Dear Miss Manners:
My wife greets many male houseguests and friends with kisses on their lips and I am uncomfortable with this. I don't greet our female guests and friends that way.
I have noticed that some of my friends' wives seem uncomfortable with her doing this. I have also noticed some of the males looking at me after this happens to see my reaction to her doing this. What type of greetings are acceptable, and how can I approach this with her without making a big issue of it?
The sure way to make this a big issue is to allow any question of jealousy -- yours or your friends' wives' -- to enter the discussion. Miss Manners assures you that you need a way to make this habit sound less exciting to your wife than she thinks, not more.
If you could say, "People are so germ-conscious today that it's ridiculous -- I see some of our friends pulling away from your mouth, and even quietly wiping it off afterwards," that would kill the glamour she probably confers on her behavior. For good measure, Miss Manners suggests adding, "Yet I know they're fond of you, and I'm sure they think you're attractive. I guess maybe they're just not happy being kissed like that."
Dear Miss Manners:
How do I politely decline invitations from neighbors and/or friends to have a holiday meal with them? Although at work and with friends, I am outgoing and friendly, I relish my time at home alone. My family lives a great distance away, and there are many times that I spend holidays alone.
I cannot tell neighbors I have previous plans, as they will see that I am at home. I truly do not want to break into my alone time when I can catch up on my reading or nap, or just enjoy the fact that I don't have to be at work.
I realize that the invitations are well-meant and the hosts are feeling sorry for me that I don't have family around. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I don't want to give up my holiday. Please bear in mind that I am extremely Southern. I live in the South and good manners are something that we take in with mother's milk. I've just never learned a polite way to say, "Please leave me alone and let me do what I want."
Sure you did. Every polite Southerner knows how to say, "Oh, you're so kind to invite me, thank you so much, I just wish I could, you give the best dinners, I'm heartbroken I can't come, I just wish you the best possible Thanksgiving ever, I know yours will be lovely, I'll be thinking of you every minute, and I know that one thing I'll be saying thanks for is for having such wonderful friends . . . " and so on, without stopping for breath. Your would-be hosts will soon be exhausted, and the last thing they will want to do is to encourage you to continue by asking you what you are doing.
Besides, you do have plans. Plans needn't involve going out. If you really think that your neighbors might get up from their holiday table for a peek to see whether you are at home, Miss Manners suggests that your plans include drawing the curtains.
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) 2005, Judith Martin