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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Successful guy, sloppy eater

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our son is in his mid-30s and is a successful artist and businessman with a wonderful career. However, he has really terrible table manners, in spite of our best efforts throughout his childhood to teach him otherwise. (His sibling has no such issues.)

He eats with his mouth open much of time, leans over the table onto his elbows, rushes through his meals and doesn’t engage with others while eating.

He has had a succession of delightful girlfriends through the years, but they have all opted out after a number of months, and we feel that his manners cannot but have contributed to these relationship failures.

We keep wondering if there is anything we can do to help.

GENTLE READER: If you can stomach it, the most tactful way to put it would be to blame yourselves, saying, “We have failed you as parents and are worried that your table manners are holding you back.”

Then Miss Manners recommends you gently guide him toward closing his mouth and listening while he chews. She further warns you to resist the urge to add, “This is why no nice girl will stay with you,” or the classic “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” – however tempting it may be.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I enjoy sending festive flower arrangements to friends. In one such case, my friend sent a text to thank me and provided a photo of what was delivered.

She was pleased with it, but I was not. The flowers she received were vaguely similar to what I had ordered and paid for, but definitely lacking in both quality and quantity.

I contacted the merchant and they handled it well, promptly sending her a new arrangement (and she was allowed to keep the first one, as well). I explained the situation to her in advance and she sent me another photo of the second delivery. It was lovely.

However, my friend said I should not have made a fuss. She was happy with the first arrangement and felt awkward accepting the second, as I was the party who had complained, not her.

How could I have handled this differently? Should I have asked for a partial refund instead? It was the merchant who offered a second delivery to redeem themselves, which they did with flying colors.

I’d like to learn from this. My intentions were good, but I also now understand her point of view.

GENTLE READER: Here is a controversial take on this: Stop taking pictures of the things that people give you.

Nothing good comes from seeing it after the fact. At best, it will be redundant. At worst, it will be a case such as yours where the present is defective or underwhelming.

While this quality control can be useful information, it can also cause awkward interactions, as you have learned.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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