Don’t get so comfortable that you become rude

August 18, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a recent college graduate going on a job interview in my home town. As a newcomer to the professional world, I recently purchased my first black suit. The jacket has two buttons and is a traditional tailored cut. I will be wearing a loose- fitting blouse underneath. What is the rule for unbuttoning while sitting during the interview?

GENTLE READER: The rule is -- don’t!

What are you thinking? That you’ll look relaxed?

At least that is what Miss Manners hopes you are thinking, although you shouldn’t. You are supposed to look alert and professional, not as if you were lounging around.

But what do you suppose the hapless interviewer thinks at seeing you fiddling with your clothes? If you want your jacket open, please open it before you get there.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a non-drinker, I frequently encounter curious individuals who want to know why I choose to abstain from alcohol. In general, I avoid mentioning that I don’t drink and simply decline individual beverages, but at times it feels more polite to simply state that I will not be drinking so that repeated offers need not be made.

It doesn’t take long for people to notice the pattern and to begin inquiring without any prompt from me.

I am sure that these people have the best of intentions, and undoubtedly they have not thought about the likely answers (past alcoholism, alcoholism in one’s family, mental or physical health conditions, pregnancy, religious beliefs and so on) and therefore are not aware that the question is inappropriate. I do not want to discuss my reasons with casual acquaintances, but I also do not want to make anyone feel embarrassed at having inadvertently asked an impolite question.

I have tried a variety of responses. Often, I shrug and say, “It’s just not my thing,” but sometimes the asker persists. If I say, “It’s personal,” I can’t shake the feeling that I’m inspiring unfavorable speculation about my personal life, which is especially troubling when speaking with colleagues. I sometimes deflect with a humorous answer, but most of the ones I’ve come up with are not appropriate in a polite setting.

I should also mention that some people respond with great courtesy when I decline a drink, asking if I mind if they drink around me. (I do not.) However, in responding to those individuals who are not so conscientious, I am sure I would benefit tremendously from Miss Manners’s advice.

GENTLE READER: If people would stop monitoring what goes or does not go into other people’s mouths, the world would go around a lot faster.

Miss Manners also finds peculiar the notion that only some horrid prohibition keeps everyone from drinking at every opportunity. And, incidentally, that no one is driving home.

The dismissive reply is a cheerful, “I just don’t like it.” Enjoyment is not a matter for debate, and whether it is the taste of alcohol that you don’t like or its effects need not be stated.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2011, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

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