PLEASE COME over right away. I need someone to talk to.I'm feeling terribly depressed." The gentleman who had received this gracious and enticing invitation looked decidedly low himself, as he plaintively asked Miss Manners, "Do I have to?"
He explained that the depressed person was not an especially intimate friend. He pleaded that he would be an unsympathetic listener, as he had already been a reluctant confidant in the activities that predictably resulted in the depression. He wept that he didn't feel like listening to someone else whine.
Nevertheless, he was afraid that responding to such an invitation was some kind of compelling human duty.
"That call, 'I'm depressed!' is issued as if it is some kind of civic emergency," he said. "You feel like a rat if you don't rush at the alarm to do what you can."
Another gentleman of Miss Manners' acquaintance made a similar inquiry about the emotional problems of his employes, which they felt compelled to explain to him.
"I consider myself a reasonable boss," he said. "I know that people might have down cycles in their work, and I try to allow for that. I also think I'm pretty fair about giving people time off for personal problems, so long as they're in good faith about the job and don't abuse it. But do I really have to listen to all the details about those dreadful personal reasons? Frankly, it just makes me angry when they try to enlist my sympathies about how they feel bad because of what their lovers did to them. I'd rather they let me believe they were going to their grandmother's funeral."
Miss Manners hereby excuses and, indeed, applauds, those who refuse to receive confidances from any except people with whom they have close ties of blood or affection. A person who felt obliged to answer every announcement of depression with his anxious assistance wouldn't have time or spirit enough left to tie his own shoelaces.
A great deal of the trouble lies in the pseudo-dignity of that word, "depression." Depression, in Miss Manners' vocabulary, refers to the state of mind brought on by having lost all one's money on Wall Street, or the catastrophic equivalent. It should not be used to refer to a bad mood.
If you recognize a bad mood properly, you will realize that the chief thing to be done about it is to avoid inflicting it on others. One keeps away from strangers, and warns intimates, "Don't mess with me, I'm in a foul mood," a statement they should take seriously.
However, when people give this the name of depression, they believe that they are the victims of emotional illness, and therefore are entitled to huge amounts of attention and sympathy.
This is a mistake. Physically ill people learn, often the hard way, not to expect unlimited interest and sympathy from anyone except those closest to them. It is a notorious breach of manners to bore acquaintances with the story of your operation, and the same should be true about the story of your divorce.
Would you call around town to find someone to come and be with you "quick, because I need someone - I have such a tummy ache"?
MISS MANNERS RESPONDS
Q: Where is the correct place to pin a name tag?We use them at our club parties, and I hope you don't disapprove of this practice, because it's very useful. But it looks odd to see everyone bending over, reading one another's bosoms.
A: Miss Manners only disapproves of name tags at strictly social functions, because she believes it makes things too easy and thus takes away the fun. When they are used, they should be placed at collar level, for the reason you mention, and they should be on the right hand side of the wearer. This makes it possible for people to sneak a quick look halfway between the handshakes and the face, and then to pretend to have remembered the other person's name.
Q: I can't always think of toasts to make when I'm having drinks with friends. Most of my friends think of something to say each time we raise a fresh glass, but I feel foolish just saying, "Here's to you," or, "Your health," all the time. And I can't think of funny or complimentary remarks, the way they do. Can you suggest some that would fit any occasion? I like to keep up with my friends.
A: You are making a terrible mistake. Your friends have a dangerous toasting habit, and you must make an effort to quit before you find it impossible to control yourself from making silly remarks every time you take a drink. Miss Manners urges you to stop while you still can.
Q: What is your position with respect to the priopriety of using grocery shopping lists discarded by others? Not long ago, I found myself at the supermarket, sans list. No great loss, I thought; it wasn't that imaginative. Then I spotted the enclosed in an empty shopping cart. As you can see, Miss Manners, this list is crammed with gastronomic delights. I hesitated, however, to shop for these enticing items. I feared the author, obviously a person of considerable culinary talent, might observe my action and create a scene. I wonder, Miss Manners, if the "losers weepers" rule applies in this case.
Enclosure: 1 pkg. piecrust mix, 1 cup sugar, oregano, Italian seasoning, 2 1/2 lb. apples, salad dssg, Coke, 3 steaks, A-1 sauce, prime choice, peas, potatoes, Coke, sour cream, rolls.
A: Miss Manners has gotten so engrossed in imagining the life of the listmaker, that she has forgotten all about you and your ethical problem, whatever it was. Obviously the dinner menu will be steak, peas, potatoes with sour cream, salad, rolls and apple pie. This is a simple but delicious meal, although Miss Manners would prefer to have the sauce and salad dressing made at home rather than bought bottled. Perhaps the oregano is intended to supplement the Italian dressing. Why aren't the salad ingredients being bought fresh? When Miss Manners sees the amount of sugar listed as "1 cup," which is not the way one thinks of buying sugar, she fears that the listmaker is growing absent-minded and may overcook the steak. And why is Coke on the list twice? Miss Manners would much prefer a hearty burgundy with that meal. If you should see a frantic lady or gentleman in your market, searching the baskets for a list, would you mind passing that information on? CAPTION: Illustration, no caption