DEAR MISS MANNERS: Yesterday night, my mother wanted to have a "little talk," so I listened to what she had to say. It was that this past weekend, at a family picnic with my boyfriend present, apparently I was a little more hands-on than what she prefers. I will respect her wishes and not be to touchy with him.
The only thing that bothers me is, it's not that I am inappropriately touching him, all I do is either hold his hand, rub his back or have my hand on his arm. I am not doing anything to embarrass myself or him.
She said the way I am with him in a family setting lets them see how we are when it is just him and I in a different setting, which I did not appreciate at all, but they are assuming I am like that when I am around him, which I am not.
The only reason I am like that is because the last time I was as close to someone like I am with him, he was killed in a car accident, and I am afraid that the last time I see him is going to be the last. And God forbid if something were to happen, I just want to be able to remember what he felt like.
It had taken me awhile to get close to people because it scares me that something dreadful and permanent could happen without warning. Am I inappropriately touching in a family setting?
GENTLE READER: Apparently. And your explanation, although poignant, does not excuse your being rude to others.
Miss Manners believes that this is the point that your mother was trying to make. It is not only that by giving your beau a public backrub, you invite others to violate your privacy involuntarily. It is also that you make them feel as if you wish they were not around. And while it may indeed be the case that you would rather be alone with him than at a family party, conveying that to others is rude.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I own many books, and some guests mistake us for a library with no due date. Dinner guests ask to borrow a book or three. Overnight guests peruse our shelves for something to read on the plane. When I try to gently dissuade the loan ("I haven't read it yet, myself") or collect the book at a later date, I'm made to feel stingy.
Our books are used for research, reread in part or in full and, yes, willingly loaned to friends on occasion. Books we no longer use are given to charity by the dozen. But our books are not party favors. Please help. What can I do?
GENTLE READER: Learn to say no. Or rather, "No, I'm so sorry; we use our books all the time and never lend them out," while plucking the volume out of the guest's hands. You have Miss Manners' assurance that anyone who makes you feel rude for not surrendering your property is the one being rude.