Miss Manners says backhands are for tennis only

November 23, 2010

Allowing an unimportant mistake
to pass without comment
is a wonderful social grace.
-Miss Manners

‘Tis the season for those gosh-awful scarves that you’ll never wear, ties that scream outdated and coffee-table books that will sit uncracked, collecting dust.

‘Tis the season for grandmothers and great-aunts to tsk-tsk over thank-you notes not received and “where did manners go, anyway, and aren’t kids today the worse
for having not learned social graces?”

Here’s a thank-you note we received once after sending a wine and goodies basket:

“I am on a restricted diet, but the wine will come in handy for holiday entertaining.”

A restricted diet?
So we asked the spouse if something was wrong.

“Oh, s/he was being kind.
You sent white. S/he only drinks dry reds.”

This is what the tart Miss Manners would say about that.

“That is an interesting definition of kind. But let’s go with it. First, backhands are only appropriate in tennis. A thank-you note is meant to acknowledge the thought behind the gift. It is never mean-spirited. When your mother-in-law gives you that Christmas sweater you wouldn’t be caught dead in, you don’t have to say you’ll wear it, or even that you like it. The appropriate response is ‘Thank you so much for the festive sweater. The colors are perfect for the holiday season. Thank you for being so thoughtful.’ It is not ‘I don’t wear sweaters but our holiday houseguests might use it.’ In this case, a courteous response would have been something like this: ‘I’ve put the wine in my cellar to be uncorked during holiday festivities. Thank you for thinking of me.’ That way, there is no need to make up a medical condition. Or have your spouse ‘explain’ your ‘kindness.'”

Someone I know is sending her young son to Cotillion, where he is learning proper etiquette and the courtesies of interacting with others. It’s such a wonderful thing for a kid, especially these days,when proper etiquette has gone by the wayside.

We can think of a few adults who could use a Cotillion of their own before the holidays.

2 comments on “Miss Manners says backhands are for tennis only
  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Diva,

    I thought I would send you this very thoughtful, timely and mannerful note to thank you for all of your stellar posts this year!

    Your posts are the daily mana that I love to enjoy.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA ok so manners can go over board too.

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAy

    Namaste

  2. Miss M, you are too funny this morning!

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