DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a very professional environment, so it caught me completely off guard today when a new co-worker asked if I had a stick of lip balm. I replied, "Yes, why do you ask?" thinking that would give the hint.
But she inquired further, "Can I use it?" in front of a fellow co-worker. I wasn't sure if I should have declined and risked insulting her hygiene by not sharing or instead obliged and looked too unconcerned about my own by lending it.
I opted to share. Did I do the right thing?
This new co-worker also has some other habits that reflect poorly on her level of professionalism, such as picking at her fingernails while someone is trying to explain something to her, cutting her cuticles while sitting in a meeting with someone in their cube, etc.
Should I pull her aside privately to let her know this is not appropriate at work? (She is right out of school and this is her first professional job.) Or is this her manager's job (who is already aware of such behavior)?
GENTLE READER: Now that you and your colleague are on the same stick of lip balm, Miss Manners has a hard time saying that you are not on sufficiently intimate terms to attempt reforming her. Nevertheless, you should let the manager do it and concentrate on protecting yourself from unreasonable demands and flying cuticles.
A vague "sorry" at the start would have covered whether you actually possessed lip balm or were simply declining to share; as you discovered, bringing on the second question was not a good idea. If you are caught trying to explain work matters to this lady while she is busy grooming herself, the polite thing to do would be to offer to postpone work until she has finished her toilette.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper etiquette for serving and taking butter at a dinner table? Sometimes I am rushed to serve a family dinner and add the store-bought butter tub to the table rather than place a portion of it or a stick onto a separate butter dish.
I contend that despite the presence of a tub, a separate knife should be used to serve the butter from the tub to a plate rather than the knife at the place setting. My partner gently chides me that only when a proper butter dish is present do you use a separate knife.
GENTLE READER: If you find your partner too rigid, you are not going to soften to Miss Manners. She maintains that only when a proper butter dish is present should you be entitled to have any butter.
Yet she is not insensible to the demands of time. For goodness' sake, find a covered butter dish or tub that is presentable at the table, transfer your butter when you buy it, and store it that way in the refrigerator. Your meals will be prettier and your partner will be happier.