Life Advice



Oversized Sweater Is Poorly Received

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been cleaning houses for many years, and I have become close with one of my clients. I have been working for her since 2003. She has been very good to me over the years and has been a great inspiration, although she can come across as a little uppity.

This year for Christmas she bought me a sweater. When I opened it, my first thought was, What was she thinking? It looks like it would fit someone three times my size.

Unfortunately, she asked me how I liked the sweater, and I didn't really know what to say. So I told the truth: I thought it was way too big for me.

She said it was supposed to be big, and, laughing, she said it was what they call hobo chic. I said it was really ridiculously big for me. She seemed to be upset at that, and told me that maybe I could just donate it to someone.

She told me where she bought it, and it was at a very upscale shop. I know that it was probably pretty expensive. I want to know if it would be rude of me to go to that shop and see if they would exchange it for something else. They know her very well because she shops there all the time, and they will have a record of the sale.

GENTLE READER: The shop will not report back to your client, as you will be the one getting the refund. Anyway, it is too late to shield her from knowing you didn't want the sweater, because you told her yourself.

Yes, you told the truth, but you needn't have told the whole truth. It is also apparently true that you appreciate her, which was the appropriate truth to be spoken.

What you should take back now, in addition to the sweater, is the impression of ingratitude toward the donor. Miss Manners suggests first saying how much you value the lady's generosity, and then admitting that while you admire her fashion sense, you cannot hope to keep up with it. If that is kindly said, the two of you will be able to laugh together, and then you can go out and buy whatever you like with the refund.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a number of friends and acquaintances who I've met through various volunteer organizations and on social media. I'm very fond of many of them, but I don't know where they live.


I'd like to send them cards, letters and postcards, but I don't know their mailing addresses. Is it weird to ask on social media or in an email for their addresses?

GENTLE READER: Yes. You are surely aware, and they should be, too, of how information is plucked from the internet for commercial and criminal use.

Miss Manners does not dispute that you mean well. Your in-person friends may tell you their addresses if you ask, and those volunteer organizations may give out rosters.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






John Branch Ginger Meggs Jeff Danziger Bizarro Bart van Leeuwen Dana Summers