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DEAR MISS MANNERS: When conversing, I find a new trend – more and more people making assertive statements about me or my family. The statements are not unpleasant, but they are often false. I feel compelled to correct them, but this puts me in the uncomfortable position of contradicting them. When it becomes a series of assertions followed by my contradictions, the conversation loses all joy.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A guest, who, like me, is a middle-aged bachelor (well, I am perhaps a tad beyond middle age, but never mind that) returned this summer – essentially homeless after many years out of the country – to undergo surgeries from which he is now recovering. He does not require in-home medical assistance, but is under doctor’s orders to avoid his usual athletic activities for a while, and he cannot drive now. Some of my female friends have been kind enough to assist him with transportation to and from hospital appointments, or to bring him meals they have cooked or invite him to dinner. Last week, one of them confided to me that she has developed romantic feelings for him. It is clear to me that one of the other women also feels this way.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was visiting friends, I perused my hotel’s list of recommended dining establishments. Each restaurant listed their dress code and, to my consternation, I found each of the following variations: Elegant
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I parked my car in a public parking lot, I noticed a car had a bumper sticker that read, “If you have nothing to say, just shut the **** up.” It could have used the H word, which I would not have objected to, but rather, it used the F word – all 4 letters of it. If the person wanted to put that in some private location, fine – but I thought exposing it to children (among others) in public view was inappropriate.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: You could assist an entire profession if you would advise undergraduates on how to compose e-mail messages to their professors. Like my colleagues, I’ve received peremptory messages from undergraduates, even entering freshmen, the tone of which might have been used by an aristocrat to a particularly lax and unpleasant waiter. After the remonstrances, there’s often a transparent attempt at manipulation, as in “Have a great weekend!” or “Thanks in advance for your understanding.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS – Occasionally, the rules of etiquette conflict with my religious and moral convictions. When this happens, is there a way I can signal this to new acquaintances? What I’m looking for is something along the lines of: “I recognize that my behavior in this instance isn’t polite, and may even be rude, but I’m committed to it for moral reasons. I apologize for any offense, but I’m not going to change this behavior. Should this be unacceptable to you, please feel free to sever our acquaintance now,” though preferably in condensed and less awkward form.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I discovered a Bible that belonged to my great-great-grandmother, and, as I have an avid interest in our family genealogy, I was thrilled! I am curious, however, about the form of her name that was engraved on the cover of the bible, “Mrs. Catharine Bowers.” My understanding of traditional methods of address would lead me to believe that she was divorced by using her given name and her husband’s last name. A friend suggests that she may have been widowed when she received the Bible. Then I would have expected to see “Firstname Maidenname Marriedname.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was a young boy, my father stressed upon me that gentlemen shake hands – always – with the right hand – much like soldiers always salute with the right hand. It presented a problem later in life when I was introduced to a man who had no right hand. He extended his left hand and, remembering what my father had taught me, I took it in my right hand.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you address mail to a same-sex married couple? I believe I should use the same formality that I do when addressing mail to an opposite sex couple, but I am not sure. For example, if I know that one member of the couple has changed their last name to match their spouse and both are male, would I address it to Mr. and Mr. John Smith, using the first name of the one whose surname it was? The same question would apply to a female couple – would I use Mrs. and Mrs. Jane Smith?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I met my lovely wife over six years ago, she had an extremely ill-tempered cat. (It bit me on our first date.) My wife had recently adopted the cat from a shelter just as it was about to be put to sleep, and she was very protective of it. Now, six years later, this cat absolutely loves my wife, but no one else in the world.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The invitations for the wedding of a pair of friends included a list of local charities to which invitees could send contributions. I don’t recall the exact wording, but they were clear that such contributions are mere suggestions, a productive way to redirect any blender-buying compulsions. I took them up on it and made a contribution. Now I’m wondering about the follow-through.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have two small sets of silver, one containing about six place settings, and the other four. Since we are young and do not have complete sets of all the nice things, we do not host formal meals. Is it all right if we use both sets of silver at the same meal for an informal dinner with more than six people attending? Would the same apply to mismatching dinnerware or glassware?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am unsure of how to react to my co-workers’ spiteful comments whenever I choose to spend my paid/personal time off (PTO). I am a single male, under 25 and don’t have children. The most common comment that I hear is an extremely sarcastic “Must be nice!” – as if I am the sole person upon this planet to earn PTO.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I just got engaged, purposely have not told coworkers and don’t wear my (gorgeous) engagement ring to work. Why? I do not want nosey coworkers getting into my personal business. I work with a group of jealous, immature, bitter women who revel in gossiping about and tearing other people down because their lives are so miserable (failed marriages, unhappy households, financial troubles, problems with children, professional jealousy, etc.) and as such, do not share in your happiness. Secondly, as I plan the wedding, I do not want my every move to be scrutinized and don’t want intentional interferences inflicted upon me by my malicious, narcissistic, envious, spiteful, childish boss (who sadistically delights in causing misery to others and has made attempts before to interfere with my personal plans out of pure jealousy).
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Facebook is out of control. There are way too many people in this world trying to be your friend when you don’t necessarily want them to be. What is the appropriate way to let someone know that you don’t want to be their friend on Facebook?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: An acquaintance posted on the Internet some music that he had composed and performed with his band. He then directed friends to the site to listen and offer opinions. I don’t know how to respond. The music was awful. Not in such a way that it might appeal to someone with different taste than myself, but just plain hideously awful.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Customarily, my wife and I send out several thousand dollars of charitable checks. This year, I am probably out of a job. Out of work, with no income. There are only about three organizations to which I feel truly obligated and indebted, and I will send them a token amount (20 percent of previous years) and a note of explanation, and a pledge to send more, if and when I can.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I learned that once the napkin is unfolded after one sits down at a table, it is not refolded. It is folded loosely and replaced back on the table when the meal is over and one is leaving the table. I have looked up various sources, and all agree on not refolding the napkin the way it originally was. However, in two different restaurants, the waitstaff has come to the table while I had excused myself, refolded the napkin, and placed it back on the table. Upon returning to the table, my friends reported what had happened and said that maybe I should have refolded the napkin before leaving the table. When I disagreed, feeling uncomfortable, they said that is what waitstaff does in expensive restaurants.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son got married two years ago, and please keep in mind that my daughter-in-law and I have never had a falling out. We’ve stayed at their house overnight and were treated wonderfully. We get along fine because I do not want to be a meddling mother-in-law. However, I’ve got some situations that I do not know how to handle.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a university student living in a semi-detached house with several other students. The couple living in the other half of the house have two small children, who they allow to play on our driveway and lawn constantly (which isn’t a big deal). However, their 6-year-old has developed a habit of coming up to our front door (which is glass and looks directly into our living room) and asking us to play with her. Yesterday, she went so far as to open it, stick her head into our house, and ask me what I was doing. She did this several times within an hour.