Mothers are supposed to be busybodies

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Well, now I am in trouble. My husband says that even Miss Manners says that I am incorrect.

I am a wife and a mother. I feel that it is a duty of a mother to teach her children the use of proper manners. That is why I have diligently set out to teach my children how to use a fork and knife correctly. I have taught them to chew with their mouth closed and to take small bites. I have taught them that a napkin is not to be used as a toy.

They know which fork to use and when. I have been trying, with some success, to teach them how to set a table. I do not think that, in most circumstances, the plate or the bowl should be lifted from the table to be eaten off of or slurped out of.

At the dinner table, I remind them through eye contact and nonverbal cues about how to implement their manners. Sometimes, at home, I have even asked them such questions as, “Where does your napkin go?”

Nothing bothers me more, at the dinner table, than to see someone take a huge bite and have to watch and listen while they smack the food around in an open mouth for all to see. Who wants to see someone’s partially eaten food roll around in their mouth? I don’t like to listen to the smacking and crunching, either.

Worst of all, I dislike someone spitting food at me while they talk and chew at the same time. Who wants to see noodles dripping out of someone’s mouth and down their chin?

My duty is to remind, gently, that table manners are important. I really think that if they choose a career in which there is any kind of socializing to be done, good manners are very beneficial.

My husband has now said that I have been corrected by Miss Manners herself. I am to turn a blind eye to the eating habits of the other people around me and keep my eyes to myself and my own plate.

This is exactly why people have lost the use of manners. I cannot do this to my family. For now, I will not heed Miss Manners’ advice about ignoring other people’s table manners and teach my children to the best of my ability.

GENTLE READER: You’re joking, right? Or you failed to notice that your husband is.

Surely you can’t possibly interpret Miss Manners’ injunction against busybodies offering criticism to those who are minding their own business as a ban on childrearing. Can you?

If you did not teach your children manners, who would? Not your husband, apparently. Nor would Miss Manners barge into your house to train your children or, for that matter, to chastise your husband for sabotaging your commendable efforts. That is what the rule is intended to prevent.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper response to someone who asks, “What do you do every day? What do you do with your time?”

GENTLE READER: This is an unfortunate attempt to start a conversation, as it implies that the person being queried might be useless. Should you not be willing to overlook this, Miss Manners recommends, “I lie on the couch and read trashy novels and eat bon-bons.”

Visit Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.


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