Q. Please, tell me the proper behavior for host, hostess and guest when one or the other suffers a heart attack, stroke or has a miscarriage during a party. I assume the correct thing would depend to some extent on the size of a gathering. Should houseguests who are not relatives or close friends leave (or be thrown out)? Should guests at a large barbecue stay and eat? On what grounds can one cancel a party at the last minute? I would rather not go to someone's house if their kid has the flu.
A. Flu, heart attacks and miscarriage all are acceptable reasons for canceling large parties. If they should occur when such a party is already underway, you are right in assuming that the party is over.
One small point of etiquette that you neglected to inquire about is how to treat the victim of sudden disaster. Allow Miss Manners to suggest that it is quite proper to take such a person to the nearest hospital, however much this may dampen the festive spirits of the other guests. These people may then, if they wish, hang around under the guise of "waiting to hear how she is," and may quietly consume the remaining barbecued ox while doing so.
If, however, there is a medical reason for not moving the ill guest, healthy guests are expected to remove themselves from the immediate scene unless they can be of some genuine practical assistance. House guests need not leave the premises entirely unless their rooms are needed.
What you think the size of the gathering has to do with anything, Miss Manners cannot imagine. It is as improper for seven carefully chosen dinner guests in formal clothes to watch the eighth one having a miscarriage as it is for a cocktail party consisting of a year's worth of social obligations.
Q. I work in a small department. I am, in fact, planning to leave the job in a few months. My boss and my co-workers have no knowledge of my plans as of yet. I have not communicated much to them recently, because I realize that when I try to talk to them, they either can barely mask their boredom or proceed to tell me that I am young and therefore ignorant of the ways of the working world. This, of course, does not inspire my confidence in or loyalty to them.
Now, my problem: When it does become time to break my news, I know that they are going to feel betrayed and hurt because I have not confided in them all along or asked for their guidance and counsel. How do I manage to verbally defend myself against the inevitable onslaught of their attempts to make me feel guilty for keeping my own counsel without breaking the rules of civility?
A. Miss Manners cannot understand why you would want to leave a job where everybody is trying so hard to make you feel incompetent, ignorant, sneaky and guilty. However, you do not need to tell her the reason, and you need not tell one to these people, either. The reason for not announcing a new job until it is time to give proper notice of leaving the old one is always that it had not yet become "definite."