Miss Manners: Stick to the chair when storing your purse

January 25, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Where should a lady place her evening purse during dinner?

GENTLE READER: On her lap, where it will slip to the floor. This obliges her dinner partner, presuming he is a gentleman, to crawl around under the table in a most undignified but amusing manner, to retrieve all the pretty little things that will have spilled out of her purse on the trip downward.

If you do not care to witness this, or feel that a dinner partner might not be game, Miss Manners suggests tucking the purse behind you on your chair.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My good friend has just moved to a continuous-care community for seniors. She is enjoying her spacious two-bedroom apartment and the help the staff gives her, from moving boxes to installing her TV. The food is great, and she is glad to be free of her high-maintenance old home.

One problem: Residents are always complaining. The weather is bad; the food is bad; their arthritis is kicking up. How can she graciously redirect these people to more upbeat conversation?

GENTLE READER: By being her cheerful self and spreading her attitude around. Miss Manners warns that it is not going to be easy in what sounds like sourpuss land, but moods are contagious, and unless your friend keeps saying that she loves the rain, dinner was great and she hopes their health problems will improve, she is in danger of catching their gloom.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When we were at a very nice restaurant, one of the guests constantly was referring to her phone, to look up answers to questions, to show photos.

I asked her a question and she was looking at her phone, so I waited for her to look up at me. When she did, I explained that I did not know how to address someone looking elsewhere. She said she could multitask.

In this age of rude phoners, could we have some advice on the etiquette? I personally think at dinner or where there are live discussions, the phones should be turned off. My husband said I was rude to wait for her to look up at me before I conversed with her.

GENTLE READER: That’s a nasty term — “multitask.” At best, it means, “I’ll give you some of my attention, but don’t expect it all.” It is more likely to mean, “Well, I have to do something to stave off boredom when I’m with you.”

Contrary to your husband’s idea of rudeness, Miss Manners would consider it rude to address someone who is otherwise occupied — and a waste of time to go out to dinner with such a person. Think of all the tasks you could be accomplishing instead.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the standard protocol for sending a wedding gift thank-you card? How many months?

GENTLE READER: It is not measured in months. It is measured in minutes. Twenty of them. Miss Manners is looking at her watch.

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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