September 15, 2008 in Features

Keep the sarcasm to yourself

Judith Martin
 

Dear Miss Manners: I raise guide dogs and I love it. I talk to the public and educate many on the kind of work the dogs do.

While I love talking to people about our precious puppies, I do not know how to respond when someone comes up in a high-pitched voice and says – no, squeals – “Oh my god, what a cute puppy. How old are you? What’s your name!?”

While I realize the sight of a dog is quite rare, I mean, so few people ever get to see one, how should I respond?

I usually just say, “Oh, this is Fido and he is 10 months old,” but I would really like to let them know that they are quite possibly the most irritating people on the face of the planet. Should I say something sarcastic like, “Oh, sorry I haven’t taught him to speak English yet”? Any help would be appreciated.

Gentle Reader: Some crucial advice:

Do not have a baby. Do not ever even be seen with anyone else’s baby. People talk baby talk to babies. No doubt this is because they have never seen one before.

Or possibly it is just that many people go all soft when they see a creature who is young and cute. Miss Manners considers that nature’s way of protecting life before it is toilet-trained.

So please do not snarl at your puppies’ admirers. In addition to being rude, it sets them a bad example.

If you get tired of answering for them, she will allow you to say (if you can keep the sarcasm out of your voice), “Fido! The lady asked you a question!”

Dear Miss Manners: A man I had just met took me to a very nice restaurant in one of the finer hotels in town. In the middle of the meal, he (very loudly) blew his nose into the restaurant’s lovely cloth napkin and then replaced it on his lap. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he did it again. I could scarcely maintain the small talk in which we were engaged. A couple of minutes after that, he actually started picking his nose at the dinner table while speaking to me.

Obviously, I am never going to accept another invitation from this “gentleman.”

My question goes to the form of the refusal. Normally, if I had not enjoyed a first date enough to repeat it, I would decline politely, citing some vague prior commitment that left me unavailable.

Somehow, that seems like more consideration than this man deserves. I assume that you would not sanction a response of, “I can’t go because I was too nauseated to eat for two days after our last outing.”

Is there any way politely to refuse any further interaction while indicating to him that the fault lies in himself, and not in his stars? It might benefit him to consider his conduct.

Gentle Reader: Although Miss Manners lost her appetite just reading about this, an invitation to dinner, even one that the host makes it impossible for you to eat, does not include license to point out his faults.

Nor would it do any good. The parting shot is not a form for conveying constructive criticism. Had you been able to say that you were on the verge of succumbing to his charm, stopped only by a difference in ideas about hygienic table behavior, and regret that this stands in the way of further acquaintance, it might be different.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissMannersunitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10016.

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