DEAR MISS MANNERS:
I have been going to the same yoga teacher for several years. She is wonderful, and we have become friends as well. Recently she lost her mother, and she has no other family.
I believe (no real leap here) that she is seriously depressed, which is understandable. Since the death of her mother, it seems that every class she teaches begins with three to five minutes of what went wrong in her life that day: flat tire, flooded basement, probate lawyer, broken filling, etc.
Once the “Oh, here’s what’s going on in my life” chat is done, it’s done; she then teaches a wonderful class.
I come to yoga looking to relax and feel better, but I find myself getting really depressed in those first minutes. After about half an hour, the feeling passes, and I do enjoy the class.
I have noticed that her business has dropped off substantially, and I know she is in financial difficulties. I suspect this venting is the cause, but I could be wrong. It could be the recession or any number of other reasons.
Should I say something to her? And how in the world would I go about saying it? She is a person who is very concerned with appearances and having people think well of her. (I mean this in the best possible way.)
Would it be kinder to say nothing — knowing how embarrassed she might be — even if it is causing her business to fail? If there’s a tactful way to help, please enlighten me.
GENTLE READER: Telling other people their shortcomings has become something of a national pastime, and Miss Manners has rarely heard of good coming from it. Even when the diagnosis is accurate — and who does not know how to live others’ lives better than they do? — anger is more likely than reform to be the result.
But this may be an exception, not only because it is something easily fixable that could make a practical difference to your friend, but because you have something genuinely nice to say at the beginning.
So begin by saying what a wonderful class she gives, and how much you get out of it. Then that it is a shame that some people have dropped out, but, after all, these are hard times. Only then, having established yourself as both an admirer and a sympathizer, you should be able to say: “I wonder if you are not making things harder for yourself by sharing your problems with the class. Some of your students may have had trouble shifting from worrying about you to getting into the proper mood for yoga.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS:
What do you do with your napkin after eating?
GENTLE READER: If you are eating out, you leave it next to your plate in a loose triangular shape, the point at the top. If you are a houseguest, you fold it neatly into a rectangle.
If you are at home, you put it back in your napkin ring until you can’t bear to look at it, at which time Miss Manners urges you to do your laundry.
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