I struggle with how to respond. I want to model good manners for my kids, but at the same time shut down the conversation and go about my day.
Unfortunately, children will eventually need to know how to respond to a public insult, so Miss Manners agrees that now is a good time to begin the lesson.
Answer with a quizzical look, as if you did not understand what was said. After all, it is incomprehensible that a stranger just suggested you would not voluntarily spend time with your own children.
Forcing them to repeat themselves should prompt them to recognize their own inanity, if not their rudeness.
Answer the repetition by saying that there is nothing you would rather do than to be with your children. The stranger may think you are sanctimonious, but might also realize what these jibes implied.
Dear Miss Manners: My husband and a small group of his co-workers go on regular business trips to a remote office of their company. They habitually stay in the same hotel and get breakfast together at the hotel restaurant. During breakfast, his co-workers typically spend most of the time absorbed in their smartphones rather than conversing with one another.
We're at a loss about the polite way to handle this. Should he sit there silently, hoping someone takes pity on him and talks to him? Should he interrupt their phone activities to try to start a conversation? Should he give up and use his smartphone as well? For several reasons, it would be awkward and difficult for him to skip this breakfast altogether.
This seems to Miss Manners to be a waste of everyone’s time — and conducive neither to getting work done nor to socializing. Perhaps your husband could mention that.
“Everyone seems so busy at breakfast. Would it be easier to skip it and use it as a time to catch up on work individually? Or would anyone like to do as I do and socialize a little bit before we start our day?”
Dear Miss Manners: I have two children getting married within three months. Can I wear the same mother-of-the-bride dress for both weddings?
The reason for alternating one’s wardrobe is to give some variety to one’s guests and companions. As the invitation list for the two events is likely to have significant overlap, this would suggest a preference for a change of clothes.
But as one bride and the other bridegroom will presumably also have features in common, Miss Manners has no objection to your washing and recycling your dress.