DEAR MISS MANNERS: Four years ago I lost 70 pounds. Although I am still considered overweight, I have maintained my weight loss and healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise.
Despite this, every time the New Year arrives, it never fails that a stranger at the gym will say, “Are you working on a New Year’s resolution? Or “Trying to get back in shape?” Or “Commit to a healthier lifestyle?” “
I find this really offensive because it implies that I just started going to the gym, when the reality is that I work out and diet until Christmas Eve and start again for a few days later.
It also bothers me because no one ever talks to me at the gym except on these occasions.
I’m at a point in my life where I’m tired of smiling politely to put a complete stranger at ease, but I don’t want to compromise my integrity by being rude. What sort of response is appropriate?
SOFT READER: “Aren’t we all here to be healthier?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: There seems to be an etiquette ritual of politely protesting when someone offers to do something nice for you. For example:
Person 1: Today’s lunch is my treat.
Person 2: Oh, you don’t have to. You don’t need to do this.
Person 1: But I insist.
Is it necessary? Or is it just to graciously accept and thank the other person without ritually protesting?
I ask because someone recently offered to buy my lunch and then accused me of “giving up too quickly” when my response was “Thank you, that’s very kind of you”.
SOFT READER: If this was not a genuine offer, it should not have been issued. The addition of “I insist” could help to divert the masquerade.
But whatever, you have Miss Manners’ permission to accept the first time. With the caveat that next time you will return the gesture.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner and I received a wedding invitation. The couple is not known, but the groom is the son of a former close friend who is rarely seen. They planned an expensive wedding followed by a very expensive honeymoon.
Usually we use a wedding list to indicate a couple’s tastes and try to select something they will like, but not necessarily from their list. In this case, they signed up just for money for their honeymoon and future life.
Would it be inappropriate if we turned down the wedding invitation, saving them the cost of two guests, and sent a donation to charity in honor of their wedding?
SOFT READER: Everyone except Miss Manners seems to think that giving to charity is so noble that it should be a substitute for giving gifts, and also that it can be commissioned by people who expect gifts. Philanthropy is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t overrule social conventions.
The good news for you is that you are under no obligation to attend or invest any money in this wedding. As you don’t express any interest in the couple, this seems like the right solution.
Please direct questions to Miss Manners on her website, www.missmanners.com; to his e-mail, [email protected]; or by regular mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.