DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have moved to a new city, where a form of parenting seems to be particularly prevalent. One of my closest friends here just adopted a new baby, and was warned that when bottle-feeding her baby in public, she may be subjected to “well-meaning” strangers approaching her about the benefits of breast-feeding.
This hasn’t happened to her yet, but I thought I’d ask you how to deal with this, as even the idea of it makes me furious. I can’t think of a civilized response that comes close to the level of reaction warranted by such a situation.
I think if I were present and that were to happen, my instinct would be to throw my beverage in their face, perhaps with a “well-meaning” comment on the benefits of proper hydration.
GENTLE READER: Although Miss Manners thoroughly deplores the rudeness you describe, she feels that she must risk seeming equally intrusive by offering you another piece of advice about babies.
It is: Never start a street fight while you are holding one.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was invited to a dinner with an acquaintance, I expected a relatively short dinner with light and pleasant conversation, and accepted enthusiastically.
Instead, I was treated to a 2 1 / 2-hour exposition on how I need to fully reconsider my life and choices. She questioned me severely on such personal topics as my friendships and intimate relationships, my lack of social graces, my overly self-important opinion and my lack of self-knowledge, providing “advice” for each topic.
This included her statement that I do not know how to conduct myself in society, and that my current relationship with a young gentleman is “invalid.”
I attempted to end the conversation several times, but she took this behavior as my not giving her my full attention and respect.
At the end of the dinner, she explained what a terrible conversation partner I had been for not asking her questions about herself.
In fact, I was so taken aback at her questions that I could not find a way to continue the conversation. I would normally reciprocate a question nearly verbatim, but I would not want to ask such rude or personal “questions” myself. I would hate to think that such behavior would ever be appropriate, particularly from someone I do not consider a close friend.
Please let me know if I am incorrect in this thought. I have considered what I ought to have asked in response, but I have not been able to find just the right phrasing.
GENTLE READER: It is not that long since Miss Manners heard from someone who planned just such a dinnertime attack. She doesn’t know which makes her feel worse: that her attempts to head off such a travesty of hospitality failed, or that there are two such people as your acquaintance.
There is, indeed, something you should have said when this tirade began: “Goodbye.”
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