DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our preacher’s wife offered to contribute money to our household grocery budget. We live fairly comfortably on our combined Social Security checks, plus a nice little pension. I thanked her and told her truthfully that we have everything we need.
In this morning’s mail, we received a check for $500. She wrote in a note that another friend had given her the money to pass on to us, just for the fun of doing an anonymous good deed.
Of course, we will immediately send a thank-you note back to the intermediary. Is there anything else we can do? This is just shrimp instead of mac and cheese, but it is a lot of money.
GENTLE READER: You can enclose the unendorsed check with your letter of thanks, asking that the money be given to someone truly in need. Why shouldn’t you, too, have the fun of doing a good deed?
That charity is noble does not mean that it should be pressed on those who have declined it. Doing so makes Miss Manners suspicious that the purpose was not to do good, but only to be able to feel good.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m never likely to meet Elizabeth II, but if I do, how would I be expected to act? I assume there would be someone there to give me protocol tips, but I am curious.
As a citizen of the United States, I assume I wouldn’t curtsy (and if I were male, wouldn’t bow), but would I slightly incline my head?
GENTLE READER: You would be amazed at the number of Americans who are so ignorant of our history as to believe that we still owe this symbolic obedience to the British monarch. Did they miss the class when the outcome of the American Revolution was taught?
You are correct that if you are in a receiving line on the queen’s home territories, you will receive murmured instructions from an equerry about the behavior expected. Not about curtsying or bowing — which the helpful official will know applies only to the queen’s subjects — but about refraining from touching her and not speaking to her unless she speaks first.
Miss Manners would hope that Americans would not grab strangers even if they are not heads of state, or launch into a conversation when there are others requiring attention.
But will you be scorned if you practice American good manners by offering a hand or a word of greeting?
That is doubtful. Decades ago, British royalty learned the hard way that snubbing well-meaning Americans is a bad idea. When, for example, many years ago, an elderly American statesman took the elbow of the queen’s daughter to guide her up the steps of our Capitol, there was a public outcry because she gave him what in current American usage might be called the stink-eye.
That visit was not a diplomatic success. And on subsequent official visits, the queen and members of that family were remarkably affable, including responding to polite greetings.
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.