Q. I would like to comment on a form of rudeness, not to me personally, but to all Americans, if they only realized it. This is the habit that so many people have to talking freely about our public figures.
Specifically, at the moment, I am talking about the things one hears about Mrs. Ronald Reagan. I hear people saying that she's a cold person, or she spends too much money on clothes, things like that.
My point is that not only does it seem disrespectful, but that these people really know nothing about her real personal life, in spite of all the junk written about her. She strikes me as a firm, dignified, ladylike woman, who really cares about her husband, and I think it's very rude for people to keep making personal remarks about her. Don't you?
A. Actually, these are not personal remarks at all. It is traditionally said about each president's wife that she is a zombie with no thoughts of her own and slavishly subservient to her husband, and that she is the only brains in the family and has controlled his rise to satisfy her own ambition; that she is laughably dowdy, and she is extravagantly and heartlessly chic.
As these remarks do not vary with political party or individual, they should not be taken personally. Besides, if you were to stop the God-given American right of criticizing the personal attributes of public figures, you would have to stop characterizing someone you admittedly don't know as warm and devoted.
Q. Recently I was invited to the home of a good friend of mine for dinner. The food was delicious, the table setting elegant, but the guest list consisted of three couples and me. I am a single woman, never married, and have broken up with my most recent romantic entanglement only a few weeks ago.
Eating dinner with all those happy faces sitting next to their loved ones affected me rather badly, but being a mannerly sort of person myself, I waited until I got home before becoming horribly depressed.
The questions arising from this situation are twofold: Namely, did she act properly in inviting me at all when she knew the situation, even though we are good friends; and how do I explain to her that although I value her company and appreciate the invitation, I'd rather not attend under such circumstances.
I don't necessarily want her to fix me up with some dinner partner, but the inclusion of at least one other single person, whether male or female, in the party would have avoided my discomfort. Would I be wrong to bring it up to her as a confidence, or what?
A. How can you call this woman a good friend, when she was so dreadfully insensitive as to invite you to an elegant dinner party with delicious food and cheerful people?
Why didn't she fill her house with other depressed and lonely souls, so that you could find yourself a new liaison, or, at the least, commiserate over the dinner table with others who feel as sad as yourself?
In Miss Manners' opinion, your friend's mistake is believing that you valued her friendship. (She should also not have seated couples adjacently at the dinner table, but that is a technicality that pales before your more glaring problem.)
Your mistake is in believing that the way to romance lies in pursuing it single-mindedly. Ironically, it is the people who most enjoy a variety of social relationships whom others are always wanting to introduce to their eligible friends and relatives. Miss Manners is at least glad that you had the discipline to conceal your depression at the dinner party. There is nothing quite so unattractive as a morose whiner.
Happy couples and fascinating single people tend to react the same way to such behavior.