Dear Miss Manners:
On several occasions, my husband has accused me of being rude because I am easily distracted by our children and not paying attention to his talk about work.
Although I would like to give him my undivided attention, he talks to me about his work using acronyms and engineering details knowing that I have no idea about what he is speaking. It is so boring and when our children interrupt to talk to me, it is natural to answer since I cannot follow what he is talking about anyway.
Do manners require that I must listen uninterrupted for, say, 15 minutes of boring talk when the person knows I cannot possibly understand? I love my husband, but wish he could talk about something interesting to both of us. He is hurt that I do not listen and I think he is rude for not considering that his talk is foreign to me.
You believe that your husband is rude for not realizing what a bore he is? For wanting to talk to you about his life's work? For expecting you to spare 15 minutes for him? Oh, and for not understanding that the children should feel free to interrupt him?
Have some free etiquette advice. Miss Manners assures you that it is more of a bargain than you will get from a divorce lawyer.
There is no more effective way to belittle and insult someone than to indicate that he bores you. We all encounter bores in life, but polite people find that when they cannot deter or avoid them, enduring a bit of boredom is better than inflicting humiliation.
And you are talking about your husband. Has it not occurred to you that you have an obligation to him -- not only to refrain from hurting him, but for taking an interest in him? If you do not understand the language of his profession, get him to teach it to you. If, for the sake of common courtesy, you fake an interest until you begin to understand, real interest is likely to follow.
Meanwhile, Miss Manners would like to suggest gently that you improve your own domestic job performance. You need to work on your scheduling so that you have uninterrupted time to talk to your husband without neglecting the children, and you need to teach them respect for their father as well as the manners not to barge in on a conversation.
Depending on their ages, you might suggest that your husband explain his work to them as well. He is likely then to keep it simple. And if you find that the children and he are having an interesting time with this, Miss Manners begs you to remember not to interrupt them.
Dear Miss Manners:
What is the proper way to offer a teacup or mug filled with a hot beverage to a guest? It seems rude to hold the cup by the handle and force the guest to grab the hot cup itself, but I fear that trying to offer the guest the handle with my own hands on the hot cup could result in an embarrassing spill.
It's called a saucer.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin