ONE OF MISS Manners' least favorite forms of rudeness is that of accusing others of rudeness.
You may think this is exactly what Miss Manners herself does, every chance she gets. That is correct. This is one reason why others need not do it. Another reason is that other people do it rudely, to their victims' faces, and Miss Manners does not. When Miss Manners does not. When Miss Manners observes people behaving rudely, she never steps in and corrects them. She behaves politely to them, and then goes home and snickers afterward. That is what the well-bred person always does.
The only way to enjoy the fun of catching people behaving disgustingly is to have children. One has to keep having them, however, because it is in correct to correct grown people, even if you have grown them yourself. This is the mistake that many people when they give helpful criticism to their children-in-law.
However, even strangers have taken to commenting aloud on the behavior of others. You will understand how serious things have gotten when you hear that Miss Manners herself was the object of such a comment. Miss Manners was walking through a crowded theater lobby with a small child in tow, when a gentleman not of her acquaintance, assuming that Miss Manners was trying to cut into line, said cuttingly, "Would you like to get in ahead of me?"
Obviously, Miss Manners had not been attempting to do anything unmannerly. That would be impossible by definition. The point is that so many people are so ready to assume that their fellow creatures are having badly.
A gentleman of Miss Manners' acquaintance calls this anticipation of rudeness "insult collecting." Some people have made this a way of life, taking every opportunity to assume they have been insulted, and occasionally managing it without an opportunity.
Miss Manners prefers to believe that everyone means well, and that if they seem to be doing something wrong, it is probably not from intent but from forgetfulness, busyness, absence of mind or illness. Miss Manners may be mistaken in this now and again, but she leads a happier life for believing it.
Even if it be proven that the mistakes of others are from gross ignorance or from maliciousness, it is not the place of anyone except God, their mothers, and Miss Manners to bring this to their attention. As dear Erasmus said, "It is part of the highest civility if, while never erring yourself, you ignore the errors of others."
Miss Manners Responds
Q: Am I being silly and old-fashioned to be upset when my husband's married female colleagues invites him and me to her and her husband's home for dinner without writing or telephoning me? Likewise would the same rule of etiquette apply regarding an unmarried female secretary who invites my husband and me to her party without personally writing phoning me?
A: Yes, you are being either silly or old-fashioned, but Miss Manners can't tell which from your letter. If it is the fact that the invitations comes from a female that upsets up, you are being silly and should cut it out. If it is the fact that the invitation should be made to the female in the family, you are being old-fashioned, and while Miss Manners is always happy to see lack of progress, it is probably a losing battle.
Q: At a recent dinner I was horrified to see a woman pick up a stalk of asparagus from her plate and eat if from her hand. Why would anyone do such a thing? Didn't she know any better?
A: Please calm down. You must have seen either Miss Manners herself or Miss Lillian Gish, who seem to be the only two people left in the world who know that asparagus is properly a finger food. The Misses Manners and Gish once ate luncheon together, and it looked like a sword swallowers' convention. Of course, the asparagus itself knows it is a finger food. That is why it tries to roll over and hide in the meat's sauce when anyone tries to guillotine it with the side of a fork.
Q: I am wondering what is the proper way to dress days for a short stay at the hospital. I am going for overnight only, and do not wish to travel with a bag for nightie and bathrobe, mainly because I do not own either. I am accustomed to bathing and wearing jeans until bedtime. I do not wish to appear freakish but like to continue along in my usual way, which is comfortable.
A: If you are going to the hospital because you do not feel well, or because you have after you arrive there, you should certainly do everything you can to make yourself comfortable. The hospital, naturally, has the opposite goal and may even attempt to put you into a hospital gown, a freakish garment designed to reduce patients to a state of physical and psychological discomfort so that they will feel better. Who will win depends on how strong your health will be at the time.