Q. I went to a bar last night with a group of friends who are "social drinkers." (I don't drink.) Well, these social drinkers made complete fools of themselves last night. My question is, is it proper for me to remind them of their behavior (and subsequently) to laugh uproariously?
A. No and yes. That is, have a good laugh, but do not share it with them. They had enough fun last night, and now it's your turn. It is, moreover, a bad precedent to tell people that they have made fools of themselves. Once that kind of honest criticism gets loose in the world, it is very difficult to control.
Q. Is it proper to invite one's family and close friends to the hospital, pre-operation, of course, in order to make one's bequest? Should I be feeling incorrect?
A. The deathbed family gathering is a social event of such drama and excitement that Miss Manners cannot understand why it is so seldom staged in modern times. Perhaps potential hosts don't feel up to it, or perhaps they think of it too late. Miss Manners commends your effort to keep a vital custom alive.
Here are some guidelines:
1. Be sure to invite friends and relatives who are incompatible, if not sworn enemies. This is not time to consider who will be comfortable with whom. The thought of life's fragility, as demonstrated by you, should keep them from killing one another, and it should give you a sense of peace to watch them all trying to control their jealousy and greed.
2. It is not necessary, in fact it is unseemly, for you to provide any refreshment for your guests. You're feeding them hope, which is what people live on.
3. Keep your bequests vague. "I want to give you my most ancient and treasured possession" is better than "I'm leaving you my baseball card collection." You don't want your actual death to be an anticlimax.
4. Omit none of your guests from your speech. It is an ordinary social convention that no person should be left out, and it continues to apply in the deathbed scene. It is, after all, unforgivable to ask someone to make a special trip in order to be snubbed. In the spirit of vagueness described in (3), you may say, instead, "You, Cousin Atherton, may be assured that I have rememberd everything you have done for me since we were children."
5. It is not necessary, after this type of social event, for the host to make a quick exit. You may be happy to hear that it is perfectly correct for you to recover from the operation and, when you have regained your strength, to stage the entire event again, provided you vary the details to keep everyone alert.
Q. Will you please tell me the proper way to eat cherry tomatoes (large and small ones)? I like them very much, but don't eat them when eating out for fear of being embarrassed.
A. The cherry tomato is a wonderful invention, producing, as it does, a satisfactory explosive squish when bitten. This sensation must, however, be confined to the inside of the mouth, not shared with one's friends or one's tie or blouse. Small tomatoes should be chosen for one-bite consumption in a closed mouth. Large ones may be treated as ordinary tomatoes and sliced, which is not as much fun. Medium-sized ones are neither here nor there.