Dear Miss Manners: I am a middle-school-age boy. My mother is a great person, except for one thing: She is always convinced she is right.
“I am so sorry that that happened to you. How should we plot our revenge?”
If she is indeed a great person, she will find the humor in this and realize she has, perhaps, overstated her mistreatment. If not, Miss Manners suggests that you stick to only the first sentence.
Dear Miss Manners: I live in a city in which a wide variety of languages are spoken, though I, to my shame and regret, seem genetically predisposed to monolingualism. Because of our town’s linguistic diversity, I frequently interact with salespeople, restaurant servers, medical professionals and folks in other public-facing occupations for whom English is not their native tongue.
Often, I find it very, very difficult to understand what I’m being told due to the speaker’s accent. I always preface my requests that they repeat themselves with apologies for not knowing their language.
How can I better handle these awkward exchanges to minimize everyone’s discomfort?
While Miss Manners encourages worldliness, she also assures you that you do not have to be embarrassed for not knowing every language spoken in your town. But you also do not wish to discourage anyone else’s attempts at mastering yours.
How about this for a solution? Apologize — not for your lack of linguistic mastery but for your lack of comprehension. Yes, you will both know what is really happening, but it will come across as much more gracious than awkward — or self-flagellating.
Dear Miss Manners: I have two sisters who died too soon — one from cancer and one in a car accident. My remaining sister has said numerous times that she plans to throw herself a huge party when she outlives the young ages they got to.
She is highly competitive, but this is ridiculous. If she brings it up again, is it all right to say something like, “I hope you can find someone to celebrate that with?”
She doesn’t listen to me, and I absolutely would not attend such a tacky event, but I would like a way to give her a clue that we don’t compete with the unfortunate dead.
“I am happy to celebrate your birthday, but not if it’s in connection with the untimely death of our sisters. If that’s your intention, please do not include me. I would rather celebrate you — and mourn them — separately and privately.”
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.
© 2023 Judith Martin
More from Advice
Ask Sahaj: My husband’s family stays for weeks, but he doesn’t consult me
Ask Amy: Daughter divulges sexuality, sets off rumor mill
Miss Manners: Siblings at odds over brother’s ex
Ask Elaine: I’m moving across the world. How do I put myself out there?