DEAR MISS MANNERS: A glass of Chianti, or perhaps even an Amarone, is a fine accompaniment to the pasta della casa at a fine Italian restaurant. The wine rounds out the meal, the clink of glasses adds to the ambiance, and the mood at the table mellows in warmth and tranquility.
Alas, then what is one to do when one cannot well tolerate alcohol, and when one's dinner partner insists that one drink to be sociable?
Although I love the taste of a fine red wine, more than half a glass makes my face red, and a few evenings like this results in a rash. Can the other person really not enjoy himself or herself if I do not partake of the wine, too (could I have a tea or water?), and am I committing a serious social faux pas?
It puzzles me why a set table and pleasant conversation are not enough to be sociable, and I certainly don't require the other person to drink the same thing as myself.
So as not to spoil the mood, sometimes I accept splitting a bottle of wine, but my glass sits nearly untouched during the meal except for a few obligatory sips. It is such a waste, especially if the dinner companion cannot finish the bottle alone.
Could Miss Manners please enlighten me as to a gracious way to excuse oneself from drinking alcohol while still maintaining the pleasure of one's company so as not to deter the dinner companion from future dinners together? Or is it a lost cause, and ardent drinkers cannot socialize with nondrinkers?
GENTLE READER: No one should socialize with tabletop bullies, neither the kind of bullies who try to force people to eat more than they want, nor the even worse ones who try to force others to drink. That is the social error, no matter how it seems to be disguised with conviviality and hospitality.
It puzzles Miss Manners that you seem to want to hang on to someone whose evening would be improved if only you were willing to complete it by suffering a rash. There is no compromise to be made with your comfort, perhaps your health, or with etiquette. The gracious manner of declining food or drink is, "No, thank you," and the gracious, not to say decent, response is to let it go at that.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: ?My job requires me to contact and schedule service calls for our customers. The area in which I work is a melting pot of the world, and a lot of the names of my customers are very difficult to pronounce. Sometimes I don't even know where to begin.
I was raised to call people Mr. and Mrs., and I have always used that in the workplace with my customers; however, I struggle with these unfamiliar names! Is it more polite to call and attempt to pronounce their name as I butcher it or use their first name (which is also sometimes difficult to pronounce)? I don't want to offend any of our customers.
Up to this point, I've been crossing my fingers that I get an answering machine or just announcing myself when the phone is answered and hope I have the right person. What is your advice?
GENTLE READER: That you check the pronunciation with someone who is sure to know. It should be easy, as Miss Manners notes that you are calling that person anyway. You need only follow your identification of yourself and your business by saying, "Sir (or Ma'am), I don't want to mispronounce your last name -- could you please tell me how to say it?"