DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a very passionate conservationist. At home, my husband and I recycle, compost and generally try to consume as few natural resources as possible.
Unfortunately, my (retired) in-laws, who live across the country in a small town, don't recycle, saying they "can't handle it." After bringing it up a couple of times, I have shut my mouth, but am very uncomfortable when we visit them, watching them throw away aluminum cans, newspapers, etc.
I have often considered quietly setting aside any recyclable waste that I am responsible for and taking it with me when the visit is over. (Where I would dispose of it, I'm not sure.) This would help me sit right with my beliefs. However, I'm sure it would offend my in-laws.
I have also requested educational, wooden gifts for my two young sons, but they insist on getting their grandchildren heaps of giant plastic toys (which are hard to carry home in our luggage). I imagine they are trying to show their love, but I also wonder if they are trying, on some level, to piss me off.
GENTLE READER: Instead of their being thankful that you are taking the trouble to retrain them in their old age in their own house?
Miss Manners finds it disheartening when people who are passionate about a particular virtue grant themselves license to violate other virtues. The virtue you are violating, respect for the sovereignty of others even if their decisions differ from yours, is a basic one.
Mothers-in-law who try to teach their daughters-in-law to keep house are notorious. Such interference is no more charming in the other direction.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last night my husband and I went out to dinner at a buffet-style restaurant. After finishing my dinner, I got up to retrieve my dessert. I approached the ice cream dispenser at the same time as a "gentleman." However, since I had already gotten a dessert bowl, I was ready to use the ice cream dispenser first.
This older "gentleman," who did not have a bowl yet, commented to me that I was butting in, and made other comments about punishments I deserved for my rude behavior.
Would good manners dictate that I should defer to the older gentleman, or should the older gentleman defer to me because I am a lady? The gentleman appeared in good health and was probably no more than 15 years older than myself. Regardless of the situation, which takes precedence, age or gender?
GENTLE READER: What do you suppose the chances are that someone who bawls out a stranger in an effort to push him out of the way is an etiquette expert?
Miss Manners can assure you that strict protocol gives precedence at the ice cream bar to the person who gets there first with bowl in hand and has already decided on a flavor.