DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have found myself recently an invitee to a number of homes for various meals, and have encountered a rather interesting situation: My hosts have been incredibly polite and have often emphasized my "elevated status" as a guest.
As such, I am treated to a number of prodigious kindnesses, some of which I am not sure how to handle. As a hypothetical example, in a family of cookie-eaters, they somehow managed to run out of cookies, save for one, which they promptly handed to me (knowing that I, too, am a fan of cookies and would most certainly enjoy and eat it).
While I am most grateful for these kindnesses, and acknowledge that I would do likewise, I still find myself feeling a bit awkward at the emphasis of guest status (something I do not verbalize) and the related kindnesses. Could you please advise on how to handle this?
GENTLE READER: It would help if Miss Manners knew why you are considered elevated. Age? Money? Power? Shoes?
If you are given precedence because you are the eldest, take it. Demurring doesn't make you any younger, nor can you exchange it for the advantages of youth, as many seem to believe. Someone has to go first, and with the age system, everyone (with any luck) eventually gets a chance.
Your uneasiness makes Miss Manners suspect that it is rather a question of some sort of rank. You are the mayor or the pastor or chairman of the admissions committee of something or other, or so rich that people have the illusion that some of it will fall out of your pockets into their bank accounts if only they pamper you enough.
Tell your real friends -- those who would still love you if you lost your position or money -- that you really enjoy being off-duty with them, and wish they would not emphasize your professional status when you are relaxing. As for those who are merely currying favor with you, your choice is between letting them or avoiding them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Having retired in Florida, we are pass holders to several theme parks, where we enjoy outdoor concerts on a regular basis. At times, strangers tap my shoulder from behind asking that I remove my hat.
I wear my hat to protect my face from the sun, and also as part of my coordinated attire. The hats I wear are small, never the huge, gaudy type. When I ignore them they often go on and on, telling me how inconsiderate and rude I am.
How should I handle these situations, since I do not wish to engage in pointless verbal exchanges with these rude people?
GENTLE READER: Not by committing the rudeness of ignoring their requests. Nor by pointing out that your hats are coordinated with your clothing. This is not a comfort to people who feel that their views are blocked.
Miss Manners suggests saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry, but I need the hat to protect my skin. If I lean over a bit will you be able to see better?"