Miss Manners: I’m afraid my neice’s appearance will cause a scene at our son’s wedding

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a niece, Maya, who has been estranged from the family since her teens. After five years, she’s now returned, wanting to be near family. We are trying to get to know her again, as she is not the same child we knew -- pretty much a stranger.

She was a beautiful, smart young lady when she left, but now states she will live as a hippie. Her mom supports this. She has facial piercings, full underarm hair and multiple visible tattoos. We don’t agree with her life choices, but remain silent.

The struggle is with my son’s upcoming wedding. Maya is excited to attend, but my son is afraid she will dress in a way that her underarm hair and tattoos will be on display. He is concerned that, 1. She will become a spectacle and bring attention to herself with her appearance, and 2. Someone will remark on her appearance and he will have to defend her on the biggest day of his life.

Our whole family is anxious about this. We are a professional family, and our lifestyle reflects that. Many business associates will be in attendance.

It’s not that we don’t care about her; we are trying to learn about and love her, but this is not a way of life that society generally accepts. I am beginning to resent that she came back into our lives after her absence, expecting us to approve of her presentation and conduct.

Please, we would appreciate any advice on how to address this. We don’t want to hurt her, but the attention should be on my beautiful daughter-in-law, not the hippie cousin.

GENTLE READER: What business is your family in that would be damaged by seeing a cousin’s underarm hair? And what sort of guests are you expecting who would dare to criticize the bridegroom’s family to his face?


Never mind. Miss Manners will try to calm you down by pointing out the unlikelihood of the scene you envision.

The appearance you describe is not that unusual in today’s society. The chance that everyone will be gawking at her and ignoring the bride is about zero. There is a greater chance that many of them have relatives whose styles differ from their own.

What worries Miss Manners more is how alienated you all are by your relative’s looks. You are never going to accept her, much less love her, if you cannot see beyond that.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am single, and when I go out to dinner with a couple, the check is split 50-50. Shouldn’t it be split 1/3 and 2/3?

Should this be discussed when dinner plans are made? This happens with both colleagues and social acquaintances.

GENTLE READER: Which class did your companions fail -- math or ethics?

In either case, Miss Manners believes that they need your help. If you can grab the check first, you can tell them what they owe; if they get it, you can ask to see it and declare your share.

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