DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended an informal weekly gathering of professional women friends wherein everyone is expected to contribute to the evening's repast. Some have time to make a dish from scratch, while others with a more hectic schedule that day bring something purchased. My offering was a carton of not-inexpensive, freshly made sushi purchased from a reputable and upscale grocery/deli.
As we were placing our dishes on the counter to be served, our hostess asked in a very loud voice and with considerable alarm WHERE I had purchased the sushi. When I told her, she replied that she was very careful about where she purchased sushi and would never eat sushi from that establishment.
Needless to say, I was mortified, but trying to keep things light. I replied that in that case, perhaps we should just feed it to the dog. My hostess barked that she wouldn't give it to her dog, at which point I calmly took the sushi, dumped it in the trash can, said "Good night, ladies," and left.
I later learned that my hostess feels I owe her an apology. I say she's lucky I held my temper and refrained from dumping said sushi over her head. What do you think?
GENTLE READER: That the other guests had a rip-roaring time after you left, tearing you apart for being rude, as confirmed by the report you heard.
That is a great pity. If you had handled it differently, they would have been in shock at the extraordinary rudeness of your hostess.
But no, you had to top her. Miss Manners sees that you award yourself credit for refraining from topping her with the sushi, but still, you made an ugly scene. Or rather you made an ugly scene uglier. Simply saying, "I did not mean to offend you" and leaving with the sushi would have been the dignified way to make your point and probably sent other guests scurrying after you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: On several occasions, I have been on the receiving end of rather large favors. As a thank you, I try to give my benefactor some token of my appreciation, such as a couple of bottles of good wine or the like.
Most of the time the recipients' response is something like, "You didn't have to do that," to which I have no problem responding appropriately. But sometimes I get a "Thank you." It seems I am being thanked for being grateful and it feels wrong.
How does one respond to that? Should I get into the complicated task of trying to convey just how much the person's kindness has helped me out and how truly grateful I am for their friendship or just smile and let it go?
GENTLE READER: Fear of an endless cycle of thanks seems to be widespread. Yet Miss Manners assures you that it can halted with two simple words: "You're welcome." Even if you elaborate by repeating your gratitude, the exchange will peter out on the spot.
You were not thanked for your thanks; you were thanked for that bottle. Thanks must always be given for a present, and presents given with thanks are no exception. You wouldn't care to have the recipient grab your bottle and walk away without a word, or perhaps calling over his shoulder, "OK, now we're even."