DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a recent vacation to a dude ranch, one evening's entertainment was a gentleman singing songs and telling stories about cowboys around a campfire.
An elderly lady in the small audience, who had apparently seen the same performance the previous week, repeatedly demanded that the performer "stop talking and sing already," and conversed loudly with her companions during the storytelling segments.
While this lady's behavior significantly detracted from my (and I imagine others') enjoyment of the performance, I could not come up with an appropriate response, other than to turn around and look directly at her when she spoke in the hopes of getting her to realize the impact she was having on her fellow audience members.
Lacking Miss Manners' gifts for polite and respectful commentary, we all remained silent and tolerated this lady's behavior until she left us to enjoy the show in peace. How could I have better handled this situation?
GENTLE READER: It is a pity, Miss Manners agrees, to pass up the opportunity to rescue a cowboy in distress.
This one was apparently unusually helpless, because performers generally have ways of dealing with hecklers. An audience member who takes this upon herself runs the risk of starting a shouting match, and that is probably what deterred you.
But you could have said in a firm but calm and cordial voice, "Excuse me, but many of us would like to hear what he is saying."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Just when I thought etiquette was at its lowest on the convenience scale, my husband and I received an e-mailed invitation to his cousin's wedding.
To top this off, we received it three months prior to the event and were requested to RSVP within days. The bride's family (immediate and extended) lives in Washington, D.C., and the wedding is in London. I am still flabbergasted. How do I RSVP? Do I RSVP?
Honestly, I don't feel compelled to attend an event that will take our children out of school, cost us over $4,500 and inconvenience us greatly -- for a girl whom we adore but whose family could not inconvenience themselves to print and mail an invitation.
Said bride is now sending out mass e-mails saying that she is sorry that it seems that she didn't care if we (all) attend her wedding. She checks with her mother for the numbers of attendees and is disappointed that they are so low.
How do I respond to this? Do we send a gift? What would be appropriate? My husband thinks that the e-mailed invitation is great because they're "green," but I can't get over my own expectations.
GENTLE READER: You send a present because you adore the bride, and you decline the invitation because it is prohibitive for you to spend that amount of time and money (although you do not give that excuse, as none is necessary).
Miss Manners begs you to stop trying to think of some snippy way of pointing out the bride's errors. It is true that an e-mail invitation does not alert people to an important event, and also true that many people who might enjoy attending a particular wedding will be deterred if it involves extraordinary expense in both time and money.
But for you to take obvious notice of the poor planning would be rude. Besides, the bride has already found out from the tepid response. There is no excuse for you to rub it in.