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Miss Manners: My bandmate won’t stop criticizing me and others

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: I play in a small community band, and a woman who is seated next to me interrupts rehearsals frequently to correct others. She actually turned and corrected some players DURING A PERFORMANCE.

The players behind us had a miscount and came in a little early; she had made this same error in a prior piece. My husband thought she was flipping the players off, but she merely shook her finger for all the audience to see (and be distracted by).

She also talks quietly to others while dignitaries address the crowd when we play at civic events.

That said, I have been one of her main targets after I was moved next to her to play the first parts. First she informed me that “we” didn't need me on this part. She then proceeded to criticize my playing during the rehearsal, mostly for my dynamics, until I asked her to be quiet.

She is elderly, and has to make notes constantly in a little book of simple things that most of us just remember. If she is suffering from some degenerative disorder, I would be more inclined to overlook her strange disruptive behavior. I try to ignore her and stay away from her, but she goes on the attack and seems compelled to push others.

I am sure the principal player and conductor are well aware of her behavior. I criticized her once, and she became furious. What to do? I just want her to pay attention to her own part and stop disrupting my concentration with her constant blurting out of others’ mistakes.

There is a rule in the theater that only the director — or in this case, conductor — should be giving notes to the performers. This is to preserve decorum and to avoid conflicting and confusing feedback from those who consider themselves unordained experts.

Miss Manners suggests that you reacquaint your leaders with this practice. Then reinforce it with the woman sitting next to you by saying, “Thank you, but I am afraid that I only take directives from the conductor or principal player. Otherwise, as you are undoubtedly aware, it will be chaos.”

And then use whatever hand is not being occupied by your instrument to make a gentle stopping/shushing gesture when she inevitably criticizes you or the others again.

Dear Miss Manners: I am curious about what I believe is a new trend in restaurants: When I order a slice of pie, it now comes with a spoon.

When did this happen? I was raised eating pie and other firm items with a fork. Spoons were for soups and ice cream.

Perhaps pies have gotten soupier? Or the servers have forgotten the accompanying ice cream?

If the latter, Miss Manners would still have them give you both a dessert fork and spoon. But if you require a fork to enjoy your otherwise firm pie, ask for it. We do not want this trend catching on further and getting out of control. Forks with cereal could be next.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin