Dear Miss Manners: Due to a fire at their house, my aunt, uncle and cousin will be staying with us for several months. They have been here two weeks. There is only one serious problem.
While I know that it is always rude to ignore people and that one generally does not read at the table, I was always told that breakfast was the exception. I bring in the morning paper every day, separate the sections and place it at the side of the kitchen table for people to read.
My aunt has informed me that it is rude to read at the table. I don't ignore her or hide behind the paper. I fold it neatly and place it next to my plate. I tried not reading the paper for a few days, but their breakfast sounds consisted of slurping, crunching and discussions of their medications. I tried conversing but received only one-word answers.
I finally returned to my paper. Now, we do have breakfast conversation — of my aunt sotto voce asking my cousin and uncle if they have ever seen anything as rude as someone reading at the table.
Am I wrong here? With three extra people to cook and clean for, it is the only time I get to read the paper. After breakfast they gather up the paper, take it to the family room and remain until suppertime. The paper is read, wrinkled, clipped and circled by afternoon, and unsuitable for reading even if I wanted to.
I wonder, first, if I am incorrect that one may read the paper at the breakfast table. If I am incorrect, I will stop. If not, do you have any suggestions for dealing with my aunt?
As your aunt considers herself an authority on etiquette, what does she have to say about houseguests who criticize and insult their hostess? And why would you even take such pronouncements seriously?
Yes, newspapers are read at family breakfasts. Miss Manners lives in dread of the time when there may be no such artifacts and she will be left staring at her eggcup and perhaps at people who are staring at their devices.
You do not, of course, want to say to your relatives, “Look: This is my house, and I took you in, but you have no business sabotaging my routine.” The polite way to put it is, “I’m sorry that you’re not happy with the way I do things, but I hope you’ll be able to bring yourself to put up with me until you are able to make other arrangements.”
Dear Miss Manners: I see people giving congratulatory toasts to people — wedding couples, winning contestants, etc. — and I always see the toastees joining in by drinking along with the toasters. Is this proper, to drink to themselves? Doesn't seem correct to me.
It isn’t. But either raising their glasses when everyone else does is irresistible, or they don’t know how to assume the modest smiling look that such a gesture requires. Miss Manners promises that they can drink as soon as the others put their glasses down. They can even follow the toast by saying, “And to all our dear friends,” which would require everyone else to restrain themselves.