Miss Manners: I said she couldn’t borrow a book. She tried anyway.

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Dear Miss Manners: My wife and I had a houseguest for a few days, and we fell into discussing some books that I have. She, the guest, expressed interest in borrowing one, but I declined. I am a bibliophile and have had books borrowed and never returned, although I didn’t say that to the guest.

I did say that, if she’d like, I would order her a copy of the book online, and that she’d have it when she got home. She declined.

When she was readying to leave, I happened to notice that the book in question was missing from the shelf, and I told her that I would like it back before she left. Her response was to cast me as stingy, selfish, uncaring, etc., all of which I thought unfair and undeserved.

She returned the book and departed. It was a bad moment all around, but, I thought, it was her doing. My wife, however, disagrees and thinks my behavior was petty and ill-considered. I would like to know your thoughts.

Having gone out of your way not to accuse your guest of theft, you nearly found yourself the flagrant victim of it anyway.

Please tell your wife that Miss Manners says that as long as the request is declined politely (and offering to buy a copy of the book is beyond generous), hosts are not required to give away their belongings just because they are asked. If that were the case, many an exercise bike, innocently stored in the guest room, might go mysteriously missing after a visit.

Dear Miss Manners: My daughter’s husband has a sister, who I will call my daughter-in-law. I bought this single, childless daughter-in-law a dress recently. She did not like it, or perhaps it didn’t fit. Whatever. She wanted to return it.

She texted me and asked whether she could drop it by and have me or my daughter (who has a job, two small children and a husband) return it. The store where it was purchased is far from where my daughter and I live, so I suggested that the daughter-in-law return it herself, so she could see what the store offers and make a suitable exchange.

It is not a matter of her wanting the cash for the dress, because she is employed and financially well-off. I feel as if, because my daughter is extremely busy, she should not be given the additional task of returning someone else’s gift.

Unbeknown to me, the daughter-in-law brought the dress to my daughter anyway, leaving it with her to be returned after I specifically suggested she do it herself. Who is wrong here?

Having had nothing to do with this transaction, your daughter need not be in a hurry to act on carrying it out. In Miss Manners’ opinion, she need not attend to it at all.

If your daughter-in-law inquires after the dress, you may reiterate that your daughter does not know what to exchange it for — and that if it needs to be attended to quickly, she should do it herself. Sometime in the next decade, this will all get sorted out. At which point, the store will probably have closed anyway.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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