Dear Miss Manners: Could you please advise me on the acceptability of blowing on one's soup to cool it before eating? Is this a practice that can be done only en famille?
If it is ever proper, what is the right way to do it: to blow on a spoonful or on the cup or bowl? How gently or vigorously may one blow? If it is never proper, why not?
If it would be proper but for a family member objecting to it, which family member trumps: the one who thinks it disgusting, or the one who fears scalding her tongue?
No, no, no. You may not blow on your soup, not even if you are six feet apart from the nearest person.
The solution to steaming soup is patience. The most that Miss Manners will allow to speed the process is to permit you to fill your spoon and hold it just above the bowl while appearing to forget about it while you make conversation.
But do you not understand what a colossally bad idea it is to disgust someone with whom you live? If you persist in doing that, even in cases where etiquette rules do not forbid your behavior, it will to lead to something really scorching.
Dear Miss Manners: My live-in health care aide, a kind and cheerful person, has been dining with our family regularly for about a year. She is a former nurse and joins the conversation with gusto when it turns to topics such as the toilet habits of cats (ours, hers and others').
It may seem odd that such subjects arise at all, but this becomes easier to imagine when I add that I am nearly silent, owing to a speech problem stemming from a stroke. So my interruption, apart from being uncouth, is not possible. And one of our irrepressible sons, also a good person who has done much for me, is as likely as the aide is to introduce such topics.
The others at the table (my wife, our other son and our daughter) seem oblivious. I don't want to chastise aide or son, but at times, the discussion becomes animated, enthusiastic and profoundly unappetizing.
I have commented that such matters are better discussed at times other than at meals, but it does not result in any long-term change, and I find mealtimes stressful as a result. Can you suggest a way to encourage discussions of more appetizing topics in a nonaccusatory, but effective, manner?
Good manners always require attention to avoiding giving discomfort to others, never more so than when a person cannot give voice to his concern. Miss Manners would have thought a facial expression of revulsion would be enough to alert the offenders — especially one who is trained to observe signs of impending physical distress.
But if you are not inclined to drama (and even Miss Manners would disallow anything graphic), you should have a private conversation with your wife or daughter asking for a gentle declaring of “No toilet talk” to cut off such conversations.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
2020, by Judith Martin