Miss Manners: Rude remarks from relatives must not be returned in kind

April 17, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a young and healthy 16-year-old. Over the last few months my family and I attended a lot of family events that involved seeing long-distance relatives. My sister and I found ourselves in an awkward position when greeting relatives who would say how skinny we are. I know that it is intended to be a compliment, but how does one respond to something like that?

I feel like saying “thank you” would have been agreeing with them, which seems rude. How should I have responded to this in a ladylike manner?

GENTLE READER: Why grown-ups think it is acceptable to assess young people’s growth when they would be horrified if the young made such remarks to them, Miss Manners cannot imagine. Nevertheless, you do have to handle this graciously and not comment on their figures in return. You could say, “Well, yes, we’re active teenagers.” Do not — repeat, not — add “duh.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Several years ago I inherited my mother’s extensive collection of silk scarves. These are very special to me, as I remember her wearing them, and even gave her several, as reminders of various art and museum collections we both enjoyed.

While I never remember noticing this when my mother wore these scarves, I find that whenever I wear them, the white tag listing the laundry instructions, origins or composition of the scarf inevitably shows no matter how I tie the scarf. Is this acceptable, or should I cut off these tags (perhaps saving them with a description of the scarf so I always have the pertinent information)?

GENTLE READER: Do you know anyone who was arrested for cutting off a mattress tag that said “Do not remove under penalty of law”?

Probably not, because the warning, which Miss Manners understands has now been amended, was intended for vendors, not buyers, legions of whom were unnecessarily intimidated. She mentions it only to reassure you that you may, in good conscience, rid yourself of the nuisance of trying to hide those tags in the folds by cutting them off.

That these scarves remind you of occasions with your mother is charming. It doesn’t sound as if you need additional prompting from the tag, and the laundry instructions on every silk scarf Miss Manners has ever seen are “Dry clean only.” But a little scrapbook of the tags with your notes would increase the charm for whoever inherits these scarves next.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It was my boyfriend’s birthday dinner. I was running late, so I served a chicken bake, which is easy to prepare, 25 minutes in the oven. He took a couple bites and, as all of us sat there eating, he said he didn’t like it.

I was embarrassed, to say the least. If it were just he and I at the table, I wouldn’t have had my feelings hurt as much. Am I wrong to think a person is rude to voice an opinion as he did?

GENTLE READER: Yes, he was rude. If you refrained from dumping the chicken bake on his head, Miss Manners declares you a model of politeness.

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

2012, by Judith Martin

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