DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother is in a long-term relationship with another man. A co-worker found this out from another source, and confronted me about it, asking all sorts of details about my brother and his lifestyle.
I smiled and said, "That's kind of personal, and I never asked the details anyway, his business is his business."
Then the co-worker accused me of being ashamed of my brother, not concerned for him, bigoted, uncaring, all sorts of things.
This is not true. I love my brother; we are great friends. I just don't feel it is my right to talk about his sex life to co-workers -- or anyone! What should I have said?
GENTLE READER-- Miss Manners is surprised that you don't know that unsatisfied nosy people always bring up the idea of shame as a second line of attack when the blunt inquiry fails. They must have all learned it together in group therapy.
The response is a calm but weary, "No, it's just that I'm not much of a gossip."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I invited a number of family and friends to our home for a barbecue, one family member arrived two hours early, one couple arrived 45 minutes early, and a second couple arrived 15 minutes early. Both couples indicated that they believed the invitation was for an hour earlier and thought they were actually late. The family member who arrived early is a parent who always arrives early to every event.
My husband handled the early arrivals by treating them coldly. I handled them by apologizing for the confusion and accepting their offers to help with the preparations, simply making the best of the situation and trying to make my guests feel comfortable.
I was upset and terribly embarrassed by my husband's behavior. Since this wasn't the first time he has reacted this way to early-arriving guests, I am reluctant to invite friends and family to our home again -- at least when my husband is home.
My husband believes that one should not arrive one minute before the time specified in the invitation. In fact, he believes that guests should arrive "fashionably late" -- up to 15 minutes after the start of the event. "His" friends have recommended that we not extend another invitation to guests who arrive early.
Please help us resolve this issue. When invited to a dinner (or other timed event) -- whether it is at someone's home or at a restaurant -- shouldn't one arrive at the stated time? Isn't arriving after the beginning of the event only acceptable if the event is a reception or open house, where guests may arrive during a stated period of time?
GENTLE READER: You win by default, because your husband is not allowed to participate in an etiquette debate. Anyone who is cool to his own guests has no business pretending to know anything about manners.
Besides, he uses that odious phrase "fashionably late" -- and there is no such thing. Guests are allowed a small amount of leeway after the stated hour, and should walk around the block if they find they have arrived early, but minor digressions must be tolerated. Anyone more than a few minutes early should be firmly seated with a drink while you go about finishing your preparations.
But guests' arriving early is not a common problem, and when Miss Manners hears that two couples understood the same earlier hour, she becomes suspicious about the hosts' accuracy.