WHY DO PEOPLE keeping asking Miss Manners what to says, in a social situation, when they are offered drugs? Whatever happened to "Yes, please," and "No, thank you"?
What happened was that the interesting combination of being both widespread and illegal has given the use of drugs an air that tends to cloud the social judgement of users and non-users. The refusal of an offer is therefore often seized upon by the refuser, or by the refused, as an opportunity to belittle a person of different habits and beliefs, a motive that, however gratifying, is in direct conflict with the purpose of civilized society.
An offer to partake of any possibly pleasurable extra at a social event, whether it is a Campari and soda with lime, a third helping of peach pie, or a walk outside to see the stars, is only an offer, not a test and not a command. One accepts or refuses it simply, according to one's wishes, and one accepts a refusal as simply as an acceptance.
When the activity is one that is illegal - in addition to the disadvantages one might find in the above tempations - the person offering it has some special obligations. Everyone invited to a social event where there will be drugs should be notified of this in advance.
A host must never attempt to cut his entertainment expenses of offering any kind of refreshment to some guests and not to others. The cocaine party-within-a-party violates not only the law of the land, but the sacred laws of hospitality.
The guest who chooses to participate has the normal obligations of curbing greediness and knowing his own limits, as well as remembering that stimulants that make him more fascinating to himself do not have that effect on others. He should refrain as much as possible from describing his sensations.
And the one who chooses not to take drugs while others are doing so should try to refrain from supplementing his refusal with an excuse ("I work at the White House") or a boast ("I'm high on life.")
Miss Manners Responds
Q: I should like to bring to your attention a matter that I believe deserves your censure. I refer to couples at the Kennedy Center who are so "close" that they totally obstruct the view of the person who sits behind them. I am far from the enemy of romance. And I have only sympathy for those so enfeebled that they need to lean upon each other, although in that case, one can think of institutions more appropriate to the circumstances. Nor do I frown upon the young woman who steeps on her date's shoulder, I could wish she wouldn't spread long hair over the back of the seat and on my lap, and I sometimes wonder why people spend $12.50 to sleep when they could sleep free elsewhere. Which brings me to the point that I don't like to spend $12.50 to look at the back of someone's head.
A: Romance and getting a clear view of what is going on are opposite experiences, but should not be irreconcilable. Perhaps you could suggests a compromise, such as, "Excuse me, but I wonder if you two would mind holding hands instead."
Q: My half brother showed up in town with his dreadful mother, who used to be married to my father, and some equally awful cousins. How can I introduce my brother, whom I like very much, without seeming to be related to the rest of the crowd, whom I don't?
A: "This is my brother, and some relatives of his, the Boors." The best you can hope for, in this case, is that people think your brother, rather than your father, married badly.