October 13, 2010 in Features

Miss Manners: Your outburst won’t silence a child

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was in the deli section of a store where you have to take a number to be served, a young woman with four children, one screaming constantly and mother only approaching once, holding his hands and talking to him as if he could understand logic, reasoning, etc., while she went on about getting her order placed.

I approached her and asked if she realized how annoying his constant screaming could be to others waiting for their turn.

She replied, “Do you know how annoying it is for someone like you to approach me when I’m trying to teach him a lesson?” I replied, “Really, what lesson would that be?” and walked away.

GENTLE READER: Really – did you leave the deli counter without taking your sliced prosciutto and side order of coleslaw?

And what lesson did you teach at the sacrifice of your lunch? That children shouldn’t turn cranky in public? The mother already knew that. That a good mother would be able to silence her child? Nobody knows that.

But perhaps, Miss Manners hopes, you could think this over and teach yourself to control your own public outbursts.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I haven’t talked to my older sister alone since she met her current spouse in 2004. My younger sister and I can go to lunch or talk on the phone without hurting our husbands’ feelings because we need “sister time.”

Since my other sister’s spouse is a woman, I guess she’s a sister, but it’s not the same. Is this just the way it has to be, or is there some kind way of getting around this?

GENTLE READER: Yes: Give the lady the dignity of her position in the family – which is to say, as an in-law. She was not adopted into the family; she married into it, as did the husbands.

But Miss Manners gathers that there is more than a little defensiveness involved here, whether on the part of your sister, her spouse or both. That will have to be addressed first, not only with reassurances, but couples’ gatherings.

You might also invite the spouse out by herself on some casual pretext (such as “I’m going to be downtown Thursday, near your office”). Once it comes out, in the debriefing, that it was merely a friendly lunch and not an excuse for you to discuss their marriage, things should be easier.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently went down to visit my now ex-boyfriend’s family. We stayed at his family house for the weekend, and they were overly accommodating for me being there.

A couple weeks after I came home, we broke up. I was about to send his family a thank you letter for my stay at their house. Do I still send the letter even though we broke up?

GENTLE READER: Of course. You accepted their hospitality even if you subsequently rejected their son.

The moral here, Miss Manners feels obliged to point out, is: Don’t wait two weeks before thanking your hosts.

You may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com; via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.

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