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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Say ‘thank you’ but delay etiquette lesson till later

Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: Will you come to my rescue and share with me a wise and prudent response to the “wisdom” that comes sometimes from the mouths of mere babes?

Such as when I pick my 4-year-old up from day care, and one of her little classmates observes, quite loudly and openly, “You have a big belly.”

What can you say in response to that, without setting another bad example yourself? I don’t quite feel right instructing the offender in proper social behavior, and I want to set a good example for my child of being comfortable with my body image.

Gentle reader: One lesson at a time, please. How would you demonstrate that you are proud of your body while also chastising the person who drew attention to it?

Miss Manners suggests that you confuse the classmate by saying, “Thank you.” Thus, the offense will pass unnoticed by your daughter until later, when you explain to her that it is rude to comment about other people’s appearances. Any discussion you want to have about your pride in your belly should be saved for still later.

Dear Miss Manners: I was always taught that when eating, to close the lips over the fork or spoon. Lately I have noticed several TV ads that have happy people eating some delightful dish that has been advertised, and drawing the food from their teeth with a big smile on their faces and their teeth bared. For some reason, this makes me shudder! What is the proper (mannerly) way to do this?

Gentle reader: With the television set off. You were taught properly, and if there are to be revisions in manners, Miss Manners promises you that they will not be announced through behavior demonstrated in television advertisements.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.
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