DEAR MISS MANNERS: I regret to inform you that I am one of those persons you have repeatedly chastised for failing to ensure that generous gift-givers receive personal thank-yous — only, please, let me explain!
I graduated this past May and received a number of congratulatory gifts, mostly checks, from relatives. I kept a list of who had sent what, so I could send out appropriate thank-you cards. I then composed said cards and drove to the post office to send off a whole bundle.
However, several months later, my grandmother informed me that her sister was irate at not having heard from me, and that several other relatives had asked if their presents had been received and/or used.
It appears that the entire stack of thank-yous was somehow misplaced in the mail — and of course now I do not accurately remember who sent what.
I feel terrible. My relatives must now think me ungrateful and ungracious, and I do not know what I should do.
If I send off new notes, will relatives think I carelessly delayed my thank-yous? Is it possible that those relatives who have not voiced their displeasure did receive their notes? Or should I not mention the lost notes at all, because relatives will not like to hear excuses?
GENTLE READER: No one likes to hear excuses, but if one must, Miss Manners would prefer a more plausible one. One letter being lost, maybe; a bundle of them? Not too believable.
You can get copies of those checks from your bank. And if you kept a list of objects, even if you threw it away, surely you could remember some?
But you do not need to convince Miss Manners if you can convince a parent to contact relatives and say, “I saw Trevor writing to you; he was so grateful, and now he is so distressed that you never received his letter.”
Failing that, just write, “I am devastated that somehow you never heard how grateful I am …”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When writing a letter to the first lady of the United States, what is the proper salutation? Would you simply use “Dear Mrs. Washington,” or is there a more formal greeting that should be used?
GENTLE READER: Actually, that particular person preferred to be called Lady Washington. This did not go over well in a country that had just freed itself from monarchy and a class system.
Subsequently, “first lady” (and “firsts” for the rest of the family, including any pets) has come to be used as if it were a formal title — but it is not. The president’s wife is someone upon whom we dump expectations and grant precedence, but the position has no official sanction or, for that matter, salary.
She is properly addressed as “Mrs. Washington.” The only distinction is that it need not be as “Mrs. George Washington,” as everyone knows which Mrs. Washington you mean.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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Author: Judith Martin