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Pleasant Greeting, Quick Departure Adequate

Dear Miss Manners: My son’s trombone teacher comes to our house every Friday evening for an hour. I love the convenience, but I don’t want to get as personal as she seems to want.

First, she wants to chat, for example, about what went on at my doctor’s appointment (the reason I had to move our normal time). At that time of day I am exhausted and hungry, and I need to start dinner. Do I owe her conversation? I’d rather she would just teach music and be done with it.

Second, she seems to want me to wait on her. The first appointment, she asked for a cup of coffee. Then milk. Then a second teaspoon, then a refill, then asked if I would I take it away.

I suppose I should mention that she is wheelchair-bound, so helping herself is not really an option. But instead of relaxing, I was hopping almost the whole hour. And I paid her for the privilege!

I was infuriated, but didn’t say so. However, the next two weeks, I made myself very busy doing laundry in the basement. She hasn’t asked for tea since.

Was I out of line? Do I need to treat a music teacher as an honored guest, with treats and attention?

Gentle Reader: As you know from 19th century novels, a teacher who gives lessons in the household is accorded quasi-social status. This leads to all sorts of complications, such as the noble widowed father marrying the poor governess and the impetuous daughter running off with the French dancing master.

Miss Manners trusts that this puts your problem into perspective. All you need do is to greet the trombone teacher pleasantly and quickly announce, “Well, I’ll leave you two to your music,” as if you know they must be eager to have you out of the way so they can start. Then leave the room.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband has retained a friendship with a childhood friend for over 50 years, and we get together about once a year. On several occasions, the wife, who thinks she’s a cut above me, has made subtle disparaging remarks, usually pertaining to my appearance. I have chosen, for the sake of my husband’s friendship, to ignore these insults, chalking them up to ignorance.

At the last dinner, when the hostess brought out a cherry pie and offered my husband a piece, he very politely declined because he is diabetic, a fact she is fully aware of. She is a nurse, so she is also aware of the importance of diets to diabetics.

She then proceeded to offer him some cake and ice cream, which he again politely refused. As all of this was going on, I mentally decided that I would accept her offer of dessert, as I didn’t want her to be embarrassed by offering desserts to my husband which he couldn’t eat. Much to my amazement, I was offered nothing. Neither she nor her husband had dessert, and the pie sat there while we all drank coffee.

Am I wrong in believing that, as a guest with my husband, I should have been treated as well and offered some dessert? I was highly insulted, and while I don’t want to jeopardize my husband’s friendship with his longtime buddy, I want nothing to do with his buddy’s wife. What do you think?

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners doesn’t want to have anything to do with her either, so if you will tell her where this lady tends to the sick, she will arrange to get her nursing elsewhere.

For what it’s worth, your hostess has committed a greater etiquette sin against your husband than against you. He would be well-advised to have lunch alone with his old friend, rather than to attempt an evening that necessarily involves someone who is out to get you both.

Miss Manners admits that to fail to offer a guest something that is being served to another guest is worse than the rudeness of pushing food on any guest who keeps declining. But to push a succession of sweets on someone one knows to be diabetic takes the cake, as it were.

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



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