Q: Please correct me if I am overly sensitive. My husband has recently been confined to a nearby nursing facility. Now I am receiving invitations addressed only to me--no longer Mr. and Mrs.
This is disturbing. It makes me feel like a widow. Even though people know that he will not attend social functions, I feel such invitations should still be addressed to us both.
A: Miss Manners hates to have to correct someone whose oversensitivity is all too understandable, but the fact is that yes, you are being oversensitive. Please stand corrected.
A little bell should go off in your head when you find yourself feeling hurt as the result of an action that was obviously intended to be only friendly and hospitable.
Miss Manners would be the last to claim that good intentions excuse bad behavior, but this is a case where what constitutes good behavior is not defined, and your friends have probably made a great effort to choose which would offend you less--constantly having to explain that your husband can't go out and perhaps nursing the unhappy idea that you were socially welcome only as a couple, or acknowledging that they know the situation and stating their desire to be with you.
All right--they guessed wrong. But that is not a crime. Depriving yourself of the support and distraction of friendship over a technicality like this, would be.
Q: My parents did their best to impress good table manners upon me, but, being the cheeky devil that I was, I refused to heed their advice. Consequently, while I have pleased my parents in every other respect, my table manners are atrocious--slightly below the level of barbarian. I have just graduated from law school, and I am terrified of going out to eat with associates and clients.
A list of my table etiquette faults could cover several pages, but I have questions about two situations that have occurred more than once.
1. Eating fish or chicken, small bones are found. Do I:
a) chew them until they are ground fine, then swallow them?
b) hold a napkin to my mouth and spit them out?
c) pick the bones out with my fingers?
d) order steak and avoid the problem altogether?
2. Cutting something, it will skitter off my plate and onto the floor. Do I:
a) pick the food off the floor and place it back on my plate?
b) pick the food off the floor and place it somewhere other than my plate, like an ashtray?
c) kick the food under the table leg so that nobody will notice it?
d) ignore it?
A: How often does your food leap off of your plate? Never mind. Miss Manners will endeavor to d) ignore it.
Miss Manners is happy to answer your questions, provided that you understand that we are using a system based entirely on precedent and that argument is therefore useless.
1. It depends on the identity of the victim. Solution a) applies to very small game birds and pickled herring; b) to nothing; c) to fish, and d) depends on who's paying.
2. This depends on the scene of the crime and the likelihood of your being caught. Solution a) is for dining in a private home, where you can contrive to make others believe that the only thing you dropped was your napkin; b) depends on the size of the evidence (a grape could be placed in the ashtray, but a corncob could not); c) applies only to open-air hunt breakfasts, and d) is passable in restaurants, although it would be kinder to call the waiter's attention to the fact that there is a fish on the floor before he discovers this with the sole of his foot.
Copyright (c) 1983, United Feature, Syndicate, Inc.