DEAR MISS MANNERS: Four years ago, I lost 70 pounds. Even though 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 comes around, it never fails that some stranger at the gym will say, “Working on a New Year’s resolution?” or “Trying to get back in shape?” or “Committing to a healthier lifestyle?”
I find this really offensive, as it implies that I’ve just started going to the gym, when the reality is that I work out and diet right up until Christmas Eve and start up again a couple of 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, yet I don’t want to compromise my integrity by being rude. What sort of response is appropriate?
GENTLE READER: “Aren’t we all here to get 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: Lunch today is my treat.
Person 2: Oh, that’s not necessary. You don’t need to do that.
Person 1: But I insist.
Is this necessary? Or is it proper to just graciously accept and thank the other person without the ritual protesting?
I ask because someone recently offered to buy my lunch, then accused me of “giving up too quickly” when my response was “Thank you, that’s very nice of you.”
GENTLE READER: If it was not a genuine offer, it should not have been issued. Adding “I insist” could help deflect the charade.
But regardless, you have Miss Manners’ permission to accept the first time. With the caveat that next time, you will reciprocate the gesture.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My spouse and I received a wedding invitation. We do not know the couple, but the groom is the son of a formerly close friend we seldom see. They have planned an expensive wedding followed by a very expensive honeymoon.
Usually we use a wedding registry as indicative of a couple’s taste and try to select something they will enjoy, though not necessarily from their registry. In this case, they have registered only for money for their honeymoon and future lives.
Would we be inappropriate if we declined the wedding invitation, thus saving them the cost of two guests, and sent a donation to a charity in honor of their wedding?
GENTLE READER: Everyone except Miss Manners seems to think that giving to charity is so noble that it should substitute for giving presents, and also that it can be mandated by people who expect presents. Philanthropy is a wonderful thing, but it does not cancel social conventions.
The good news for you is that you have no obligation to attend this wedding, or to put money into it. As you express no interest in the couple, that seems the sensible solution.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.