Miss Manners: Attack of the poet-neighbor

DEAR MISS MANNERS: An acquaintance of mine has taken to writing poetry. It’s awful: full of unnecessarily obscure words, commonplace observations presented as profundities, tedious self-ruminations, etc.

I’ve heard enough to last me a lifetime, but whenever I encounter this individual, they announce excitedly that they’ve written a new poem and ask me if I’d like to hear it. Before I can respond, they pull out their smartphone and begin reciting.

This individual lives in my apartment building. Short of moving, what can I say or do?

GENTLE READER: Must you rule out moving? It strikes Miss Manners as a reasonable response to living in fear of surprise attacks of amateur poetry.

Failing that, she suggests that you plead having difficulty appreciating the recited poems -- as indeed you have -- and ask that they instead be submitted to you in writing so that you may enjoy them at your leisure.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: When all bathroom stalls are in use except for the wheelchair-accessible stall, is it OK to use that one rather than waiting for another to open?

GENTLE READER: Will you be prepared to vacate the stall instantly if someone who needs it enters the bathroom? Miss Manners doubts it.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Are online congratulatory messages replacing wedding cards?

We have a large, very close family that gets together for every holiday and birthday. My 30-year-old daughter and her boyfriend (now husband) have always attended every event. The family loves them, and vice versa.

A few years ago -- after a 10-year courtship -- they got married at a private ceremony far from home. We had a local reception planned for a few weeks later and sent “save the date” cards to the whole family. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the reception due to the pandemic.

My daughter only received one card and a few “congratulations” messages online. She and I were really hurt, and I was especially irritated because, over the past 40 years, I have personally hosted two showers and given 20+ wedding and baby shower gifts to family members.

Am I just being petty or old-fashioned? I just got another baby shower invitation today, and here we go.

GENTLE READER: Can you assure Miss Manners that this is about the cards themselves, and not about something that might have been slipped into a card? You moved very quickly to mentioning presents.

It is unfortunate that many people think of wedding presents as the obligatory price of admission to the event -- therefore, no event means no present, and often no reaction at all.

To answer what Miss Manners believes to be your real question: As exchanging presents is customary in your family, that tradition should not have been canceled along with the party. But what shocks her is that many seem to have failed to acknowledge the marriage at all. Whether those who did so sent informal electronic messages or used cards does not seem that important.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to