Facebook Twitter



Dear Miss Manners: This seems to be a simple situation that has escalated beyond belief.

Our boss scheduled a bag lunch in her office to watch her vacation videos. Everyone in the office is fond of her, but we resent being told and not asked if we would like to see the videos.While this individual incident would not bother us, it seems to be a trend. We are scheduled for lunches for every staff person's birthday, even if the person having the birthday does not really want one.

Frankly, we would like this to stop but fear hurting the boss's feelings and thus have her resent us. We know she means well, but we tend to feel uncomfortable.

Gentle Reader: What this is, is a simple management idea that has escalated beyond belief. Miss Manners is using the word simple in the sense of not very bright.

She is casting no aspersions on your boss, who, as you say, means well. Oh, perhaps just a tiny aspersion. Your boss has bought too heavily and uncritically into the highly prevalent idea that it is good management to treat employees like members of the family.

It sounds lovely, but it's a phony conceit. Your boss didn't take you on vacation with her like a member of the family, did she? Nor do you enjoy other family benefits, such as being valued regardless of personal merit, and treated with increasing respect as you grow old and perhaps less productive.

You all doubtless have real families and real friends, as well, whom you can see when you feel like it, and not because you have no choice when they summon you.

For that matter, your boss may also find this a strain. She may be relieved if you gently release her from these pseudo-social burdens.

Gently means not picking her own birthday or video show to rebel. As the next staff birthday approaches, someone speaking for the whole office should tell the boss confidentially that the honoree is serious about not wanting a celebration, and that the rest of you have been talking about its having gotten out of hand. "You know, we're really very happy working for you and proud of our professional behavior," that person should conclude.

Dear Miss Manners: In a quest to keep everything simple, a close friend planned to keep her wedding secret until it was a fait accompli. (They have been living together for three years, so it's hardly an elopement.) Although she slipped and told me a month beforehand, doing so was not in the original plan.

Frankly, none of her friends care for him. Had I been invited to a wedding, however, I would have felt obligated to give a gift. Would I be a horrible person not to do so under the circumstances?

Gentle Reader: Would you be horrible to slip out of sending a close friend a wedding present on the technicality of her not having guests at her wedding? Miss Manners is afraid so.

Dear Miss Manners: I've heard that more unborn babies were killed in abortions than people in the Civil Revolutionary and also the World Wars I and II. Isn't that awful?

Even though I'm only in ninth grade, I'm all against abortion. I even want to have six kids when I grow up!

Our class will have to watch an abortion on TV this year. I'm all against abortion. I know some people won't agree with me, but I'm really strong on this opinion. How can I say this without getting a mortal enemy?

Gentle Reader: By treating with respect those who disagree with you, and presenting your argument calmly and politely.

Of course, this would make you one of the few people of any age and on either side of this issue who aren't just hurling insults, or worse. But as none of them is convincing anybody who didn't already agree, theirs is not a method worth emulating.

Miss Manners doesn't care for your school's method, either. Requiring ninth-graders to watch a televised abortion is not an appeal to examine their moral sense, but a way of shocking them instead of making them think. Were you required to watch an autopsy, you would be equally horrified by the idea of medical research.

If the school is trying to teach you to be moral, it should train your mind in the service of virtue, not play on your unexamined emotions. (It might also clear up that matter of the Civil Revolutionary for you.) You will need a sharp mind to deal with those six children.

Whether abortion should be legally permitted is an issue on which deeply moral people can strongly disagree. Miss Manners doesn't want to frame your argument for you, but it seems to her that the key question is whether life begins at conception or at birth. If you believe it begins at conception, you can maintain that the state has the right to protect a person's life. You must also recognize that those who disagree with you, and believe that life begins at birth, can then maintain that the state has no right to interfere with a woman's decision about whether to have a child.