DEAR MISS MANNERS: This Thanksgiving, I’m having a couple of friends over – the same ones I had over last Thanksgiving. However, this year I’m inviting a third, who has never met the other two. I thought it would be polite for me to tell each of them something about the other so that they might be a little more comfortable together before they meet.
Is this OK? How do I decide what to share? I definitely don’t want to mention anything I shouldn’t.
GENTLE READER: Quite right. You do not want to say, “Matilda was convicted of tax fraud, but she’s paid her debt to society,” even though it might lead to an interesting discussion about prison reform.
Yet the idea is to provide material with which to start a conversation. Occupations are often mentioned, but surely Miss Manners is not the only person who does not want to talk shop when out socially. It is better to choose any outside interests your friends may have – hobbies, collections, choices of vacations.
Ask Miss Manners about manners when she is just gadding about, and she will give you a polite smile and a short answer. But ask her about Venice, and she is off and running.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister and her husband were invited to a wedding anniversary party on a boat in the Venice lagoon, which will last a whole day. My brother-in-law is afraid of getting seasick, and does not want to participate.
How should he inform his friends about the problem without offending them?
GENTLE READER: Would he like Miss Manners to go and explain his absence?
First, she will answer a question you did not ask: The Venetian Lagoon is a relatively quiet body of water. Yes, there is too much motor traffic in the canals, but the lagoon is big enough to absorb it. And yes, there are occasional storms that churn up the lagoon, but a pleasure boat would not attempt to go out in them.
It is likely to be a placid trip – but that does not mean that he must go on it. He must explain and apologize, of course, but he should assure his friends that he would not want his wife to miss the boat ride, and that he will have no trouble amusing himself in Venice and then joining them afterwards.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family has always been open to talking about pretty much anything and everything. That’s great, except when it comes to the holiday dinner table. Politics and religion are bad enough, but do we really need to discuss bodily functions? It absolutely ruins my appetite.
What is the etiquette of dinner conversation, particularly during the holidays? Is there a polite way to ask family members to refrain from discussing certain subjects?
GENTLE READER: There are so many explosive topics nowadays that you might not want to ban one that inspires only disgust, rather than violence.
No, Miss Manners supposes you need your appetite at Thanksgiving. She suggests that you quiz your relatives about their health before dinner. You really don’t need those appetizers when you have a huge meal ahead.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website www.missmanners.com.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.