DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live on the sixth floor of an apartment building downtown. Whenever a certain friend comes over to visit, he asks if he can bring his dog. I love dogs and always say yes.
On his last visit, he said, “A good hostess would take her guest’s dog out when it needed to go to the bathroom.” What is the proper etiquette when someone brings their dog to your home?
GENTLE READER: A good host will facilitate the guests’ reasonable comfort by providing refreshment and pointing out bathroom facilities when needed. The host is not, however, responsible for ensuring that the bodily tasks therein associated are successfully completed. In short, unless the owner is otherwise indisposed and you are feeling generous, Miss Manners does not require that a good host accompany guests’ pets to the bathroom.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My first reaction to someone telling me about an unfortunate event or situation is to say something like, “Oh dear, I’m so sorry.”
Several times, by different people, I have been rebuffed with a “Why? It’s not your fault!”
All right, Miss Manners, what am I doing wrong here? How can I express my condolences for a tragedy without also taking the blame for it? I assume these people don’t actually think I believe I’m under suspicion, so why are they replying this way?
GENTLE READER: To be cheeky and have something to say. Particularly when dealing with bad news, Miss Manners finds that people look for misplaced levity in the strangest of ways.
Adding “for you” to the “I am so sorry” would likely have these same people complain that it sounds like you are pitying them. If these rebukes continue, you could simply look shocked at the insinuation and add, “I meant sorry on your behalf, of course.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend and I have a difference of opinion concerning shirtless men in public. I feel there is an appropriate time and place where it is acceptable to walk around half-clothed: beach, waterpark, working.
GENTLE READER: What kind of “working”?
Miss Manners will concede the first two examples, but disputes the last. If the type of work is for oneself, unpaid and limited to the confines of one’s home, Miss Manners will look away if she happens to catch a glimpse from next door. But unless the dress code of any paid work actually demands partial nudity, she frowns upon it in public.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve been married three times: The first one ended in divorce after 33 years, my second husband died after five years of a serious illness, and I’ve been married to my third husband now for 15 years.
What is the proper way to refer to my previous husbands, especially the one in the middle? I feel weird saying “my late husband,” because they’ll think I’m a widow. My first one is still “my first husband.”
GENTLE READER: “My former husband” -- or husbands, as the subject requires. Of course, you can also always use their names, but Miss Manners knows how everyone does enjoy context.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)