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Miss Manners: Declining alcohol need not be explained

Judith Martin and

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I spent the day with his sister and her family, as well as with extended family from out of town, my brother-in-law made sure there was a bottle of one of my favorite wines, which I thought was a nice gesture.

I confess that during the six hours we were there, I drank the whole bottle.

The next day, at a birthday party for another family member, my brother-in-law said (in a very loud voice and in front of everyone), “You sure took care of that bottle of wine yesterday, didn’t you?” He actually said it twice.

I was embarrassed. I know that one must not drink to excess at gatherings, but I wasn’t loud and boisterous or overtly drunk.

Since then, on visits to their home, I have replaced that bottle of wine and have politely refused wine or cocktails. I have not told him that I was embarrassed by what he said, but he has noticed that I don’t partake at their house anymore. “Are you sure you don’t want something? How come you’re not drinking?”

I would never feel comfortable drinking at their house again. Can I just continue to decline wine or cocktails when we visit? As you know, sometimes people make it hard to refuse a drink. I don’t have to explain, do I?

GENTLE READER: No, and it is not only hosts who can’t stand the sight of someone without a drink in hand. You need only keep repeating, “No, thank you,” until you wear such people out.

But this is your brother-in-law, and he knows something is wrong, even if he has not figured out what. And despite his unwarranted announcement, there is evidence he wants to please, not embarrass, you.

You could lightly mention that perhaps you had drunk enough that one night to cover all future visits. But if you are unwilling to discuss the matter, then it is time to forget about his gaffe and resume normal behavior, whatever you want that to be.

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