Dear Miss Manners: Not wishing to be an old grouch at a bridal shower (to which, properly, only nearest and dearest friends and family were invited), I consented to participate when it became “game time.” I smiled and went through the motions until finally, thankfully, my 85-year-old aunt rebelled, giving me the excuse not to participate in the last games.
Is it not enough to sip tea and visit with the other guests until the bride begins opening the gifts so they can ooh and aah? Is conversation such a lost art that hosts believe they are doing the guests favors by requiring that there not be any? When “entertainment” of this sort is sprung on guests, can one gracefully avoid it?
Gentle Reader: Although Miss Manners has as little patience for party games as you do - all right, she loathes them - she doesn’t find it necessary to account for others’ enjoyment by announcing the death of the art of conversation.
Some people just like to play silly games once in a while, especially at bridal showers, where such goings-on have picked up a minor aura of tradition. At other times, the same people may be brilliant conversationalists.
Because this pleasure does seem to appeal to youth, bridal shower guest lists used to consist only of the bride’s, or the couple’s, young friends. Miss Manners has no serious objection to expanding the parties to include older people, although she condones the elders who beg off - perhaps offering their own ways of fussing over a beloved bride, such as giving nonshower luncheons.
Those who do attend showers should either submit with grace to the entertainment or decline in such a way as to relieve the players from any dampening of spirits.
Dear Miss Manners: After several years as an ovo-lacto vegetarian (I don’t eat any flesh, including fish and chicken, but I do eat milk, cheese and eggs), it is obvious that I am well-nourished and that I cannot inflict my special orders on hostesses. I eat a light snack before a dinner party, and then eat whatever is served that is not meat.
Hostesses often respond to this by rushing into the kitchen to bring me hunks of cheese or by being offended that I won’t even taste the main course. How can I make it clear that I am not going to starve and that I am enjoying part of the meal and all the hospitality? Is it rude not to tell the hostess one’s eating habits? Is it rude to accept an invitation to dinner, knowing that meat will probably be served?
How do I deal with people who want to know all the details of my diet? It’s not that I object to promoting vegetarianism, it’s just that there is a risk of generating very unpleasant dinner conversation. People don’t really want to hear that their veal cutlet is unhealthy, and that the calf was subjected to numerous atrocities before slaughter.
Gentle Reader: Miss Manners deals in etiquette atrocities, and she is outraged that you are being subjected to two of the most currently common ones:
You are being goaded to eat, and you are being goaded to talk about your eating habits. The sort of people who do this mistake force-feeding for hospitality, and interrogation for conversation. Of course, you can accept dinner invitations, but Miss Manners wishes you would get them from a better sort of people.
To maintain your admirable politeness in the face of such provocation is not easy. You need to keep demurring in such a blandly polite way as to make them give up the struggle:
“No, you’re very kind, but I really don’t care for anything more, thank you. No, really. Please don’t get up, I really don’t want anything more.” And if the cheese is brought anyway, Miss Manners advises you to ignore it.
“Oh, I don’t want to bore you with my private habits. If you’re interested, give me a call some time…” Then open another topic.
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