Metro-East Living

Etiquette: 3 strikes and sick friend is out of gifts

By Dianne Isbell

Q: I recently heard that a girl I went to high school with was really ill. She didn’t live too far from me, so I called and asked if I could come for a visit. She said I could. I stopped and got a bouquet of flowers and a vase. I was barely in her house when she told me she couldn’t stand the smell of flowers, so please take them out to the car. I immediately did so.

We sat and talked for a while and she seemed to enjoy my visit. When I got up to leave, I suggested I come back the next week and she agreed. I asked her if I could bring her anything — groceries or anything — and she said no. The next week I made some chocolate chip cookies and took some of them. She barely opened the box and said she couldn’t eat chocolate, so please take them with me when I left. I did.

The next week I brought her a couple of magazines. As soon as she saw them, she said she didn’t like to read magazines, only books, so take them with me when I leave.

While I guess I could understand her immediate anxiety over the flowers, I think she was a little rude in her rejection of the cookies and the magazines. Surely someone else visits her who would have enjoyed the cookies or the magazines. Am I wrong? As to taking a book the next time, I would not have a clue about what kind of book, so if I ever go see her again, is it OK if I take nothing?

A: You are not wrong. You were being very thoughtful. Yes, I can understand the immediate rebuke of the flowers, but she could have been a little more polite in her rebuke. As to the cookies and the magazines, yes, she was rude. Not feeling well is no excuse for being rude to those who are trying to be kind and thoughtful.

On taking a book on your next visit, I agree it would probably be impossible to select a book she might like. Her illness has obviously caused her to be slightly cranky. Regardless, at this point, you have made several attempts to bring her something to cheer her up a bit. Therefore, it is not necessary to take her a gift at all. The mere fact that you continue to visit her and spend time with her is in itself a tremendous gift.

Q: An old friend stopped by last week and drove into my driveway. I offered to stand in back of her car to guide her out of my driveway when she left, but she insisted she could do it and didn’t want me to stand out in the cold. Well, you can guess what happened. She ran off into the grass at the end of the driveway and made a big rut. I’m almost certain she could tell she did it, but she did not call (and) tell me she did it. Can I tell her to park in the street in front of my house the next time she decides to come see me? If she asks why, can I tell her?

A: Yes, you can ask her to please park her car in the front of your house the next time she visits. If she asks why, just tell her it would be easier for her to back out, and, besides, you might have your car parked in the driveway while you are looking for something in the garage. Try to avoid telling her she made a rut in your yard.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to