DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister and I were in a public bathroom, changing her infant son's diaper, when an acquaintance of hers came by to take a peek at the new baby, I made the comment that he was "Being a good baby today."
The acquaintance soon left and, as we were walking out of the bathroom, a stranger walked up to us and asked me, "Did you say that he was being a good baby?" I replied that he was being very good that day, which surprised me, seeing as this was the first time he was surrounded by lots of people.
The stranger then proceeds to berate me, saying that there are no bad babies, only bad adults. She went on to tell me that I should watch what I say because all of God's children are precious and special. Lastly, she commented that I was obviously insensitive to this matter because I am young. (I think she assumed I was a teenager.)
My sister, being far more patient than I, let the stranger continue with her religious lecture while I quickly exited the room. I was so upset that someone would not only publicly berate a complete stranger, but would make the off-hand remark that I am basically "young and dumb."
I might only be 22 years old, but I know not to be blatantly rude to others. Should I have said something to her instead of just walking away? I thought about saying something like, "Thank you for your concern, I'll make sure to censor myself next time."
GENTLE READER: As the stranger said --and illustrated-- there certainly are bad adults. Miss Manners might have been tempted to jump in at that point and say, with gentle sadness, "Evidently."
Fortunately, you are not one of them. The reply you thought of delivering is within the realm of politeness, presuming that you would have delivered it straight, rather than slathered with sarcasm. It takes longer to sink in that way, but is all the more effective when it does.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I have a dinner party, I always have a tablecloth and pad on my dining room table. How large should the cloth be? I mean, how far past the edge of the table should it drop?
British friends will often use rigid placemats instead of a tablecloth. How are placemats used, where do the glasses go, and what size should they be? Should something else go under them to protect the table? I like the idea of having the wood of the table exposed but still wish to protect the finish.
GENTLE READER: Strictly speaking, a tablecloth, with a 10- to 15-inch drop, is proper for dinner parties, and placemats are used for daytime meals or informal suppers. However, Miss Manners may be the only person that strict left on earth.
You may have padded placemats large enough to accommodate the glasses, as well as each person's china and silver, but Miss Manners hopes you do not have the illusion that this will prevent them from parking their glasses on the table. If you find your mind wandering during dinner, watching the fate of the table instead of concentrating on the conversation, you should stay with using the pad and cloth.