DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been dismayed by the rude and boisterous behavior of people while visiting museums and art exhibits. Just this week, I asked a group of three young women who were speaking loudly and laughing if they would be kind enough to lower their voices. The exhibit was crowded and there were many people quietly looking at the paintings and reading the descriptive material.
Unfortunately, one of the women took umbrage and seemed truly insulted that someone would ask her to lower her voice, and continued to act however she pleased, even though it was disturbing other museum visitors.
It seems very inconsiderate to talk/laugh loudly while other people are quietly viewing the exhibit. I have asked the museum to consider making small signs to remind visitors to keep their voices low and respect others' viewing space.
I have also noticed that there are those people who will be instructing the person accompanying them about the merits of the painter, the period, etc. These folks, too, could be reminded that not everyone may want to share in the art history lesson and that using a soft and quiet voice would be much appreciated by those close by. What is the proper etiquette for museum visiting/exhibit viewing?
GENTLE READER: Without countenancing boisterous behavior, Miss Manners has to say that discussing the art in a museum is not high on her list of activities that must be brought under control if we are to lead civilized lives.
Would you settle for a ban on saying "They call that art?" and "That's the one I want to take home"?
Or perhaps we could require people who attend blockbuster shows in such numbers as to make them crowded and noisy to show proof of having first visited the museum's permanent collection.
Conversational tones are permitted in museums. Unless the person is actually shouting -- in which case guards will probably remove him before he spray-paints the pictures -- you should move to another room and return when quiet prevails.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are in gentle disagreement over the following scenario: We were invited to a karaoke 40th birthday party for a person with whom we have a budding friendship. The party started at 8 p.m. and we arrived at 8:35 p.m.
My husband fretted that our timing was rude because we were too "early," and that the first 45 minutes of a party are reserved for close friends. I disagreed, for if people wanted time with close friends, they could invite them over for an earlier time than the rest of the guests. He insists I am wrong. I apologize for fibbing that we are in "gentle" disagreement over this.
GENTLE READER: Much as she sympathizes with someone who wants to arrive late for a karaoke party, Miss Manners must disallow your husband's ingenious excuse. In polite society, guests are all equal.
That is in theory, of course. Close friends may be asked to come early to help out, or even to have private visiting time, but "early" means before the time stated on the invitation. For extra-large parties, the invitations could even give staggered times, but then care must be taken to divide the list so that it appears to be a totally arbitrary division.
P.S. Please don't apologize. Miss Manners loves euphemisms.