DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have in my possession a veritable closetful of hideous things that were given to me as jokes.
Many of these tongue-in-cheek items take up quite a bit of space and probably cost a pretty penny as well. There are also a few well-meant gifts that I really can't bear to display in my home for one reason or another.Miss Manners can rest assured that as each gift was received, the giver was regaled with appropriate hilarity and appreciation.
I have tried everything in my power, save being downright blunt, to discourage people from thinking I'd like more joke items in the future. I dearly value the friendship of the givers as well as the humor or sincerity with which the gifts were chosen, and I am loath to risk offending or hurting the feelings of friends should they discover I've disposed of their gifts.
How long must one actually keep such gifts, and how does one go about disposing of them without long-lasting feelings of guilt?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is happy to tell you that the recipient of a well-meant present who has exhibited appreciation, along with expected hilarity, has fulfilled all obligations. You need not go so far as to keep the silly thing, even in the closet. No present-giver has the right to inquire what was done with the item subsequently.
But that is an answer to relieve the symptoms (guilt and overstuffed closets) without addressing the cause. Unfortunately, there is no polite way to say, "Look, this isn't all that funny, and if you're going to spend that much money, surely you could find a real present." All you can do is to give your friends serious presents, when the occasion presents itself, and hope for the best.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: After many years of service at my job, I received a promotion. Instead of receiving the best wishes of my co-workers, I have been shunned. They do not speak to me. I am left out of everything, but they make sure I know that I am being left out.
I am told I should be my "own sweet self," but this is wearing on my nerves. How do I respond with my best manners and show them all up? I realize that confrontations never work, and there can be no help from my supervisor.
GENTLE READER: Your colleagues are rather shortsighted. How foolish to offend one proven to be on the way up. Miss Manners trusts that you are smarter than they - perhaps that is why you got promoted - and will therefore attempt to teach you a more sophisticated view of the situation.
Bosses and subordinates can be happy, cooperative, mutually respectful co-workers, but they cannot, by their very job definitions, be equals during working hours. Surely you do not expect the others to share their office gripes with you in the artless way they did when you were one of them. A certain amount of caution in speaking to those of superior rank is not only natural but sensible.
If that is all you mean, then you must not count it as rudeness, even though it may, if done awkwardly, seem to be such. The onus would be on you to demonstrate, by initiating the pleasantries, your continuing interest in them despite the change.
Shunning, however, is serious rudeness. If envy has led them to refuse to talk to you or to acknowledge your presence, you should inform them that you find this an office handicap. If you can say, in a gentle and undefensive way, "I'm sorry you seem to disapprove of my promotion, but I hope you don't feel that you can't work in the same office with me as pleasantly as before," Miss Manners dares say that all but the worst will repent their rudeness.