DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation from a friend of mine to spend the weekend at some property of hers. The caveat: We would be building her a house.
Granted, it is a “tiny house,” and my friend is not the type of person to follow formal etiquette on functions, but this struck me as beyond the pale. I mentioned it offhandedly to my parents on a phone call, and they didn’t see any problem, calling it a “barn-raiser.”
Miss Manners, I feel as though no one should be asked to raise a barn for a woman with a master’s degree.
Who’s right, my parents or me? I do plan on declining, due to some health problems that prevent me from, uh, building a house.
GENTLE READER: When the barn-raiser was a recognized event, in 18th- and 19th-century rural communities, it was understood that the favor would later be returned.
Miss Manners fears that your friend has missed the importance of reciprocity. Perhaps she could limit her invitations to those who, while she was earning her degree, insisted on asking why she did not spend her time on something more practical. They could then enjoy a last laugh at her expense while she benefits from their more practical training.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the buffet line, what do you do when the person in line behind you is reaching in front of you to get food and pushing you along to get you to hurry?
GENTLE READER: Get out of the way.
Miss Manners knows how galling it is to allow the pushy to achieve their objectives. She will grant you a sweeping “After you, Alphonse” gesture as you move. But standing between rude people and their feed could be dangerous.