Miss Manners: Etiquette for Becoming Embarrassingly Rich
Each week, Miss Manners answers questions exclusively from the MSN audience on all of your etiquette dilemmas. (Have an issue you want help with? Send in a question today or talk about your own problems on our MissMannersmessage board.) Read on for this week's hot topics:
Dear Miss Manners,
Some friends and I were discussing what we would do in the unlikely event that any of us won the lottery, and find we need to appeal to you on one major question that came up. What is the etiquette involved in suddenly becoming embarrassingly rich?
Of course, we all agreed that none of us would flaunt it, but the fact remains that, even if one accepted the winnings anonymously, one would have a moral responsibility to use large portions of the winnings to help out friends, relatives and charities. It would be impossible, in that case, to hide the fact that one had "come into" a bit of money.
How does one politely refuse to divulge the exact amount of winnings received? Or for that matter, the amounts given to various people and causes, or even the amount of winnings currently remaining? How does one politely refuse to become a fairy godmother to everybody and their sister? If one wishes to, say, fund the college education of a cousin's three children, is it necessary to gift an equal amount of money to the comfortably well-off cousin's childless sibling? Is it possible to give money to charities and not have them hound you for the rest of your life?
These are burning questions to which we all hope to need the answers soon.
Ah, yes, the curse of the newly rich: Everyone you know turns competitively greedy; you have a load of new security worries; and you suspect that no one really loves you for yourself.
But then you would be able to buy that dream thingamabob.
No. At least not yet. Not unless you want everyone to go around saying, "Have you seen that thingamabob of hers? Do you know what that cost? And here she's grudging me the little house I need to put a roof over my children's heads."
Still want to win?
Miss Manners was afraid of that.
Change your name to Anonymous. Not only in requesting anonymity from the lottery itself, but from the charities you support.
Do not blow your cover by shouting from the rooftops. Or by changing your life dramatically.
By all means, help your friends and relatives, but do so on an irregular, spaced schedule, so they don't see the pattern. Tell each one that you have "come into a little money" (if pressed, you can say that an investment paid off, as indeed your expenditure for the lottery ticket would have) and ask them not to talk about it.
When it gets out that you won the lottery -- as indeed it will because none of the above strategies will work -- say that you have hired a financial advisor who has put you on a strict budget, so that you do not have funds available for everything everyone suggests. This will be true, as hiring that person is the very first thing you should do.
Dear Miss Manners,
I love to hear different accents from different people I meet. However, my dilemma occurs when I try to think of a polite way of asking where they are from. It seems too intrusive to simply say, "You have an accent, where are you from?"
That's right, so don't say it.
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. They have two perfect children, of course.
more weekly columns
Plus, who pays for the prom when girl asks boy?
Plus, How do I ask someone to stop calling me?
Plus, How can I tell my parents that I want them to stay in a hotel when they come to visit?
Plus, how do I show interest in a crush?
Plus, how do I politely ask my family to stop imposing their religion on me?
Plus, once my friends get married and start having children, should I find new friends?
Plus, I don't want to recognize my husband's children's birthdays, etc. since they don't even thank me. Am I being unreasonable?
Plus, how do we deal with a couple who brings their precocious child to our adults only book club?
Plus, was I wrong to ask a dinner guest to stop cleaning and re-organizing my fridge?
Plus, am I wrong to throw a friend a baby shower for her fifth child?
Plus, how do I back out of a friend's bachelorette party?