September 30, 2011 in Features

Number of beers consumed isn’t covered by etiquette

Judith Martin Universal UClick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We had a dinner with our nephew, who was bringing his fiancee to meet us for the first time. He also brought her mother and younger brother (6 years old) to our home.

My husband had four beers during their 31/2-hour visit. I was quite aware of this because no one else was drinking, and he was setting his empty bottles on the kitchen counter. After the dinner, I told him since no one else was drinking, it was more socially acceptable to have had only two beers.

We are quite at odds about this situation – he is upset that I am correcting his social etiquette. What do you say?

GENTLE READER: We have a jurisdictional problem here, because Miss Manners is unable to locate a two-beer cutoff rule in the annals of etiquette.

Can you get your husband on some other charge? Disorderly behavior? Un-hostly behavior in not offering beer to guests? Tax evasion? (Oh, wait, tax evasion is not supervised by etiquette, either.)

If not, your husband is right that you are the one who overdid it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My favorite nonprofit group holds many social and fundraising events. One regular attendee is a major donor who makes his money publishing pornography that I find racist and sexist.

Other people treat him as a welcome guest, and I can’t tell whether they approve of him, or just of his cash. Notwithstanding our shared support for the group, I think he’s evil, partly because he has bought his way into polite society.

So far, I have dodged him, but what to do if someone introduces us? Is this the appropriate circumstance for a “cut,” and how do I do it: Just turn on my heel and walk off? I’d really love to say, “You, sir, are an insult to the good name of pornography,” but that would offend etiquette as much as he offends me. Still, I want to uphold my principles.

How does polite society treat such people? Must we end up taking tea with drug dealers and gun runners?

GENTLE READER: If polite society allows itself to be bought, it strikes Miss Manners as only fair for it to deliver the goods.

Presumably you were not in a position to veto the acceptance of this donor. You can register your disapproval by quitting the group or refusing to attend its social functions, but you should not go and then sabotage that acceptance.

Oh, well, it’s your favorite philanthropy, so Miss Manners will offer a compromise. You can keep your hands busy (holding a drink, fishing for a handkerchief, or whatever is at hand) if he tries to shake hands. Subsequently, you can deliver a demi-cut, which means cold and curt, but not denunciations, dramatic gestures or anything that would lead to a scene.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it true that you recently changed your official stance on meat cutting? Now it is proper to cut the whole piece of meat up at once?

GENTLE READER: Now, really. What on earth would make you think Miss Manners would do that? Defeatism at seeing so many adults eating like children? Nothing better to do with her time?

Sorry. You underestimate Miss Manners.

You can send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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