DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my mother and father had a small dinner party for friends they had not seen in quite some time, my mother, to her horror, accidentally set the oven setting too high and burned the veal beyond recognition. She served the burned veal along with the other side dishes and pretended nothing was amiss.
I, personally, feel that this was the wrong decision (not that I told my mother this, since the incident had already passed). If, in the future, this happens to me, what is the correct way to proceed?
(1) Explain what happened and take everyone out to dinner?
(2) Explain what happened and order in Chinese?
(3) Explain what happened and only serve the side dishes?
(4) Serve the burned food and pretend it's Cajun?
GENTLE READER: You are a remarkably self-possessed family, Miss Manners must say. Your mother is able to preside over a meal of charred remains without batting an eye, and you are able to restrain yourself from saying, "Ma! What were you thinking?"
You also share the same motivation, which is to spare your mother embarrassment. Miss Manners is afraid that acting upon this is kindlier in your case than in your mother's. You sacrificed your own pleasure (presuming you enjoy the normal pleasure of triumphing over a parent) for her sake; she sacrificed her guests' dinner and comfort for her own.
To spare the guests from pretending not to notice what is wrong with dinner, perhaps even to the extent of eating it, the hostess should confess her fault. She should also try to make light of it so they don't feel they have to reassure her, perhaps even to the extent of eating it.
What your mother owed her guests was (1) dinner (2) an absence of fuss and (3) an apology accompanied by the pretense that she found her own ineptitude hilarious and was counting on them to do so as well.
Miss Manners also recommends (4) a can of tuna fish.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a senior citizen with a very nice gentleman friend who lives in another state. From time to time, he will call or write and say he would like to come to see me.
I then respond, giving him a specific week, allowing time for the airlines' two-week advance-purchase rates.
Then I wait -- and wait. Eventually, he will write and say he is not sure about the dates, etc. and "how about ... ?"
I keep a busy calendar; some things could be changed, but I would rather not do so. How do I courteously let him know that this habit (and it is a habit) upsets me? We do have a good time together, but to me this is rude, even though I think it is unintentional.
GENTLE READER: You wouldn't want to inject some warmth into this scheduling negotiation, would you?
Miss Manners doesn't want to promote anything untoward, but you said this was a gentleman friend, and a nice one at that. So why does it sound as if you are complaining about waiting for the plumber?
The plumber would probably be more forthright in making the point that everyone has a busy schedule, lady, and not everyone is ready to jump when you name a time.
If, instead, you said, "Oh, yes, please do come, I'm dying to see you," named several dates and, if none of these was convenient, mentioned still more dates, Miss Manners imagines he would come running. He might even bring the plumber with him.