DEAR MISS MANNERS: A noisy group of men sat down at a table near me and my 7-year-old daughter at our hotel restaurant last night, and when we got back to our room, my daughter told me that the group had talked about me when I had left briefly to pay the bill. She said they were positive comments, so I assume the barnyard animal sounds they were making when I returned were not directed at me.
Had I been aware of the scene, how could I have made these men aware of the offensiveness of their words and how disturbing their behavior could be to a young girl?
I almost marched my daughter back to the restaurant to ask, "Where are you all from?" in my sweetest Texas drawl. Had they answered any state(s) other than the one we were visiting, I could then have turned to my daughter and said, "Now, dear, do not think poorly of the good people here because of the behavior of these men."
GENTLE READER: Why do you want to teach your 7-year-old daughter to banter with strange men who you already know to be boisterously rude?
Aside from the vulgarity of the idea, Miss Manners can't help noticing that you are not skilled at the execution. The rejoinder you proposed to deliver depends on an unknown factor. They may have been locals, or it is barely possible that they could have also been Texans. If they were from other states, your geographical insults could offend innocent bystanders.
Even if you had pulled it off, the effect would have been to suggest that you were eager for conversation with them. The only person likely to be humiliated by it all would have been your daughter.
Miss Manners is afraid that the opportunity you missed was not to turn bar rowdies into crushed penitents but to explain to your daughter that it is not flattering to be discussed by strangers. You also missed the chance to educate her that a lady either ignores such rudeness or reports it to the nearest authority -- in this case whoever was in charge of the restaurant.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How is one to react to being handed a printout of what a child coming as a guest does and does not like to eat? What is a polite comment to make to the child's mother?
I had two children, a boy of 10 and a girl of 14, -- grandchildren of a cousin -- as houseguests for two weeks. The first morning at breakfast, they announced what they wouldn't eat. My response was that what went on the table was the meal, and they could eat it or reject it and try the next meal.
It turned out to be a long two weeks. Was I an inconsiderate host?
GENTLE READER: Possibly. Miss Manners does not contest your contention that you had inconsiderate guests nor that they are second-generation inconsiderate. But the polite comment that a considerate host should make when expecting houseguests for two weeks (or should make to their mother when the guests are children) is "Do they have any allergies or special preferences? What do they usually eat for breakfast?"
If you had done that, and the children had persisted in critiquing the food, it would have been time to say sweetly that you are sorry they don't like it, without offering to get them something else.