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Miss Manners: Keep being yourself, fancy pants

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Dear Miss Manners: My daughter married into a very nice family. They are a fairly small group, as are we, so we have celebrated holidays together since our children married, usually alternating hosting.

We did this on Thanksgiving and I hosted. I prepared the same meal I would’ve prepared regardless, and yes, it represents a great deal of work, which I am happy to do.

When they host, however, it’s a more modest repast, not because of finances, but simply because they don’t have much interest in cooking or baking. I was concerned, after one or two of these frozen-chicken-cutlet, can-of-mixed-vegetables events, that they would feel we were showing off; they have sometimes looked a bit astounded at our table.

I asked my daughter and son-in-law if I should tone things down on our next turn. They emphatically said “No!” and that they would be disappointed not to enjoy all their traditional favorites on these occasions. My daughter further chalks it up to cultural differences, while these meals seem very standard to us.

Do you think I am being offensive to guests who don’t care to go through so much bother when they entertain?

Gentle Reader: Please listen to your children. What Miss Manners would deem highly offensive is to convey the message, “You don’t bother to give us a fancy meal, so we’re going to stop bothering to give you one.”

Surely it is more in the spirit of family harmony and holiday spirit to assume that people are doing their best, however much or little their best measures up to yours.

Dear Miss Manners: I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner and told, “Just bring yourself.” When I got there, people were bringing in food, so I asked whether I was supposed to bring something.

The answer was “yes.”

When I have guests over, I ask everyone just to come. Is this a new thing, that a host wants everyone to bring food, even when they say “Just bring yourself”?

Gentle Reader: That certainly was a mean trick that your host played on you, telling you not to bring anything, and then chastising you for obeying. Or perhaps another guest was pointlessly making you feel bad.

A number of unauthorized social instructions have grown up in recent years. “No gifts,” for example, which is well meant, but has come to be interpreted as its opposite, or, worse, that cash is expected. Miss Manners cannot countenance condemning those who follow such explicit instructions.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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