Q. Now don't get me wrong -- I am not a boor. I know perfectly well to keep my elbows off the table, I do not take off my shoes at a formal gatherings, and I have never asked for a doggie bag at the Watergate. I seem to be suffering, however, from a case of severe social jealousy.
The problem is that my best friend is a wellborn, upper-class, blue-blooded gentlewoman. I am not talking about the kind of ostentatious display of manners of the nouveau riche ; my friend has the real thing -- authentic social eclat .
What it boils down to is this: She has Taste. Her makeup is flawlessly done with Princess Marcella Borghese; I slapp a little Vaseline Intensive Care onto my face each morning and consider myself ready for the day. She turns heads when she wafts into a room; I raise eyebrows in the same room because I trip over furniture. She lifts her Coquilles St. Jacques gracefully to her lips without spilling a drop; it is all I can do to get my coffee from table to mouth without pouring it on my lap.
Several weeks ago, we were in a restaurant and the waiter was so overcome by her that he spent three-quarters of an hour describing to my friend everything on the menu and left with her order, only to return a few minutes later to ask if, by any chance, did I, also, want anything to eat.
My friend has background, sophistication, edification. She can name any piece of music within the first two bars: "Why, it's Bruch's "Swedish Dances for Piano with Four Hands, Opus 63," she says casually in response to hearing a few notes on the radio. My singular musical achievement was learning "Fur Elise" by heart in school. I played it on the piano over and over, regaling joyfully in my cultivation, until my father, desperate for quiet, pleaded with me to stop.
Miss Manners, what I need to know is this: Can a friendship between an aristocrat and a bourgeoise possibly survive? Is there common ground somewhere between those who have presence and those who just take up space?
A. Miss Manners urges you to continue this friendship, for the sake of common humanity. You are probably the only friend this poor lady has.
Believe Miss Manners, it is not easy to be perfect these days. It is quite out of fashion, and attracts the admiration of no one except garrulous waiters. And yet, there are those of us who cannot help it, and we, too, have souls and crave affection from those more fortunate than ourselves.
It was not always thus. Until recent years, people strove for perfection, and the person who achieved it was universally admired and imitated. Once it might have been charitable for a person such as your friend to overlook the awkwardnesses and anxieties of someone like yourself, and value you for your best qualities.
Now, however, it is our faults for which we are loved. Imperfect table manners are considered a sign of subscribing to the principles of democracy; ignorance of high culture to be an indication of spirituality; and blurting, ignorance of high culture to be an indication of spirituality; and blurting, rough speech to be a clue to perfect honesty.
Miss Manners hopes you will be grateful for what you have, and tolerant of the handicaps of your friend.