DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were at dinner at a nice restaurant, where they serve a loaf of bread and leave it to the patrons to cut it with a large steak knife.
Halfway through the meal, after the main course had been served, my husband was unfortunate enough to cut his thumb while cutting himself a slice of bread. I gave him a Band-Aid from my purse, and he left the table to apply it in the men's room.
He was gone for a few minutes, during which I desired a slice of bread. The knife was still in the loaf, and his slice was half cut. I finished cutting his slice, set it on his plate, then cut myself a slice. I would like to note that there was no blood on the knife or the bread.
Even though my husband had no qualms about my actions, I could not help feeling that I had committed a breach of etiquette by cutting myself a slice of bread while he was away. Was this all right to do?
GENTLE READER: Was what all right to do? Chomp away while your husband may have been bleeding to death in the men's room? Risking repeating the accident and leaving no one to care for your doubly orphaned children? Serving your husband a slice of bread with which he has unpleasant associations? Cutting yourself a slice of bread when there was no gentleman around to do it for you?
You will be relieved to hear that you have escaped error. So, barely, has Miss Manners, because she is far too polite to inquire why you are fussing over a solitary action that offended no one.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would like to host a small party in my home for members of my project team, my boss and our former boss. However, I read that if you are single, it is improper to entertain your boss in your home.
Is this correct even if others (six other people plus spouses or significant others, if any) are present? I don't know if this will be helpful, but I am female and single, my boss is male and married, and our former boss is female and married. Both their spouses would be invited.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is afraid that we live in a suspicious world, and there are indeed those who might think that a single lady who entertains her married boss at home alone means business, as it were. How this could be construed so as to bar her from inviting a boss and his wife to a party, Miss Manners is not suspicious enough to imagine.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I always feel that I overreact to rude remarks: getting embarrassed, playing it over in my mind, feeling ashamed and never knowing what to say. Here are some I have heard since I have been ill that hurt my feelings:
When I came home from chemo, the at-home nurse made the remark that, at first, she thought I was my husband's mother! I have received similar remarks about being my son's grandmother ever since I have been ill. I also have a friend who makes remarks that embarrass me about my medication, illness, weight, etc. I usually act like nothing bothers me and just laugh it off, while it's killing me inside. Help?
GENTLE READER: Unless you enjoyed thoughtless, unnecessary and discouraging remarks when you were well, Miss Manners wouldn't worry that the problem is overreaction. The problem is that you are in the company of people who make thoughtless, unnecessary and discouraging remarks.
Laughing it off just encourages them. What you can say in a civil way is, "I hope that wasn't intended to cheer me up, because it's backfiring."