DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have an older sister who continues to go out to socialize. She posts photos of herself with friends on social media, despite the current need for everyone to stay home. These are not outings to get needed supplies, nor is she going to an essential job.
I tried to gently mention how we should not be going out at all if it can be helped, and she insisted it was only to see a few people, so she was fine. I am worried not only for her own safety, as she is of mature years, but also for that of her 13-year-old daughter (who has a history of pneumonia), her friends who are seniors, and society at large.
She lives where there is a large population of senior citizens, and also where there have been less stringent preventative orders than elsewhere. How does one press such a dire subject for everyone’s safety to someone who isn’t taking the situation seriously?
GENTLE READER: Etiquette cannot substitute for responsible public officials in setting health policy during a pandemic.
Miss Manners does not say this to invalidate your all-too-familiar problem, but rather to acknowledge the heartbreaking results when we are forced to use the wrong tool for the job.
What she can suggest is treating the situation as you would an irresponsible health choice made by a close relative. Your sister is endangering herself, your niece and her friends: This is worth saying to her, even if you are unable to convince her.
When normalcy returns, we will just have to remember that such strong solutions are reserved for dire and imminent threats — they are not a license to harangue passing strangers about their bad habits.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a friend’s daughter got married, I enjoyed seeing her photos on social media, and was very happy for her. I sent her (the daughter) a message and told her I would love to send her a gift if she could send me her address.
I was a bit stunned when she responded and said thank you, but that she didn’t want a gift. I am on a very fixed income, so sending her a present is not a simple matter for me financially, yet I had really wanted to do it to bless her in this happy period of her life.
I felt very slighted by her refusal. (At least I hadn’t purchased a gift yet.) Am I wrong for feeling a bit rejected when she said no gifts were necessary?
GENTLE READER: So frequently does Miss Manners hear from Gentle Readers about their frustrations at constant demands for gifts from friends, relatives and co-workers that she admits to surprise at your question.
Remember that your desire is to express your congratulations and good wishes in a meaningful and memorable way. Your message may already have done this, but if not, a longer, handwritten letter will surely do so.