The husband of one of my close friends is a computer buff. He asks me every time he sees me when I am going to get a word processor. (I am a free-lance writer.)
The first time, I didn't mind; many writers do use word processors, and I was happy to explain why I prefer not to. The problem is that he won't take no for an answer. He asks me the same question over and over.
I lose patience quickly in situations like this, but I managed to be polite for several months. Finally, I told him not to mention the subject again. He seemed offended.
Nevertheless, the next time I saw him, he asked me whether I had decided yet to get a word processor. I know that this man doesn't mean any harm, but if he doesn't lay off, I am going to explode.
Please understand that the issue is not computers; I am not anticomputer. The issue is how to deal with someone who is convinced that what is good for him must be good for me.
Well, when are you going to get one? Miss Manners is a writer, too, you know, and let her tell you.... Just kidding. Calm down. She didn't mean it.
Indeed, there is an epidemic of unsolicited advice in this society. People are constantly pestering one another to do things the right way, which is to say the way the pesterers do them. It is not just buying goods such as computers, but choice of food and exercise, whether or when one should get married or have children, whether mothers should work at home or at offices, and just about every other topic that used to be considered an individual's own business.
The polite way of saying "Mind your own business" is a firm "Don't bother to keep asking -- if I change my mind, I'll let you know."
My wife and I like to barbecue, and we usually have four or five gala outings during the summer. On a couple of occasions, we will just serve basic hot dogs or hamburgers, and not any of our exotic treats.
I want to put out large bottles of ketchup and mustard, but my wife insists that this is highly improper and that we should have available those little packets of condiments.
Miss Manners admires your wife's delicacy and is sorry to have to say it is misplaced. The distinction is between serving foodstuffs in commercial containers and decanting them, as it were, not between one type of wrapping and another.
The proper way to serve ketchup and mustard is in small bowls, and were you having even a very informal meal indoors, Miss Manners would insist upon this. However, a backyard barbecue can be counted either as a dinner party in the garden, for which this rule would also apply, or a picnic, in which case it wouldn't.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.