DEAR MISS MANNERS: Will you come to my rescue and share with me a wise and prudent response to the "wisdom" that comes sometimes from the mouths of mere babes?
Such as when I pick my 4-year-old up from day care, and one of her little classmates observes, quite loudly and openly, "You have a big belly."
What can you say in response to that, without setting another bad example yourself? I don't quite feel right instructing the offender in proper social behavior, and I want to set a good example for my child of being comfortable with my body image.
GENTLE READER: One lesson at a time, please. How would you demonstrate that you are proud of your body while also chastising the person who drew attention to it?
Miss Manners suggests that you confuse the classmate by saying, "Thank you." Thus, the offense will pass unnoticed by your daughter until later, when you explain to her that it is rude to comment about other people's appearances. Any discussion you want to have about your pride in your belly should be saved for still later.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was always taught that when eating, to close the lips over the fork or spoon. Lately I have noticed several TV ads that have happy people eating some delightful dish that has been advertised, and drawing the food from their teeth with a big smile on their faces and their teeth bared. For some reason, this makes me shudder! What is the proper (mannerly) way to do this?
GENTLE READER: With the television set off. You were taught properly, and if there are to be revisions in manners, Miss Manners promises you that they will not be announced through behavior demonstrated in television advertisements.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can we convince a family who live on an adjacent street to park there -- in front of their own home? Our quiet little street has a limited amount of parking around our cul de sac. Many of us need to park in front of our houses because of disabilities. The people who "hog" our street with their cars have to climb several steps to enter their house from the front street level, so they prefer to park on our street and walk a few steps through the alley to their back entrance. That means we have to sometimes park in front of their house, especially late at night, and then walk on their street to another street and then turn onto our street. These offensive folk would only have to walk up steps and they are home.
Not only do they prevent us from parking, but they block our guests, tradesmen, landscape and other workmen who have heavy equipment or large items to deliver. And they will leave a car parked in one spot for weeks at a time.
GENTLE READER: When asking for a courtesy, it is best to put words like "hog" out of your mind and your vocabulary. You understand, Miss Manners trusts, that these are public streets, and you have no legal claim to the space.
Since there seem to be several people on your street who are inconvenienced, perhaps you could arrange a small gathering where you could all become better acquainted with your neighbors. Food, drink, pleasant chit-chat, and only then "By the way, I wonder if you could find parking nearer to your house..."