Dear Miss Manners: An acquaintance at my gym stopped me and said, “Oh, I DO wish you hadn’t had your hair cut!”
Not having heard her well, I said, “I’m sorry?” She repeated it. “Excuse me?” I then said, to indicate offense. Thinking I still hadn’t heard her, she repeated it once more. “I’m not quite sure how to respond to that,” I replied.
She then waxed poetic about how beautiful my hair had been and how she loved seeing it swing as I walked on the treadmill. This was slightly strange, as my hair has been short for 15 years and I had only had it trimmed.
Eager to be free from the conversation, I replied, “I’m sorry to disappoint!” and then fled. A week later, she found me doing exercises on a mat with my eyes closed, and blurted out, “I did not mean to critique your haircut. I simply wanted to tell you I loved your hair. You have beautiful hair! I am envious!”
“Thank you,” I said, with a solemnity meant to discourage her from initiating further conversation.
Now I’m feeling a bit guilty for having taken offense, as I think she was simply clumsy, not intentionally offensive. What do you feel would have been the proper response?
Guilt seems to Miss Manners an extreme reaction when the other person was rude — even if unintentionally — and you were not. But if you wished to soften your already-proper response, you could, in the second encounter, have explained that you did not mean to suggest that you were offended — merely surprised.
Dear Miss Manners: I regularly send gifts to my sister and her children. Each time I send a gift, I sign a card that accompanies it.
My husband and teenage son do not remember special occasions, nor do they select gifts, send them or sign the cards. When I’ve asked for their assistance, they’ve shown no interest in doing so.
I have not told my sister about the gift-giving process in our household, nor do I intend to. The issue is that she always sends a thank-you note to me, my husband and teenage son for the gifts.
Who is the proper recipient of a thank-you note when only one person in the family signs the card? I would like to know for my own personal information, and not to argue with my sister.
Indeed, there seems no reason to argue with your sister when there are more convenient targets under your own roof.
But Miss Manners assumes that your husband and teenage son make other contributions to family life, so that the chores even out in the end. On this basis, etiquette sides with your sister in assuming that the family as a whole deserves thanks for benefits presumably bestowed by the group — without inquiring minutely into who chose the gift, who put it in the mail or who washed the dishes that evening.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
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