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Miss Manners: Pre-dinner snack sparks argument

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son told me last night of a situation where he was severely scolded by his live-in girlfriend. She was fixing dinner, and he went to the pantry to get a fruit bar because he had not eaten since that morning.

She claims that his getting a fruit bar while she was cooking dinner was incredibly rude. She not only scolded him, but wouldn’t eat dinner with him.

I contend that it was not rude unless he made a comment to the effect that his snack tasted better than what she was cooking. Do you agree? I’m guessing she has some other issues she has to deal with, and part of it may be related to their relationship. But since I told him it wasn’t rude, I was curious as to your thoughts.

GENTLE READER: Even though his mouth was full, did he forget to say “Mmmm, smells delicious. Anything I can do to help?”

While it is understandable to want to defend your son for seemingly innocent acts, Miss Manners feels compelled to remind you of what it seems you are already aware: One never knows what is truly happening inside another’s relationship. Questions that come to mind include: Does his girlfriend always do the cooking and he never offers to help? Does he frequently eat right before a meal she has prepared, and then profess not to be hungry?

Not making a direct comment about the comparative taste of the snack to the dinner did not really solve the fact that he was eating it in the presence of a much more labor-intensive meal. Next time, by asking if he can help, he could accomplish three things: Get on her good side, avoid a fight, and weigh the dinner’s timing against the relative needs of his stomach.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who sends me nice T-shirts for my birthday, Christmas, etc. They are the wrong size. What should I do?

GENTLE READER: Exchange them for the right one.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have decided to treat myself to an occasional manicure and pedicure. I am having no luck in finding a salon where the persons doing my nails do not chat away in a foreign language with fellow employees while working on my nails.

The foreign language aspect is rude in itself. Also, I want the full attention of the person cutting, clipping, sanding and polishing my nails. Any advice?

GENTLE READER: Rethink pampering yourself with a transaction that involves people outside your limited circle.

While Miss Manners has sympathy for wanting service industry workers – especially ones wielding sharp objects – to pay attention, demanding that they cease all conversation is unreasonable. This might be why you are having trouble finding establishments that will oblige.

Rather than being annoyed, try pleasantly asking the nail technicians to translate so that you may contribute to the conversation – and even learn something about their culture. Miss Manners has a feeling that this will produce the desired silence much more effectively than admonishment.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.

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