldn’t finish the night before.
Is this the accepted custom for leftovers? He says if it’s in the refrigerator, it’s for anyone. Should I buy a mini fridge to keep in my closet?
GENTLE READER: Would it not be less expensive just to appeal to your husband and ask him not to eat it? Miss Manners hopes that you will not resort to the office break room practice of labeling your food, when a short conversation after your meal seems so much easier. And would set a far better precedent for marital communication — if not marital sharing — in the future.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have six nephews, ages 13 to 29. At what age is the proper etiquette to stop giving birthday and Christmas gifts?
I myself do not have any children. I am expected to give gifts because I have a decent occupation; however, I am not close to any of them. Two of the six do acknowledge the gifts.
GENTLE READER: Then continue to give presents only to them. While there is no etiquette rule that caps the ages of the recipients, there is one that requires a thank-you note for any presents received. Miss Manners encourages you to continue the relationship with only the nephews who acknowledge the gesture, for as long as they continue to do so.
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.
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