DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I disagree on a point of table etiquette, and each of us is eager to be able to say to the other, “See? She agrees with me!”
Eating with three guests, we began our meal with a selection of half a dozen appetizers placed within reach of everyone at the table but me. Two of the items were passed around the table. The other four were not passed; my dinner companions helped themselves without moving them.
My wife agrees that it was rude for people to serve themselves and eat without being sure that everyone had access to all the food on the table.
She disagrees with my decision not to ask for food to be passed to me. I maintain that my asking would have amounted to a public pointing-out of the rudeness of others, which I believe Miss Manners allows only when the others are one’s own minor children.
My wife holds that it is always acceptable to ask that food be passed, and if guests or the hostess are embarrassed by the realization that they’ve acted badly, it’s no more than they deserve. We crave your opinion.
GENTLE READER: In making your graciously worded request, you surely recognize another instance in which one is allowed to correct others — in a forum to which they appeal for that purpose. Miss Manners wants to get that on record before she disappoints you by siding with your wife.
Well, siding with your wife only to the extent of agreeing that it is not rude to ask to have food passed, not that the guests are responsible for seeing to it that you get everything you want.
Folks, you are the hosts. You set the table. It is almost as if you have also set up a test to see whether your guests will notice you sitting there, waiting for them to notice that you missed out on the cheese thingies. It is your responsibility, not theirs, to see that everyone is offered what is available.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were invited to the wedding of one of his employees. I used to work in the office and am acquainted with her. My husband considers her one of his better employees. I thought it would be nice to have a bridal shower for her at my home.
She is worried about offending someone because she could not invite everyone from the office. I did not inquire about anyone else from the office possibly planning a shower. Most of the shower guests would be co-workers. How should I address her concerns?
GENTLE READER: By yielding to them. And congratulating your husband on having an employee who is sensitive to the feelings of her colleagues.
Were this a purely social event, you would be justified in inviting only the bride-elect’s friends, whether or not they worked in the office. But you are the boss’s wife, and that makes your shower look like an office event, possibly also showing up whatever the lady’s colleagues may have planned.
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