Q. At the big 50th-birthday surprise party I gave recently for my husband, one guest unkowingly sat in front of a stationary video camera. She was caught on tape turning toward her companion, holding her hand over her mouth and complaining about how she "hated" the bread. This was all done while she wolfed the food down.
It was really a very funny scene. Many of the invited guests have now seen the tape and are asking me how I plan to handle the situation, as the critical guest is supposed to be a "friend" of mine.
A. There is no question that your guest violated a rule of etiquette. One does not break bread (or wolf it) at someone's house and then speak ill of the host.
But serious as this breach is, it is as nothing compared with the act of spying electronically on a guest and using the evidence to hold her up to ridicule to others.
Miss Manners understands that you intended nothing more than to capture a souvenir of the event and were understandably chagrined to get more than you bargained for. Her sympathy vanished when you began to get even by showing the film around.
The entire idea of videotaping events is one that somewhat disturbs Miss Manners. It seems to her that the business of doing so often becomes more important than the event itself, so that what you end up with is a memory of a photo session. However, she knows that others truly believe they are creating the means to look happily back on the major occasions of their lives. So she will limit herself to demanding that there be some basic standards of behavior.
First, you must warn people they are being recorded. Then you must provide a means by which guests who do not care to be filmed may nevertheless have space and freedom in which to enjoy the party. Yes, even if that means a private corner in which to make rude remarks.
In this particular case, Miss Manners asks you to consider that the two violations of etiquette have canceled each other out. Tell the offender that she was recorded -- you have to, because everybody else now knows it -- and apologize for catching her, with a joke about eavesdroppers getting what they deserve. Miss Manners hopes that she will have the grace to apologize for her behavior, that you will accept this and that you will then share an embarrassed laugh that will allow you to resume your friendship.