DEAR MISS MANNERS: Being a Washington, D.C., resident, I inevitably have to discuss politics with anyone from the mailman to my boyfriend’s parents, whether I want to or not.
At dinner with a few families, I was asked directly whether or not I thought a politician should be fired due to a specific incident. I was both astounded that I was asked so directly, and embarrassed that I didn’t have an opinion. Truly shocked, I fumbled for a response. I knew very little about the matter, as I had been traveling and working long days, with little screen time to catch up on news.
Is there a polite and genuine way to relay that I don’t feel informed enough to have an opinion without sounding rude or ignorant?
GENTLE READER: Do you not realize that when people badger you for your opinion, they only want to make sure that it agrees with theirs – and are planning to badger you more if it does not?
You may skip that by giving them the opportunity to sound off, which Miss Manners suggests doing by saying, “I haven’t made up my mind. Tell me what you think.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A father recently passed away, leaving two daughters, 16 and 11. The relatives have established a college fund website for the girls. Donations are made online, and the donor’s name and donation amount can remain visible, or one or both can be hidden.
What is the proper thing to do? If the amount is not visible, then the family won’t know what you gave them. But you might not want it visible, either, if you gave little (or a lot). Neither option feels comfortable.
GENTLE READER: Do you suppose that there should be a donor-level distinction in letters of thanks for such kind benefactors? From “How generous of you” to “Gee, thanks,” to “Can’t you do better?”
Miss Manners would think that the bereaved would be touched by any such response, without measuring the amount of gratitude by counting the till.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner and I host many dinner parties. Whereas I am an abysmal cook, my partner is an amazing one. Often at one of our hosted dinners, I will bite into something truly delectable and will want to compliment the chef by saying how really delicious it is.
Unfortunately, I am also struck by the thought that this is rather impolite and gauche. Does one compliment the chef, even though you are both the hosts? Or does one have to wait until an invited guest does so? I do not want to prompt my guests, but I also want to express my true appreciation for something wonderfully created.
GENTLE READER: Are you insisting on praising your partner when your mouth is full? Can’t you wait until you are doing the dishes together?
Even if you are kindly letting the chef go to bed after doing all that cooking, Miss Manners thinks you would have time to say how delectable you found the meal without forcing your guests to assent or even seconding their praise.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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