My Not-So-Surprise Party
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.) Read on for this week's hot topics:
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
I turn 50 in two days. I have learned there will be a surprise birthday party for me at my house. My daughter arranged for my husband to get me out of the house.
Sadly, my husband told me about the party. I know where, when, and many of the guests that will be there. Should I pretend I don't know about it and act surprised (I am a bad actress), or should I let my daughter (host) know that I know?
It might be too late for you to take acting lessons, so here are some simple instructions:
- When you enter your house and find it full of guests, give a happy little shriek.
- Momentarily cover your face with your hands, which will make you appear overcome while disguising any deficiency in your acting.
- Run around greeting everyone individually, trying to laugh and move on to the next when each asks (as everyone will), "Were you surprised?"
- If caught, making a bantering general statement, such as "I never know what that daughter of mine is up to!" or "I used to think my family had no secrets from me!"
Not only does Miss Manners ask you to do your best to give your daughter the pleasure of surprising you, but she thinks you may also owe your husband a private word of thanks. Instead of being too guileless to keep the secret, he may have been clever enough to know that you would want to dress for the occasion.
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
I currently have a good friend who is also a coworker of mine. She is going through a tough time in her marriage. Her situation has caused an obvious change in her behavior, both personally and professionally.
Since our other coworkers have noticed this change and they also know that we are close, they often ask me what is going on with her.
I don't want to tell them about her situation, as it is not my place to do so, but I also cannot say that she is fine. What should I tell people when they ask out of concern?
"She's had some personal problems, but they will be resolved." Miss Manners adds that last phrase not only because problems do eventually get resolved, one way or the other, but also to offer your friend some leeway before her co-workers complain that she is slacking off.
Of course they will do their best to pry from you the nature of the personal problems. The answer to that is, "Nothing I can talk about. She spoke to me in confidence." This will have to be repeated every time they say, "But I really, really care," which you may be sure they will.
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.
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