DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am the CEO of a local nonprofit organization. When we had a grand opening for a new feature in our museum, our board president, his wife, a U.S. Congressman, local dignitaries and many well-wishers were in attendance. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, we all moved to another room so that some of the VIPs could say a few words about our accomplishment.
There were five of us (including the congressman and our board president) at the front of the room, speaking and taking questions from the press. You can imagine my surprise and embarrassment when I saw the president's wife in the audience making funny faces at us complete with hand gestures to the ears, etc.
I was aghast at her behavior, and I can't imagine what the congressman thought. I ignored the entire display as if it was not happening, offering no apologies to the congressman or anyone else.
Should I have pulled the board president aside and asked him if his wife was totally nuts or just boorish and had no idea how to behave in public? (I'm kidding, of course.)
What was the correct way to handle this? I am at a total loss to understand how she felt her actions were appropriate for the occasion.
GENTLE READER: Hand gestures to the ears? Please tell Miss Manners that you do not mean that the board president's wife stuck her thumbs in her ears and wiggled her fingers. She only cupped her ears to suggest that the speaker talk louder -- didn't she?
Speaking of what is between the ears, Miss Manners has been noticing that an increasing number of people seem to have something missing there. That would be the little mechanism that controls a mischievous impulse so that it is not expressed outwardly.
Fortunately, yours is working: It is what made you think that it would not be a good idea to ask your board president, "So is your wife totally nuts or just boorish?"
For whatever reason, this lady's is not working. But since she did not single out an individual to insult or disrupt the event, apologizing would only have called attention to it.
But why the member of Congress particularly? Surely he is the most likely to have seen such goings on before.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family received in the mail a pre-printed postcard announcement of the impending birth of the first child of a cousin. We live in the same city and see them several times a year.
While pleased about their expected first child, I find the announcement of a baby through a pre-printed postcard to be rude, impersonal and tacky. They couldn't take five minutes to pick up the phone and tell us? My husband's view is "at least they told us," and he thinks I'm making too big a deal out of the postcard announcement.
Is this a new trend among young people? (The couple is in their early 20s.)
GENTLE READER: Let us hope not. An "impending birth" is, indeed, an event to be confided to relatives and friends, although not necessarily the moment after it becomes known. But Miss Manners hates to think of where making the stages of pre-birth into a formal announcement could be going.
She trusts, however, that you will be the one to pick up the telephone and give your good wishes as heartily as if the couple had blushingly told the news -- or waited to make an announcement until they actually had a baby to announce.