DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had two friends over for lunch, and as I was in the kitchen gathering up the food, they seated themselves at the dining room table (not where I would have put them). I brought in their two salads.
When I returned from the kitchen with my salad and the bread, they where already chowing down. I went back to grab the entrees and again, before I could return with mine, they were plowing through their pasta. And ditto for dessert.
As I was eating my dessert, they got up and took their plates to the kitchen. When they came back to the dining room, they pushed in their chairs and started to leave. I was still eating. I asked, “Are you leaving?” They replied that they needed to return to work.
What the heck? I was at a loss to say anything. I didn’t want to embarrass them, but I thought their manners were really out of line. What could I have done to slow them down in a gracious manner?
GENTLE READER: Not invited them on a workday. Miss Manners hardly excuses the rude behavior of your friends, but clearly they were in a rush. If the timing could not be helped, setting the table beforehand, waiting until all three plates were ready (and then asking for help in bringing them in) or even bringing the serving dish to the table might help.
But if they are used to restaurant service and making quick deadlines, perhaps next time you should suggest fast food instead.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A couple of years ago, one of my nephews graduated. At the time, he was having some social problems and was extremely rude to everyone in the family, including me when I took him to lunch one day.
I did not at that time feel like giving him gifts. So I did not, and minimized my contact in hope that time would help him adjust.
Fast forward to now, and his younger brother has graduated. I feel in a quandary. The older brother has learned to be more polite, and although he has never apologized for his personal rudeness to me, I don’t generally like to hold on to unpleasantness. I would like to give each of them a gift, but feel it has become awkward to do so with the older one.
I don’t generally give birthday gifts, as we are not that close, and I don’t want to start. I could give no gifts, but that seems a little sad. If I gave them both gifts, the older might ask me “why now?” and the last thing I want to do is dig it up again.
GENTLE READER: Do not invite trouble by, as you say, reminding the boy of his past transgressions, or pull focus from the current celebrant.
Presents are not meant to be rewards based on good behavior, or withheld for bad – although Miss Manners makes an exception for the latter if there is consistent neglect of thank-you letters. Presumably your older nephew will have another occasion at some point. You could then give him a present and, more importantly, reinstate the relationship on more positive terms.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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