Of Gently Refusing Gifts, and of Reality TV

Oh goodness, Snarklings. The Lady of the Manners knew exactly what she was going to write about; a letter from someone in the vampire subculture, and the long-threatened holding-forth about the sparkly skull accessory trend. But then things got busy (as they do), and then one of you wrote in with a question about a delicate situation concerning holiday gifts. The Lady of the Manners realized she absolutely needed to try and help, which brings us to this:

question: Dear Lady,

This is question regarding Christmas gift giving, but I am afraid, possibly not a nice one, and I must apologise upfront about any dampening of the Christmas spirit.

You see, due to various circumstances I have decided that I would like nothing further to do with my family and have happily lived without contact for two years.

However, this year I have received a number of cards from them saying they would really like to see me, and to keep in touch. One in particular enclosed a cheque for a substantial amount of money.

Dearest Lady, I strongly feel that I cannot accept this, and I wondered if you had any possible suggestions on how I could let them know this, to ensure that this does not happen again in future.

My first instincts on this matter are to write a pleasant Christmas letter back to them, enclosing the cheque and explaining why I cannot accept it.

But my fear, is that they will continue to respond to me, because of the contact I have made in the first place.

I wondered if you had any ideas on how I could communicate to them a message of goodwill and good luck, but to also make it quite clear that I did not wish any further contact but also without meaning them ill.

Just to clarify, I have not hidden my whereabouts from them, although I have not directly told them where I live. I feel I have no need to run and hide, and that I am entitled to an open life just like any other person.

I would be eternally grateful for any of your thoughts on this matter.


The Lady of the Manners agrees with you that you should not accept the cheque, and that returning it to them is the best option. As to how to “communicate to them a message of good will and good luck” without encouraging more contact from them? That’s the tricky bit. The Lady of the Manners fears that no matter how clearly you express your wishes to be left alone, your family will disregard them.

The simplest, if harshest, way to get your message across is to simply return the cheque to the relative that sent it, without including any sort of letter or note. Cold and abrupt, yes, but very clear in expressing the idea that you want to have no contact with them.

If you don’t want to be that guarded, then returning the cheque with a brief note really is your best option. Explain that you do not feel comfortable accepting any sort of presents from them, and that while you wish them the best of luck, you have decided that you are much happier on your own and do not wish for any further contact from them.

Now, the Lady of the Manners knows that you are aware that your family will probably ignore your request for them to leave you alone, and will continue to try and stay in touch. This is the point where you need to exert all your willpower and do not respond to any of those attempts. Do not reply to any cards or letters, return them to the sender unopened; if they call you, say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I have nothing to say to you. Goodbye”, and hang up the phone. Yes, hanging up on people is something the Lady of the Manners generally frowns upon, but in this instance, there really isn’t another way to get your message across.

The Lady of the Manners hopes that you are able to continue with your happy life, and that your assorted relatives are perceptive enough not to try and push the issue with you.

The other thing that was recently brought to the Lady of the Manners’ attention is the fact that there’s apparently a gothy couple on The Amazing Race. (The Lady of the Manners had to have The Amazing Race explained to her. The Lady of the Manners watches TV by viewing complete seasons of shows on DVD, and so is somewhat behind on current pop culture and reality shows.) One reader (who asked not to be named) queried:

I don’t know if you watch reality television, but I have some questions about the self-styled “Gothic” team Kynt and Vyxsin from The Amazing Race. (http://alpha.cbs.com/primetime/amazing_race12/bio/kynt_vyxsin.shtml) I get that they wear weird makeup and fishnet T-shirts, but they seem to be way too happy (not to mention wearing way too much pink) to really be Goths. Surely no self-respecting Goth would be this interested about running around in the scorching heat in Africa, grinning from ear-to-ear with hot pink hair!¬”  Can you settle once and for all on whether these two are the biggest posers since Gumby, or is hot pink as Goth as Hot Topic?

Oh dear oh dear. People aren’t really still clinging to the false notions that Goths can never be cheerful, or never wear pink? Good heavens, the Lady of the Manners thought those cliches were put to rest ages ago! Yes, Goths can, and frequently are, very happy and cheerful. Goth is about appreciating the off-kilter, the darkly humorous, the (as the sainted Lydia from Beetlejuice said) “strange and unusual”. Goth is not about maintaining a seamless facade of woe and gloom, and never has been. Goth is more about embracing a dark and decadent aesthetic while simultaneously being able to laugh at oneself for sitting around wearing black velvet and reading Dracula by candlelight.

As to the “wearing way too much pink” comment: hot pink has been a wonderful accent color for black Gothwear since the early days of Deathrock and Batcave. (The Lady of the Manners personally prefers cupcake pink, but to each their own.) Goth fashion, while predominately black-hued, frequently dabbles in other colors. The Lady of the Manners thinks that the hot pink and black color scheme that Kynt and Vyxsin have adopted is striking, and also makes them slightly more approachable than an all-black wardrobe would. Which is a very clever move on their part, since they will need every advantage they can get to go forth and win this race thing.

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to go window shop for some sparkly pink skull accessories, and then try to decipher her handwritten notes about what the Lady of the Manners wanted to say about the sparkly skull accessory trend. The Lady of the Manners is also going to try and post another lesson sooner rather than later. Which, of course, means you should write in with your questions!

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