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Eliminate Your Own Churlishness

Dear Miss Manners: Due to a combination of a semi-idiot mother who is, to this day, convinced that a show of any intelligence on the part of a woman is a sure sign of homosexuality; and complete-idiot classmates, who felt the same way, my childhood and adolescence were pretty much unalloyed hell.

As a result, I tend to get testy, now that I am a 29-year-old adult woman, when a waiter or bartender “cards” me. I hate being mistaken for a teenager, since I hated being a teenager.

I get even testier when said waiter or bartender patronizingly chastises me for being upset. Evidently, at my advanced age, I should be happy that people mistake me for a teenager.

How should I respond to these dim bulbs? Clearly, my life story is none of their damned business, but I would like to know of some reasonably polite, churlish response to shut them up, and I am fresh out of ideas.

Gentle Reader: You are slightly mistaken in your belief that Miss Manners is in the business of adding to the churlishness in the world. Not only does it seem to her that there is quite enough of that in ready supply, but it strikes her that you have more than your share.

The proper response, when you are carded, is to show proof of your age. If you can manage to do so without churlishness, there will appear to be one fewer of those total idiots for whom you have such disdain.

Dear Miss Manners: A reformed smoker, my husband sides with house guests and exiles me to a small room with a closed door. Even after the guests have retired for the night, he insists on my using that room.

When we are without guests, he does not mind where or how much I smoke. It seems to me to be taking hospitality too far, even though I am fully aware of being a pariah in today’s anti-smoking world.

When we visit nonsmokers, I smoke outside, even in below-freezing temperatures, because I respect their house rules. In my own house, must I respect their house rules?

Gentle Reader: No, you need not respect the house rules of other people’s houses when you are in your own house. That is the good news Miss Manners brings you.

The bad news is that the leeway for setting one’s own house rules is restricted to choices within the bounds of basic consideration for others who are present. And intrusive practices always yield when they cause annoyance.

If, for example, your smoking did bother your husband, you would have to work out a routine to prevent his being bothered. As it does not, you can certainly have a smoking-anywhere policy when only he is affected.

But when guests are present, you cannot do something you have reason to believe discomforts them. That would be a violation of the rules of hospitality, which cannot be suspended at whim.

Dear Miss Manners: I’ve been gathering different things for my hope chest for about two years. Now, with two hope chests filled, my fiance feels that I’ve left nothing for family and friends to give us at the bridal shower. He thinks we should have a “greenback” shower. Is this tacky?

Gentle Reader: Tacky?

Why, the poor soul is only worried about the distress of people you care about, when they find that it is superfluous for them to add to your bounty.

Miss Manners brings you relief. What anyone chooses to give you is not your worry. That includes the shower. Having everything you need ought to make it easier for you to be thankful if people - unprompted and out of the goodness of their hearts - offer you anything else.


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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