April 19, 2024
They ignored my rules about what food is allowed.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a child with a few food allergies. They’re not life-threatening, but they still constrain his dietary choices on a daily basis.

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When I host parties, I mention these allergies to friends and family and ask that if they’re inclined to bring food, they avoid bringing anything containing those allergens.

Guests sometimes ignore my request and not only bring foods that I ask them not to, but also insist that I serve what they brought — something like festive holiday desserts that they went out of their way to produce or procure.

How do I respond that I won’t serve something that, at worst, can cause an allergic reaction in my son, and at best will make him feel excluded at a celebration?

GENTLE READER: If the goal is to shame your guests — always good sport in some quarters — Miss Manners feels you are squandering an opportunity by suggesting that they bring food. Those who thought they were guests will feel a greater burden at having to follow rules about what they bring. Better to spring it on them when they arrive.

Best of all, of course, would be to resist any pressure to serve guest-supplied treats and, if they will not take no for an answer, take them aside and explain the problem to them in private.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I see out-of-office replies and hear voicemail messages that say, “I will get back to you at my earliest convenience.”

It seems to me that they are saying they will call when it is convenient for them to do so, giving no priority to returning my call. What is the best wording for these outgoing messages?

GENTLE READER: Although she is not inclined to parse such well-worn phrases too closely, Miss Manners agrees that having the recipient borrow a phrase that was traditionally spoken by the caller (as in, “Please call me back at your earliest convenience”) does change the meaning. Promising to return the call as soon as possible gives the hope that one will be making a greater effort.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently used a relatively new service provided by a greeting card company: After purchasing a birthday card online, there is an option to include a handwritten note that is then printed on the card.

The site asks that you take a picture of your note and upload it to the website. From there, you can crop it, make adjustments and align it on the card. The final product looks personalized. The retailer then mails the card directly to the recipient.

Normally I would, of course, do this myself, but in this instance, the date approached before I was able to get to the store. I was wondering how Miss Manners feels about using this type of service.

GENTLE READER: Being more interested in the etiquette than the technology, Miss Manners grudgingly admits (because she does like paper) that this form of handwritten note is still a handwritten note — and therefore more gracious than a form card. She will not, however, go so far as to confuse personalized with personal.

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.

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