DEAR MISS MANNERS: Am I incorrect in thinking it rude when complete strangers make it their business to approach (and sometimes touch) me to tell me I look like a particular actor?
I simply do not understand why someone would think that I am interested in being told his or her very own personal opinion of my superficial attributes. I am not a celebrity; I am a private citizen and a very private person who was once quite shy and I do not appreciate the attention. I take pride in my own identity and I am making absolutely no effort to emulate this person or their considerable accomplishments.
While I realize that there are worse things to be compared to than a talented thespian, I was raised not to arbitrarily approach complete strangers and give them unsolicited feedback about their looks. It gets a little annoying after the nine hundred millionth nine hundred thousandth nine hundred and ninety ninth time.
I'm an upbeat person; in fact, when it is a teenage youth or an elderly person, I can smile, wave and forget about it. I do have a sense of humor and will even play along if it is a young child by saying something the actor is famous for and adding, "Obey your mom and dad and make sure you go to school and eat your vegetables."
But adults in their 30s and 40s should know that this is intrusive and disrespectful. Not everyone wants to be noticed. It is especially uncomfortable when I am enjoying the company of a lady, some of whom get offended by it.
I have been somewhat tempted to tell these folks that they look like famous people that I consider less than stunning, or ignore them altogether, but I have been nice so far, not wanting to appear disrespectful or arrogant because I guess the actor is considered attractive.
I sincerely hope that people will learn the difference between a pointless observation and a compliment. Am I supposed to say, "Oh, what a compliment, thank you ever so much -- I just LOVE being told every day that I look like a famous person"?
GENTLE READER: The reply that springs to Miss Manners' mind is, "Isn't he the one who went to jail for punching out a fan?"
But unlike most people, she does not believe in saying everything that springs to mind. The habit of giving people personal appraisals of their looks is rampant. Other Gentle Readers report that they are forever being told that they are tall, short, fat, thin or "foreign looking."
Miss Manners suggests replying in a fashion that, although not impolite, will puzzle these people enough to derail their thoughts while you make a getaway. Some possibilities are:
"Sorry, but you seem to have mixed me up with someone else."
"I'm afraid I'm not acquainted with the gentleman."
"Oh. Well, I'm sorry to think that he is embarrassed by being taken for me."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know that the correct way to eat soup is to spoon it away from one, but, since it is easier to spoon it toward oneself, can you tell me the origin of this custom and its reason?
GENTLE READER: In 1103, a wise old abbess noticed that when she spooned her gruel toward herself, it splashed on her wimple. Henceforth ...
No, we don't know its origin. Miss Manners would think it enough justification that it makes sense, which table manners are not strictly required to do.