Miss Manners: Support your country by not being rude

March 18

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an American student doing my PhD in Great Britain and working in a bookstore part-time. Over the last year, I have been insulted several times at work because of my nationality and American foreign policy.

My boss says I am allowed to say what I wish to those who offend me with these small-minded remarks, but I can’t think of a response that will be polite and dignified. Can you suggest anything?

GENTLE READER: When your British boss suggested you say “what you wish,” Miss Manners fears he did not have in mind something polite and dignified. She is grateful that you do.

This is not a discussion that once begun, ends well. Even if you disagree with the American policy in question, it would be disloyal to endorse anti-American sentiment. Yet if you disagree with the customer, you will be called cheeky or rude, probably with an additional anti-American sneer. The best response is, “Can I help you find something?” accompanied by a chilly smile.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother is 70 and plus-size, and the dress that she bought for my wedding is very elegant yet semi-plain. My fiance’s mother is driving me nuts because she would like to wear a ballgown that is bigger than my dress and has a large amount of jewels and gems on the dress.

I believe that she should look elegant and subdued to match my mother’s dress, but she feels she will look matronly. She wants to dress very fancy, but I believe that she is trying to purposely be the center of attention, therefore outshining my mother and also trying to pull attention off of me and onto her.

I know she wants to look good and she does look amazing for her age (51), but I believe this is not the appropriate place. I have talked to her several times and told her that I want her to look elegant and not brothel-esque. I told her no strapless and nothing with too much beading or sequins because she will make my mom look underdressed, and it will seem like the dress is over the top, and she keeps showing me the exact opposite.

Am I being a bridezilla or do I have any merit? How should I approach the situation?

GENTLE READER: By turning around. Instead of approaching, you should be backing off. As you are understandably worried about going over the bend, Miss Manners must tell you the danger signals.

One is believing that you are in total charge of costuming. You can set the standard of formality for your guests and hope for the best; you can state your wishes to the bridesmaids and hope that they consent. You may even be able to dictate to the bridegroom. But to attempt doing so to his mother is as impertinent as it is useless. She is an adult and will use her own judgment, good or bad.

An even worse sign is worrying that someone else will outshine you. There is unlikely to be an occasion in your life when you can be as sure of being the center of attention as at your wedding.

But is that really what will be foremost on your mind when you are being married?

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

2014, by Judith Martin

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