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Miss Manners: Roommate’s nail clippings: a battle worth fighting?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My roommate clips his fingernails into the sink and washes the cuttings down the drain. I’ve asked dozens of people over the years, and not a single one has expressed anything less than disgust. Another factor is that it clogs the sink drain, which he takes care of … eventually.

Now, this is a good friend of mine, and we generally get along really well as roommates. He doesn’t handle confrontation very well, though, and is often resistant to change. So I’ve swallowed it; he doesn’t need the stress over something that really is a minor issue. No big deal.

But it’s still a little ping of irritation in the bathroom once in a while. It just seems so gross and weird to me (and everyone else, apparently). I’m not sure I’m looking for solution, but I’d be interested in your thoughts on the matter.

GENTLE READER: All sorts of disgusting things go down the drain. That is what it is for. Miss Manners does not advise you to get into an argument about the relative disgusting-ness of everything down there.

But surely you must want a solution. Small irritations, repeated often enough, lead to the breakup of civility, if not of households.

And you have two grounds of argument against your roommate’s practice. One is the danger of these clippings clogging the sink. Not being a plumber, Miss Manners is not certain of this possibility.

But there is no doubt that you are annoyed. The outlook is not bright for people who live together in a state of annoyance. This should be the sole grounds on which you appeal to him to stop. Not that it’s “gross and weird,” nor even that when sufficiently provoked, you might turn violent.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My next-door neighbor’s daughter died at just 16 years old. My family and I feel so bad, but what do you say to someone when they are experiencing a child’s death?

I don’t like doing what other people do, as I would like to do something sentimental. Do you have any ideas and what is the appropriate etiquette during a turbulent time like this?

GENTLE READER: Of course you want to be sentimental, in the sense of showing genuine sentiments (as opposed to the exaggerated quality the word often implies). And you don’t want to reel off the mechanical “thoughts and prayers” response that has become so automatic.

Yet the ways to express genuine compassion to the bereaved are conventional. You want them to know that you feel for them, and the greatest comfort is to speak to them of the importance of the person they have lost. Miss Manners cautions you not to be afraid of doing this in the customary ways: letters, visits, flowers, food. Do not try to guess or predict their feelings or offer false comfort. People say such hurtful things – typically “I know how you feel,” “You’ll have other children” or “It’s time for you to pull yourself together” – when they try to be original.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.


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