Miss Manners: You can safely call out those who whisper your name

March 27, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When people are whispering in hearing distance and you hear your name mentioned, is it acceptable to ask what it is they are talking about?

GENTLE READER: You really should not acknowledge eavesdropping, even on people who are rudely whispering in your presence. But Miss Manners would think it reasonable for you to inquire, “Did you call me? I heard my name.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At my friend’s birthday party sleepover, a few of her other close friends were also invited, which is good because we are all good friends.

We were talking about the boys we like, and I told my friends, thinking they would keep my secret. I like a boy who goes to the school they go to, which I used to attend.

I am going back next year from the current school I attend. One of my friends who was at the party told me that one of the girls told this boy that I like him and that he doesn’t like me.

I am so sad, and I don’t know how to go about asking my friend about this.

GENTLE READER: Don’t. Not unless you want her to run back to the gentleman in question and say, “She’s all upset that I told you.”

But don’t be upset. All you have to do, when you are back in that school, is to refrain from showing any special interest in him. It is embarrassing enough to a teenage boy to be told by a third party that someone “likes” him — and you may be sure embarrassment colored his response. But it is positively galling to find that it doesn’t seem to be true.

This leaves him wondering: Did she get over me that easily? Was she disillusioned when she saw me up close at school? Is it possible that the whole thing was a hoax and all the girls are laughing at me?”

With all that churning in his mind, you may be sure he is thinking of you. What will come of that, Miss Manners cannot say.

But what should come of the experience for you is the knowledge that if you can’t keep your own secrets, you cannot expect others to keep them, either. And anything said in a group might as well be put on the Internet. You are lucky it wasn’t.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The other night my husband and I invited another couple out for dinner. When the waitress came to take our order, my husband looked to the wife of the other couple to order first.

I say he should have looked to me, his wife, to order first, as I am the older and I am his wife. He says because we invited them, we defer to them.

I’ve never heard of that. I think he should defer to me, his wife! We are still fighting about this.

GENTLE READER: And is this increasing his desire to do honor to you?

If it did, Miss Manners fears that it would only incite you to greater rage. That is because the best thing he could do for you would be to protect you from being rude. Polite people defer to their guests, so female guests take precedence over the hostess.

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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