Miss Manners: Former boss keeps fishing for gifts for her sons



Dear Miss Manners: My former boss and I have not kept in touch for the most part, but when I asked her for a referral in order to get a job in another state last year, she assisted me. I have since communicated briefly with her on a couple of occasions — sending pictures, wishing her a happy birthday, etc.

Now she has sent me an announcement for her younger son’s graduation from college. I feel that she is simply looking for gifts, and is tapping everyone she can think of.

The reason I say this is that when I left her workplace and moved out of state, she never contacted me once, except to send me an announcement of her elder son’s Eagle Scout achievement. (I have never actually met either of her sons.) I didn’t send a gift, and she found a reason to contact me and essentially bully me into sending one.

This is a manager who would give me leftover cake from her son’s party for my birthday. It was insulting.

I can afford a gift; that’s not my issue. I just feel like I am once again being bullied into giving something. How do you think I should handle this? I am sure she will follow up, and I am sure she will not forget it down the road. And I might need a professional referral from her in the future.

Bullying is one way of putting it. Bribery is another. You do not owe this woman a present, and certainly should not have to send one in fear of retaliation.

Miss Manners recommends that you therefore send your warmest congratulations to this woman’s son with no accompanying present — and then avoid her phone calls.

If there comes a time when you do need a recommendation and she has the audacity to refuse, you may say, “Oh, you were so kind to have provided me with one for my previous job. What changed?”

If she has any shame, she will realize that she is cornered. She will either be forced to admit that she is operating under a demented quid pro quo, or she will (perhaps begrudgingly) write you the letter.

But of course, if she had any shame, you would not be in this predicament in the first place.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it acceptable to mix together my scrambled eggs and hash browns in a restaurant so that I get some of each in each bite? Also, is it acceptable to wear a Hawaiian shirt over jeans?

The proper technique is to spear a bite of both eggs and potatoes on each forkful, rather than to swirl the two together.

And as for the Hawaiian shirt? Miss Manners supposes over the jeans is better than underneath them.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.