Miss Manners: My ex gave me a diamond ring I never wear. Can I give it to his daughter?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Fifteen years ago, I received a ring as a birthday gift from my boyfriend at the time. He insisted on giving me a diamond cocktail ring, but I was firm on its being a gift only -- not a promise or any kind of engagement. (I didn’t want to be in such a relationship since I had just left an abusive marriage.)

We broke up two years after that, and had absolutely no contact from then on. Move forward to today, and I have found out that he passed away.

The ring doesn’t mean much to me aside from being beautiful, and I don’t wear it anymore. I’m wondering about giving it to his daughter.

Is this something that “should” occur, or should I just let it sit in my jewelry box? I am not even sure if she would like it. What is correct in this situation?

GENTLE READER: The ring belongs to you. Since it is unlikely that the daughter knows of its existence (and it might invite suspicion as to how serious the relationship actually was), Miss Manners sees no reason why you “should” give it to her. Except that it would be extremely kind.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Does one ever send a letter of condolence to a stranger? Specifically, to a stranger who will at some point be a relative by marriage?

Our son is engaged to a lovely young woman whom we have met several times and are very fond of. We have never met any of her relatives. She announced the devastating news that her young cousin has died after a short illness.


Of course I am writing to her to offer our sympathy, but I wonder if I should also write to either her parents or her cousin’s parents (her aunt and uncle). I don’t know if a note from someone unknown to them would be welcome or feel like an intrusion on their grief.

GENTLE READER: There is hardly a more gracious way to ingratiate oneself with a prospective family than to show compassion for even distantly related relatives. The only intrusion on their grief Miss Manners can imagine might be a brief thought of, “Who are these kind people again?” But that will no doubt be a welcome distraction.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am staying in a short-term rental for 30 days. The rental unit is attached to the owners’ home. They are friendly and nice; however, every evening they watch TV or movies at a very loud volume. We can hear every word of what is said on the TV from all of the indoor and outdoor spaces, except the bedroom.

Is there a polite way to ask them to turn down the volume?

GENTLE READER: “I’m so sorry, but is there any way that you could turn down the volume on your TV? I’m afraid we can hear everything through these walls.”

Miss Manners understands that in our current climate, chastising neighbors might be a scary proposition. But in this case, you are also their customers. So she feels confident that any negative response will be quickly squelched by the prospect of a bad -- and public -- review.

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