DEAR MISS MANNERS: At an annual Christmas party sponsored by an organization that I belong to, one female (we will call her Alexa) was making a point of telling others that another woman (call her Briana) has worn the same dress three years in a row to the Christmas party and how tacky it was. I feel that Alexa was the one being rude and tacky. It doesn't change anything, but Alexa is living with Briana's old boyfriend. This is probably the cause of the diarrhea of the mouth in the first place.
I, like most guys, don't pay attention to who wears what, when or where. I am friends with both women and feel, as a friend, I should tell Briana, in a private setting, what was pointed out at the party (not who said it!). I would hate to see her come next year with the same dress, since it has been brought to others' attention. Hopefully, Alexa will see this and learn from her mistake. What is your view on this?
GENTLE READER: That there is more than one troublemaker here, and Miss Manners would appreciate it if you would leave well enough alone.
That Alexa made a catty remark does not reflect badly on her target, who was at least spared from hearing it, but on herself. Now you want to repeat the insult, complete with the tease of refusing to identify the source so that Briana can suspect everyone at the party of hostility. Furthermore, you accept the ridiculous premise that it was blameworthy of Briana to repeat wearing the same dress, presumably a favorite holiday party dress, and you want to "correct" her.
How you think this teaches Alexa a lesson Miss Manners cannot imagine. Her hope is that she can teach you one.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife was performing in the alto section of a very large chorus in Handel's "Messiah," a piece I know well. The seats were general admission, and my son, granddaughter and I found ourselves in the balcony, behind a young attractive couple who were obviously not musicians, but very respectful of the performance.
This happy state of affairs lasted until the intermission. In the second half, the young man began to fondle (my word), or caress or stroke (my wife's words), the young woman, who was totally passive, doing nothing to encourage or discourage his actions.
I tried my very best to ignore what was literally right in front of me. I held up my program to screen it out, but to no avail. My irritation mounted, and I carefully assessed my options:
1) I could get up, leave my seat, disrupt people on the aisle and, inexplicably to my family, find another seat.
2) I could attempt to ignore the behavior.
3) I could fume and fuss internally.
After considerable thought, I decided to speak to the young man after the concert, and was then able to concentrate on the "Hallelujah" chorus. As we were filing out, I carefully took him aside when his companion was not within earshot and told him that his behavior had significantly disturbed my concentration.
His words to me were, "Sir, I am very sorry that you were disturbed; my sincere apologies." I was very impressed with his demeanor, and readily accepted his repeated apologies.
Is it possible that I might have overreacted to the situation itself? Can you think of a better way in which I might have handled it?
GENTLE READER: Congratulations on preserving peace on Earth, or at least in the balcony. Knowing the music crowd well, Miss Manners is grateful that you didn't consider violence. How you feel is not something she wishes or is able to control. What she does care about is that you controlled yourself enough to deliver the rebuke in a way that was apparently inoffensive.