How do I thank my future in-laws for housing us after Superstorm Sandy?
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,
My fiance and I were among the thousands of people who were displaced from the Jersey Shore due to Superstorm Sandy. For the first five days after our town's evacuation, we stayed with his parents.
While we were there, his mother refused to let me help with anything, aside from allowing me to set the table twice. Instead, much to my discomfort, she insisted on waiting on us hand and foot. Whenever she asked whether I wanted something, I responded as I would respond to anyone else: with either "Yes, please" or "No, thank you." I also said "thank you" whenever she brought me something.
On our second day there, however, she told me that I was being "too formal" with her because I thanked her too much and it was making her uncomfortable. I really wasn't sure how to act, since she was treating me like company, but seemed to want me to treat her as the rest of her family does. Once we get back home (we're still not allowed to return to our town), I would like to send a thank-you note and perhaps a small gift (such as cookies or muffins) to my future in-laws for opening up their home to me in my time of need. I truly am very grateful that I had a safe place to go in a crisis situation and even more grateful that I was able to remain with my fiance.
However, since my future mother-in-law has made it clear that my thanking her makes her uncomfortable, I'm not sure whether I should send anything at all. My mother suggested that I simply send a note telling her how much I enjoyed the time we spent together, but I don't feel like that is enough. What do you recommend that I do?
"Normally, Miss Manners is exasperated with those who discourage thanks, as they are dictating rudeness to others. And she hopes that expecting your reference to acting like the family doesn't mean that this is a family that treats one another discourteously.
But you are not in a normal situation. Your future mother-in-law was, in her awkward way, trying to compensate for your misfortune by pampering you. Yet she is also trying to have this special treatment passed unnoticed, as evidence that comforting family in an emergency is to be expected. So bless her heart, we'll give her a pass.
But of course you should not seem callous enough to allow this to pass unacknowledged. By all means tell her how wonderful she is, what a comfort it was to be with family, and, as your mother suggested, how much you enjoyed being with her. Just, as a sop to her feelings, omit those two words, 'thank you.'"
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
My parents took my kids to a school function I was unable to attend due to my work schedule. To thank them, I bought dinner from a fast food place.
Is it rude to bring a fast food dinner to my children and my parents while my boyfriend brings a dinner from a nice restaurant for the two of us to eat in front of the kids and my parents? My parents think it was rude and bad manners.
"It was not the fast food itself that made this unspeakably rude, Miss Manners assures you. It was serving your parents, who were also your guests and your helpers, food that was inferior to what you were eating.
If you ordered fast food for everyone, and did not know that the gentleman was also bringing food, you had two decent choices: to put the restaurant food away for another day, or to offer it to your parents while you and he ate the humbler meal."
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.
Unspeakably rude is putting it mildly, Miss Manners!
This is what I consider an ingrate. First, did the poster get served inferior foods when growing up, while the parents ate expensive meals? Probably not. I can almost guess this selfish poster was doted over much more than she deserved and now thinks everyone owes her.
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