Advice on a step sibling tug of war over a birthday party
Each week, Miss Manners answers questions exclusivelyfrom the MSN audience on all of your etiquette dilemmas.(Have an issue you want help with? Send in a question today.) Read on for this week's hot topics:
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
We have divided family brought together by a second marriage, when we were all very young. My father provided for the three step-siblings and they have been mostly respectful and gracious up until recent years.
Six months out from his 70th birthday, we (his three kids) discussed our options for throwing a party, which he said he did not prefer, so we settled on a weekend at one of his favorite weekend destinations, and a spot the entire family has been known to frequent.
I sent the idea to our step-mother asking if it was possible the weekend of his birthday, and we would pass the invitation along. She responded it would be too hard to get her three kids to go due to their existing vacation schedules, but she would help us and just our side would go.
My step-sister became furious to learn she had not been brought in on the planning. My oldest brother's reaction was to open it up to weekends she and her brothers could go. As a result, they are all brainstorming other upcoming vacations they could combine with the occasion and, would prefer to move his birthday into the next season.
Perhaps proper etiquette can get this back on track.
Is it better for my one remaining brother and I stick with the original invite to the week of his birthday? The other option is to go along with them and celebrate him on everyone else's time. By the way, my dad is worth 1 million times more.
"Then why can't he have two birthday celebrations?
Your father, along with your step-mother, seems to have made a major effort to produce family harmony. He is unlikely to be honored by squabbling on his behalf.
Miss Manners suggests that you agree to take part in the spring birthday celebration. But that doesn't mean that you have to ignore the actual day, although you are not billing it as THE birthday party. It would be a good time to spend a weekend with him and whoever else wants to go."
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
When my husband and I find a restaurant that pleases us, we often return, and we become known in the room. When I like the way the chef prepares a dish, I want to order it again. So far, so good.
When the wait staff poses the obligatory "How is everything?" I treat it as a rhetorical question, murmuring, "Just fine, thank you."
However, sometimes the kitchen has fallen down on the job, and the dish is not prepared as I had hoped when I ordered it. I don't mean that the food is bad or inedible, or that I have been served something other than what I had requested. I'm talking about, say, a risotto that is more like rice served with sauce than the creamy tender plateful I had been anticipating. Is there a tactful way of advising staff of such a situation?
"What is it you wish to accomplish?
Had the food been bad, saying so should have gotten you a substitute meal, in addition to an apology, and perhaps even an adjustment of the bill. But as you had no such complaint, it would be as if your supervisor reprimanded you every time you had a mildly off day.
That said, Miss Manners does believe that as you are regular customers, you should schedule a friendly talk with the restaurateur, who no doubt wants to keep you happy. Tell him that while you enjoy the restaurant, you find the cooking somewhat uneven-- superb one day, but nothing special another day. You should then leave it up to him to find out why."
Judith Martin's latest book is No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice. She is also the author ofMiss Manners' Guide toExcruciatingly Correct Behavior(Freshly Updated). She and her husband, a scientist and playwright, live in Washington, D.C. Theyhave two perfect children, of course.
more weekly columns
Miss Manners advises on how to respond when one gets unsolicited advice about weight issues.
Editor's note: We will now be publishing Miss Manners articles twice weekly, but you will only see one question and answer per article. You can expect to see these articles appear on Tuesdays and Thursdays going forward.
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