Dear Miss Manners: My husband of 30 years has a stepmother who thinks she can educate people about manners.
They live an hour from us, and we have been to their home maybe four times. One time was for dinner near Christmas. I had drunk a pop in the car, and had the bottle with me when we entered their house, planning to put it in her recycling. She told me how rude it was to bring a drink into her home. Then she served us the leftovers from her side of the family's celebration from days before.
More than once, she has embarrassed me by calling out my failings in her eyes. One time, she took me as a guest to a charity event. I ate my food with the correct silverware, napkin on my lap — but then in front of her friends, she told me I wasn't supposed to eat the entire broccoli spear, just the stalk. Another time, my father-in-law told me that I hurt her feelings because I would not allow my 3-year-old son to play with an inflatable plastic beer bottle.
But I'm truly angry that my husband will not stand up for me. He would never speak up on my behalf because he does not want to be in opposition to her.
I avoid her now, and I don’t go to his family functions. But I’m stuck on Easter: How do I avoid her “lessons” given to me in front of others?
While she cannot solve your deeper marital problems, Miss Manners can at least tell you how to deal with those public corrections.
Smile blandly after she delivers one of those diatribes, and then turn the smile toward the witnesses. “I’m so fortunate,” you should say, “to have a stepmother-in-law who cares enough to point out my every fault.”
Dear Miss Manners: Could you please share your opinion on an issue where new times may possibly call for new protocols?
When sitting at a shared table with others in a coffee shop, restaurant or classroom, invariably some people plop their used mask on the shared table in front of everyone, often quite close to the food and/or coffee of other guests. Wouldn’t it be more polite to put used masks out of sight in a purse or pocket?
New protocols can often be deduced from old ones. Placing a mask on the table would be like parking a handkerchief there after blowing one’s nose, and should never be done.
Miss Manners realizes that this may be meaningless unless anyone happens to remember what a handkerchief is.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
©2022, by Judith Martin
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