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Monday, July 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Certainly OK to eat and listen

Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: For several years, my significant other has said that, when a group of people are dining together, the conversation is foremost.

Therefore, she says, whenever someone starts talking, good manners dictate that everyone else should stop eating and put down their forks, and she says we should do this even if no one else does. (At least she has the good manners not to inform the others of this supposed requirement when we are dining with a group.)

I keep telling her that her idea about dining etiquette is ridiculous. If there is continuous back-and-forth conversation and everyone did as she thinks they should, nothing would get eaten and the food would eventually get cold. (The picture comes to my mind of everyone’s silverware being put on their plates in clicking unison whenever someone starts talking and being picked up again in unison when that person stops talking, with the process repeating when someone responds to the previous speaker.)

I can’t get her to understand that her idea has no basis in the rules of etiquette. Am I right in this? What say you?

Gentle Reader: Where did she get that rule? From a list headed “How to Kill a Dinner Party”?

Not only would the food grow cold, but so would the conversation. Can you imagine yourself making an amusing little observation to your dinner partner, only to look up and see all those staring, hungry eyes?

Please tell the lady that the rule forbids talking with your mouth full; it does not forbid listening with your mouth full.

Dear Miss Manners: According to my dictionary, a lady is described as: 1. originally, a woman of authority over a house or an estate, of the same rank as a lord; 2. a well-bred woman; a woman of good family or of high social position; a gentlewoman.

Please advise me, has the definition of a “lady” changed so that a female addressed as such should be offended? Just recently, this happened in my presence. The female addressed is most certainly highly regarded – as on a pedestal (the highest respect).

Gentle Reader: But she was no lady.

Dear Miss Manners: This year I will be hosting a rather large Thanksgiving dinner for family. My sister-in-law will be bringing her boyfriend, who is vegetarian. I had planned on offering several vegetarian options, as I want him to feel welcome.

My sister-in-law informed my husband they preferred that no meat be served, but if we insisted, could we make sure not to cook meat/nonmeat items in the oven at the same time, and could we refrain from ceremoniously carving the turkey at the table? How should I handle this request?

Gentle Reader: With the firm conviction that you are graciously attending to the needs of a guest by making sure that he will have enough to eat, and need not let him take over the running of the household.

You might also suggest to your sister that Thanksgiving, with its food rituals, may not be the best holiday to which to bring the gentleman. Should he become a member of the family, Miss Manners would think your sister-in-law would want to hold family Thanksgiving at their house, where they will be in charge.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@

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