Q. I entertain often, in a formal way, and am justifiably known for my cooking, beautiful table settings, and so on. I do not think I overlook any detail for my guests' comfort and enjoyment. However, I cannot always say the reverse is true.
The thing that annoys me most is people showing up on my doorstep with bunches of loose flowers that they just hand to me in a soggy mess. I am then expected to leave the front door, when I should be available to greet other guests, go into the pantry, find the right vase, fill it with water, arrange the flowers, find a place for the flowers in the living room -- and you may be sure that I have already arranged the living room perfectly, with flowers where they are needed.
It seems to me that this is very inconsiderate of my time and of the duties I should be performing during this time-consuming period for my other guests.
Isn't it proper to send flowers to a hostess either in the afternoon, before the party, or the next day to express appreciation? And don't you think it's more thoughtful to send arranged flowers in a vase, rather than a box of cut flowers, or worse, a bunch bought on a streetcorner?
a. When Miss Manners entered the advice business, she knew that some day it would break her heart. As dear Nathanael West warned in his "Miss Lonelyhearts," mass exposure to the insoluble suffering of this world can drive one to despair.
And now you've done it. Miss Manners doesn't know if she can bear to go on living in a world where people such as you -- for surely, no problem is unique -- are plagued with the untimely floral offerings of their friends.
What to do? Miss Manners, although she is herself groping for the strength to go on, will offer one last timid, faltering suggestion to help you in your time of need:
Why don't you just keep a filled vase in the pantry on party night and dump whatever you get into it?
Q. What do you say if someone you don't like gives you a compliment?
A. "Thank you." It's better than "You're another," isn't it?
Q. My child bites his nails. I've tried to get him to stop, but that isn't what I'm writing about. He is a sensitive child, and it hurts him very deeply when adults say to him, as they often do, "Oh, I see you're a nail biter" or something like that. Why do people think they can say such personal things to children that they wouldn't dream of saying to grownups?
A. because children are smaller than they are. This is not a legitimate excuse, but it does explain the bullying techniques of many adults. You never hear such people making helpful critiques to 16-year-olds on the high-school wrestling teams.
You might teach your child to explain that his violin teacher (fencing master, typing instructor -- whatever) requires that he keeps his nails short.